I cringe when passing the Sex in the City movie posters plastered on the wall in Penn Station. The photographer in me can't fathom just how heavily airbrushed Sarah Jessica Parker is, and I visualize the underpaid graphic designer manipulating multiple layers of Photoshop masks in order to "make the eyes pop." I stare at that now infamous chin mole for what seems like an eternity. There's no time for gawking though as I can feel the stampede of commuters surging forward. Like marathon runners scooping up water cups, they snatch the free newspapers with one hand and retain their hasty stride.
I too have learned about this need for perpetual motion. I've been outpaced by women in impossibly high heels, and watched men in executive suits break into full-on sprints before lunging down subway stairs. I've been spun around, shoulder blocked, pushed, stepped on, and hit with umbrellas. My friend from Brooklyn explains that the real secret to living in New York is to "keep your feet moving forward no matter what." These words crossed my mind when I heard screams of "stop, stop, stop" and curious crowds gathered to watch a potential altercation. Do I go photograph it and risk catching a stray bullet, a fist, a knife? I walked the other way. Perhaps I missed a photo opportunity, but like the 1 train, another one will be along in just a minute. "Step in, stand clear of the closing doors, please watch the gap." The conductor strays from the script and announces the next stop as "Times Square, crossroads of the universe". His words soon prove more accurate than I could have imagined.
After a quick ride the subway doors thrust open and I'm back on foot, hustling towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Just then, a machine gun is pointed at me. I can see directly into the barrel as the distracted officer jokes with his buddies and wields his semi-automatic killing machine in my direction. He's heavily armed, and ready for war. Imagine the hell I'd catch if I pointed my camera at him. I think better of it and keep moving. There's another movie poster, the same as before, and I recall the sound byte where Sarah Jessica says "...in a New York minute". Her eyes really do pop, and the Photoshop work is not half bad. Suddenly, I prefer this carefully manufactured version of New York than the odd combination of soldiers with military grade weapons lingering in front of Dunkin Donuts. Some of them are staring at their phones, texting. I imagine it as a television commercial with the camera panning over their shoulder. Smart phone in hand, the soldiers finishes typing just long enough to reveal his text. America runs on Dunkin.