Day 078: Piecing Together New York
“Let’s do a puzzle”, I thought to myself. “It’ll be easy! It’ll only take you a few hours! It won’t drive you nuts at all!” Sometimes, my brain makes weird decisions to avoid another weekend of playing PS5. After all, I still have another week before Cuberpunk comes out, I should give my eyes a rest. My mother in law sent us a puzzle of the map of NYC a few months ago and I’ve been itching to give it a crack. It all seemed very rational and fun. 1000 pieces of a map that I already know like the back of my hand. It’ll be total child’s play. Hah. Haha.
The second I saw what the end result of the puzzle looked like, alarms went off in my head. This is not the New York I know. Brooklyn gets cut off at Flushing Ave. It highlights East Bronx and Astoria, two places that I’ve hardly ever been to let alone memorized the map of. And then when I noticed that Jersey was also a part of it, I threw up in my mouth a little. But I was determined. I was focused. I was…in over my head.
After I sorted all of the border, water and land pieces, my eyes were already straining. Not ideal to feel that way before I even start. After doing the borders, I tackled the parts that I knew. Unfortunately, Lower Manhattan only takes up a corner of the map. Even the sliver of Brooklyn was hard to figure out. I haven’t been to the Navy Yard in 10 years, it was dark and I was drunk. I’ve been to Willamsburg a ton, but it was always dark and I was always drunk. I was able to do the B43 corridor down Manhattan Ave, but after that was a blank blob of nothingness.
After 12 hours of work, it still barely resembled anything. I took another 6 hours today chipping away area by area. I came up with some helpful methods along the way. Like if the street has a name instead of a number, it belongs in Brooklyn or Jersey. And although I couldn’t mentally conjure the lay of the land, I still recognized a lot of street names and were able to place them in ballpark locations. I probably spent 10 hours alone sorting pieces neighborhood by neighborhood instead of actually piecing them together.
Bleary eyed and delirious, I placed the last piece after 18 hours of grinding. It looks, well, like a map. Woo.
Now that it’s done, I definitely feel an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. But something still bothers me about it. I was hoping that the experience would make me feel nostalgic and romanticize the time I spent with the city. Instead, it gave me the overwhelming malaise that’s included in city life. It’s just so impossibly big and filled with people that you’ll never meet. I didn’t find myself reminiscing about good times, I was just stressed out about how warped my mental geography is. Finding the right spot for a piece that has 43rd street, 43rd Ave and 43rd Road right next to each other was about as fun as trying to figure out how to get to 43rd Road. It feels like Queens was made to be confusing on purpose and it shows in this puzzle.
But I guess it’s fitting because this city is, after all, a puzzle. I’ve spent 10 years wandering around, trying to figure it out and see everything. I’ve gone out of my way hundreds of times to see places just because they were on the map. And after all of that, more than half of the locations on the puzzle were entirely foreign to me. I thought I had done a good job, or at least a much better job than most and yet I still have so much more to learn. I’m never going to understand Long Island City until I just go there and traverse it by foot. The same goes for Randall’s Island and the Upper East Side. The city is always going to be there for me, but my time here is ticking. I’m not going to have forever to do it. I need to get back out there and exist, damnit!!!
But I don’t need to explore Jersey or the Bronx, because fuck that.