Major holidays in the city are like turning down the volume of a boisterous song. Transient renters scatter to the suburbs of their youth or families. Work mostly grinds to a screeching halt. Those with nowhere to go don’t try. You can walk for blocks without seeing another soul outside. And when you do a question always comes to mind – what are they doing here?
The disruption allows us to see the city stripped bare and examine it in a new light. The proximity of everything feels claustrophobic when there are no people to distract us. We go from being anonymous in the crowd to being anonymous because there is no-one there to see us. A liberating and stifling paradox.
It makes me think of our ideal holiday experience, promulgated though advertising repetition, instructing us on what we should dream of. The images are of family and connection, and almost always in a suburban setting. We’ve told ourselves we need to be holed up in houses, at a safe distance from neighbors, and take comfort in the fruits of the labor that make isolation possible and bearable. The American dream is a white picket fence, two and half children, and oversized television. The city can’t compete with that, especially on the holidays where we need to enact the scenes that sell us goods.