Every time I visit New York I am struck by its ugliness. This may sound strange coming from a person who lives in Ulaanbaatar, which looks like a gigantic slum. But at least the sky in Ulaanbaatar is bright and open, and you can always see the mountains. In contrast, New York is a dark and dirty place, closed, confusing, and served by a metro system that looks like a prison.
But then my attention turns to what it likes best: faces. I'm the sort of person who scans every person I pass on the street. I might look briefly at clothes, or explore ripe patches of cleavage, but I really like to look at faces. And in New York, there are hundreds and thousands and millions of them.
But it's not the numbers that I love. It's the richness. There is every possible kind of person there; so much variety that my eye never gets tired of looking at face after face after face after face after face.
My favorite street is Nostrand, somewhere in Brooklyn, not far from my sister's house. It isn't pretty, but it is alive. I've walked along it several times, once with my daughter and once with my son, popping into shops and talking to people. One shopkeeper was from Granada, another from Cameroon. They were astonished to learn that it is still below freezing at night in Mongolia. They were also kind to my children. In a Rastafarian shop, a beautiful Jamaican girl with dark, elegant fingers put a blue band in my daughter's blonde hair.
So now I am struck by the city's beauty. It's just that the beauty is in its people, not its buildings.