Familiarity

Washington Heights is a place I have heard about in passing but never actually looked into until now. This is a place with a heavy Dominican culture with touches of Salvadoran influences as well. I took the L to 8th avenue then transferred to the A uptown to 165th street. To be frank I was dreading the subway ride, as my phone gave me an estimated travel time of an hour, however I was pleasantly surprised when it only took 45 minutes. I walked out of the subway stop and was very surprised at what I saw. I was expecting something similar to Olvera street in Los Angeles—a street with various vendors, restaurants, and establishments rich with culture—. However what I saw was maybe the opposite, the first restaurant I saw when I exited was a Dallas BBQ place which had me a bit perplexed. Once I got past the visual aspect I opened up my ears and I immediately took notice of the increase of Spanish conversations that were happening around me, something very familiar but unfamiliar for the the environment—Manhattan— I was in. I had a list of Salvadorian restaurants that I was going to visit, they were all located along the same street of Broadway.

In the Autonomy of Affect by Massumi he states that the effectiveness of affect depends on the intensity as well as quality. He states that “matter of factness” correlates to the intensity while the “emotion” correlates to the quality. During my journey in Washington Heights I definitely felt these two features. As I  started my walk to the first restaurant, I passed by other various shops I would occasionally hear spanish music playing from them. I felt at home, I felt like I was walking through Downtown LA with my family shopping and looking for a place to eat. I entered the first restaurant and it was all too familiar, there were plastic checkered table cloths, with a Corona Extra beer poster, and various pictures from El Salvador. I decided to go to the next restaurant and hopefully find something to eat there. Right when I arrived I knew this was ‘real’ salvadorian restaurant, when I walked in I heard a little boy tell his parents he wanted a pupusa —a salvadoran dish— , MTV TR3S was playing in the background, and the walls were covered in Central American art. I sat down and placed my order; beans, rice, plantains, guacamole, chips and Tamarindo. I haven’t had authentic Salvadorian food since I had been home and the moment they brought the dishes out I was salivating over the familiarity of the smell. I sent pictures of the food to all my family members, and then took the first bite. The beans were just right and the plantains had a perfect golden color on them. The chips were obviously homemade as they were all different sizes and had the right thickness to them. I took a sip of my Tamarindo drink and immediately thought of my mom as when I was little she would give me Tamarindo candy as a treat, it made me feel happy. As I was eating I was overhearing people’s conversations, there were these two men drinking corona and conversing with the waitresses.

The energy in the restaurant was almost too familiar in The Transmission of Affect Brennan states that “emotions or affects of one person, and the enhancing and depressing energies these affects entail, can enter into another”. While listening to people’s conversations I felt this, I felt as if I had heard these conversations a million times before. I was even returning to old habits of listening to conversations in Spanish and trying to decipher them. From what I could gather it seemed that they were talking about how much they missed El Salvador. My whole experience at the restaurant was familiar, I never once felt out of place or intimidated, in fact it made me feel connected. I may not have known anyone in the restaurant but I felt a connection to those people, it felt as if I was observing a family party.

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~ by jaa646nyuedu on February 27, 2017.

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