The late, great Oliver Sacks was so famously private, he didn’t divulge that he was gay until his memoir, On the Move, was published, shortly before his death at the age of 82. Granted, this revelation was one of the least interesting things about him. Sacks was widely beloved, which is saying something for a scarily brilliant, yet somewhat reclusive neurologist. But his childlike wonder and ability to wrap our brains around the complexities of everything from music to migraines to the cancer he succumbed to, was infectious, and the graciousness--and extraordinary gratitude--with which he accepted his terminal diagnosis earned him even further admiration. It stands to reason, then, that Sacks’s life partner must be pretty remarkable as well, and Insomniac City provides ample proof. In this affectionate and magnanimous memoir, author and photographer Bill Hayes pays tribute to their relationship, and provides a paean to one of the other loves of his life: New York City. Hayes’s contagious regard for the Big Apple makes you almost believe that getting lost on the subway is a happy accident (almost!), and his Humans of New York-esque vignettes inspire the same esteem and faith in humanity as Brandon Stanton’s blog of the same name.
We asked Mr. Hayes to share with us some of his wonderful photographs, to illustrate a handful of the things he loves about the City That Never Sleeps. If you like what you see, it'll whet your appetite for an upcoming book called How New York Breaks Your Heart, available early next year.
Lovers in Parks: You live much of your life in public in NYC, exposed to the elements and to the glances (sometimes curious, but as often not) of fellow New Yorkers. What's more romantic than spotting lovers lost in their own world in the middle of a bustling park? Ah, New York: It wears its heart on its bare legs and arms, especially during summertime--at dusk, when the fireflies come out.
Newsstands on Corners: Whether grabbing a bottle of water on a blistering day, a pack of gum before a date, or a newspaper right before hopping onto a subway, newsstands are a vital source when you suddenly realize you need, or forgot, something--and they're right there, right on the sidewalk. Plus, the vendors themselves (who've seen everything) are always good for a quick chat.
When It Snows: Nothing is prettier. Snow can transform New York "into a peaceful new world," I write in INSOMNIAC CITY, "camouflaged as a cloud." Don't think about the day after, when the snowbanks get dirty and the streets are plowed clear. Just enjoy the whiteness, the silence. If you work or live in a high-rise building, you feel like you're inside a swirling snow globe.
The Guggenheim Museum: NYC is filled with amazing museums of a tremendous variety, so it seems unfair to single out one. But, let's face it, going to the Guggenheim is always dreamy. I took this shot just a few days ago when--spur-of-the-moment--I hopped into a cab and went to a nighttime dance/music performance held in the rotunda. Even the sound of clapping was somehow made beautiful.
People Reading on the Street: Although I've lived here 8 years now, I am still entranced by the sight of people reading everywhere (and everything)--on the subway or bus, in parks day or night (even under streetlights), or while walking down busy streets. Every now and then, I'll spot an actor deeply immersed in a play or film script, clearly trying to memorize lines, mouthing words to herself or himself. "Break a leg!" I want to say.
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