Patina / by Akira Ohiso


An Uber drops us at 8th and 34th next to Port Authority. Brown men with no shirts sleep against the shaded wall on cardboard boxes. The humidity is a threshold you cross. The air smells of bus exhaust, pretzels and chicanery.

The streets are crowded with Europeans sporting different fashion trends. People hand out discount passes to Broadway shows, bus tours and the Empire State Building. The spiel is always a tad deceitful; you pay less now, you don’t have to wait on lines then, you are missing out.

Pedestrian plazas are just more place to get hassled by low-paid pleasure pushers. Construction zones cattle pedestrians into the streets and into cordoned spaces surrounded by orange transportation barriers. Bottle-necking is a common pedestrian pattern in NYC. At DON’T WALK signs, people take pictures of novel nothingness, filming with a selfie stick and narrating their Instagram story.

A group of black men hand out CDs, but then ask for money once it’s in your hands. If you ignore them, they say things like “You don’t have to be afraid of black people.”

Madam Tussaud’s, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Harry Potter & The Cursed Child, McDonald’s, Sephora, Disney, Hershey’s, TCKTS, Fuji Water, H&M, Barclay’s, Forever 21, T-Mobile, LG, Levi’s, Elmo, Spider-Man, The Naked Cowboy, New York Times, Red Lobster, The Hulk, ACENQRWS1237.

Time Square is a multi-media clusterfuck.

We take the Q to Herald Square and walk to the Empire State Building. Macy’s is a city block of fast fashion like consumed water bottles overflowing from corner sanitation cans. Concrete barriers can’t stop a semi-automatic shooting spree.

On a Sunday morning, only tourists walk the streets and engage with predatory tour bus employees. I miss the Seattle Freeze.

My son’s friend wants to visit the top of the Empire State Building. We spend $240 for 7 tickets. It’s a hit job.

We are corralled into Disney-like traffic flow patterns around corners so the wait doesn’t break our anticipatory spirit. I take a picture of the Freedom Tower because that’s what you do. We spend 20 minutes on the Observation Deck and are done.


Side streets in Manhattan are a backstage of sorts. It’s where loading docks, hotel alleys, dumpsters and kitchen doors are apparatuses of the consumer spectacle on the main drags.

We walk 33rd Street west towards The Vessel, a giant Escher-esque sculpture in Hudson Yards.

MSG looks like a mod stereo speaker from the sixties. It’s ugly, but ironic. The original Pennsylvania Station, a beautiful Beaux-Arts structure, was torn down in a time when modernity meant progress. Today, such a structure would be a architectural treasure.

On Eighth and 33rd, the James A. Farley Post Office is being renovated into the Moynihan Train Hall, named after the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who advocated for a new Pennsylvania Station in the Farley building decades ago. When completed, it will become a new transportation hub for a relevant-conscious city trying to retain an exodus of residents.


The Westside train yards have been transformed into Hudson Yards, a commercial and residential hub that connects the High Line, the Javits Center and the continuing development of the Hudson riverfront. The Vessel is the centerpiece.


We walk through a mall to the Vessel. A security guard gives us directions. “Turn left at Cartier.” I notice again the dearth of actual shoppers. Lots of people congregate around the Vessel.


The shiny copper exterior attracts people to their own visage in the monolith. I wonder if the stewards of this sculpture will let the copper patina?

Aquamarine and purple swirls, Neiman Marcus long gone.