SHOPPING IN NEW YORK, OR SHOPPING AS AN EXPRESSION OF ENGAGEMENT IN THE WORLD


I know I wrote a post on how shopping has lost its glamor for me, and it is true, in a way it has. I used to be a shopper, and shopping was always on my agenda when I traveled. Now I feel I have altogether too much, and have everything I could possibly need. You could call it old age. Besides, I like to see space, empty space when I look inside a closet, not things piled up and spilling out. I have come to adore space. Take this tiny 600 square foot apartment. It feels big to me because our 3,500 square foot home in So Cal is full and this is empty. The dressers have nothing in them here and the closets, too. This place feels huge because I have time. Let me explain in my twisted way how space equals time. Because this apartment has only the necessary things plus two small suitcases – Payson and mine – I wake up in the morning and write for hours. It is a psychological thing. I am not tied into any schedule. I could become addicted to traveling like this.

But I was speaking of shopping. One doesn’t want to own more, and shopping always makes you accumulate things. And yet . . . isn’t shopping one of the things we were made to do? Isn’t it an expression of our engagement with the material world, the world out there? My mother at 93 is thinking of getting new curtains for the room that has become her world, though she still takes care of the entire house, and had it painted recently; she makes sure the silver and brass is polished regularly; she delights in buying annual winter flowers for her garden, and gives me a report of the stage of the pansies (they have buds on them now) and all of this keeps her plugged into life as we humans know it.

What would happen to the world if we stopped shopping? I recently visited my nephew who is captain in the Merchant Navy in a shipyard in Long Beach, LA. The paths in the shipyard were made by containers from China piled one on top of each other to New York skyscraper heights. This was the place where China comes to America, and carries back America in the form of garbage to its factories to process it again for our shopping bags.

Shopping is sometimes a worthy goal for getting out of the house, and when Payson suggested he take me to Bloomingdales a few days ago (no doubt to make up for his Gollum remark), I was thrilled. This is a rarity, you understand, because Payson hates to shop.

So, to Bloomingdales with Payson to find fleece-lined leggings. Streets were lit up in a wonderland way, and being outside was exciting after a day indoors, doing my favorite thing: scribbling. The underworld morphed into heaven! All those sorry faces in the subway were smiling and happy (there is no doubt, none, that what we see is a reflection of our own states of mind). Bloomingdales was a Maya Bazaar, full of all sorts of expensive, lovely things. Payson even waited patiently while I tried on my leggings. He even bought me a hat in addition to the leggings that I love.

We walked back to our apartment instead of taking a bus, shopped some more on the way back, and I came back quite in love with New York. And the few things in my shopping bag were not the only reason.

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