Why New York? Part One

March 11, 2010

Now and then, I meet someone who has never been to New York City. We look at each other in mutual fascination, or horror, in an attempt to understand the other’s internal landscape. I admit, it may be unfair of me to imagine a sweeping nothingness inside them, a deep well of absence where New York might have been. But I can’t help myself. And they are no better than me. One such stranger in particular, upon reading a blog post about my struggles to find an NYC bartending job over the summer, remarked to a friend, “I don’t get it. Why doesn’t she just leave New York?”

This question, as you know dear Stella, has haunted me. Not because it has made me question my attachment to New York–as in, why don’t I just let go of New York once and for all—but because it has made my attachment to New York even clearer. Of course I want to be in New York! Even if it is difficult, impossible at times. Sometimes, I find myself in a passionate imagined discussion with this person, whom I’ve never met, trying to explain why New York is obviously the place to be. But it’s not an easy discussion, as the spirit of New York is often quite beyond words. Everyone who has experienced it knows it, but when we attempt to articulate it we often fall into clichés, talking about it’s “energy” or feeling like we are in the “center of the things.”

So this, dear Stella, is the first of what I imagine will be a recurring (and inedequate) attempt to answer the question: Why New York?

Nothing is ever as striking as that first night after I’ve been away. Friday: I’m standing in the basketball-court-sized room in Williamsburg, waiting to read from my YA novel. There are 60-70 drinking, smoking, talking bodies here. When it’s my turn to read, it’s quiet. They are listening bodies now. A poet, me, a video artist, two filmmakers. People doing things, making things happen.

Saturday: Dawn and I meet a friend in Fort Greene for dinner. A warmly-lit wine bar. Bustling. We talk about ideas and possibilities. Our friend works for a foundation, gives money to good causes. She says she wants Dawn to come in for a meeting of smart people to talk about how gender is no longer on the radar and how people think sexism is “solved.” People are talking and doing and solving and making things here everyday—it’s the everyday here, and so they don’t even know how magical conversations like this are.

Sunday: I am walking to Kristin’s with my breakfast of tea and pie. This is a recurring moment–walking to a place, a job, a meeting, a class in New York with tea. The gathering of myself that walking allows. This walking as a professional in the company of other professionals walking. Not a driving to the place in a car, an isolated bubble. Being a part of the thinking walking drinking tea/coffee machine. It is a gorgeous day. I’m walking toward the first meeting of the Writers Collaborative that a group of us are founding. This moment of walking toward has been a long time coming, the moment of having a dream and doing the long, difficult work of clearing the space to make room for the dream, and then committing to the dream. The walk allows me to feel the pleasure and confidence and significance of this moment and all the choices I made leading up to this moment. The walk provides a slow transition, processing in the muscles, the body, the decisions one has made.

The meeting lasts five hours and something amazing happens in it. This idea is going to happen. A powerful new beginning. Walking, thinking, doing, making.

Then later: lying on the air mattress in my brother’s living room (true, the air mattress takes up the entire living room, like we are floating on an air boat). Afternoon sun streaming in the window. Dawn and the dogs napping beside me. My brother napping on the couch at the end of the air boat. The window open, sounds of the street. I am in the middle of things, close, surrounded, nestled. Safe and yet not the kind of safety that breeds complacency. Things are happening outside the window and I am near them, but paused, letting the ideas of the day settle.

“The air hums here,” I say to Dawn. “It’s like the air itself is filled with nutrients and just being in it nourishes us.”

“Um,” Dawn mumbles into her pillow, “I think the air here is polluted.”

“Can’t you feel it?” I say, “It’s…it’s got this energy, and when I’m here I just feel like I’m in the center of things.”

“Yes,” Dawn says, “It’s humming.”

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One Response to “Why New York? Part One”

  1. Doug Says:

    Um….I am right there with you on this one! The energy is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!


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