Saturday, October 30, 2004

More New York

It is my habit to reread my posts before I send them to prevent hurt feelings. I read them again the next morning, and today I can almost see my New York readers’ necks stiffen and fingers reach for the keyboards to reply, “What! Surely you don’t mean to imply that those grasping, overanxious seekers of Trump’s attention are representative of New Yorkers?”

Of course not. If that were the case, I certainly would not have stayed in the city for close to two decades. On the contrary, there is so very much of New York that is attractive, even seductive. The closest I have ever come to explaining New York’s appeal is that it is an addiction.

On first experiencing New York, you just can’t take it in. There is so much. Different neighborhoods, different communities of all descriptions stretching across neighborhoods. While there are pockets of quality in arts and other endeavors elsewhere, for sheer quantity of very, very good work, it is hard to match New York. This concentration of excellence creates communities that feed on themselves, organisms that spiral into efforts than any one participant could never have dreamed.

The more you become aware of how much is happening in New York, the more you realize the necessity of taking it in baby steps. It is easier to live in New York than to visit, because you know how to pace yourself. New Yorkers have the skills to do an errand, then take a break—really rest and occupy a public space—and move on to the next errand.

Another way to deal with New York is systematic analysis, getting to know it neighborhood by neighborhood. Going to Chinatown for dancing shoes, to Sixth Street for cheap dinner. Shopping for fabric on lower Broadway and plants further north. Each little trip is a revelation. Hardly ever is an errand simply routine.

I lived in Manhattan only a few months one summer. I could never imagine living with all that creative/destructive buzz outside my windows, much less the rumble of traffic or the sirens. Not even to be walking distance from Lincoln Center or the Metropolitan Museum. The outer boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island were quieter, psychically safer, close enough to “the city” to take small bites. I was very, very happy for a very long time.

Then one day it no longer worked for me. Obviously, people grow old in New York, many of them very happily. Many women live out their later years in apartments in New York, but I couldn’t see myself in that life. From an analytical point of view, it ought to have been very appealing to me—living someplace with so much intellectual and sensory stimulation. But instead I saw myself someplace like here, and here I am.

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