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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

Lara Moran: Independent travel to New York

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    12 Dec
    Lara outside Barnes foundation

    Writing essays about stories set in New York last year felt like discussing a movie I had only ever read reviews of. It exists in our collective imagination in the way only few cities do: represented in literature, music and art so often and so variously that it seems to offer anything you could possibly be looking for. 

    Olivia Laing calls it ‘The Lonely City’. I read her memoir of the same name in my first term at university, studying it alongside the paintings of Edward Hopper, and the short stories of Raymond Carver and Sherwood Anderson. Their work is united by a desire to understand the strange way in which the proximity of other people only serves to make isolation more pronounced. For hours I would sit in my room and pour over Hopper catalogues and monographs, but there are things about being in New York that even the best art cannot capture. Like all lists that I have been presented with at Cambridge, the following is indicative rather than exhaustive: 

    • The Metropolitan Museum attracts more than seven million visitors per year and one of the few bathrooms without a queue is located in the mezzanine of the American Wing. It can be accessed via the Luce Centre Visible Storage, which is nice because that way you can get a general survey of American landscape painting while you are waiting for your hands to dry. 
    • Sitting in the ground floor café of the MET by yourself makes you feel strange and lonely like few things can, but they also offer great red curry lentil soup. 
    • One of the largest Hopper paintings the MET has on display is his ‘View from Williamsburg Bridge’. Like most of his work, it seems slightly too stylised to be real but it also captures the distinct atmosphere of the subway ride I took from Brooklyn, so maybe reality is more stylised than I thought. 
    • I live with a friend, a film student who rents a tiny shared apartment on Park Slope, and to get the most out of my stay in this area we re-watch ‘The Squid and the Whale’. A Park Slope brownstone goes for approximately four million dollars, so to be able to afford one she has to make at least one reasonably successful movie; walking around the neighbourhood in the golden twilight it is easy to feel hopeful and we agree that this is manageable goal. 
    • Gentrification is bizarre to observe first-hand, and going to the various Walt Whitman exhibits that are put on to commemorate his 200th birthday, I wonder what the poet would have made of it. 
    • None of the pictures I took with my disposable camera manage to convey the truly dystopian experience of standing in front of the Vessel in Hudson Yards. 
    • I never liked Novak Djokovic, but seated in Arthur Ashe Stadium for the US Open it feels like a revelation to see even the most unlikable players in the flesh. 
    • Visiting museums is a skill, and after two weeks of haunting the galleries of New York I think I have perfected it. 

    This trip has been an amazing opportunity for me to expand on the knowledge I gained in my first year at Cambridge and I want to thank Gateway and the Rosemary Murray Travel Fund for supporting my travels! 

    Lara Moran