This week’s reports from the city’s reality
My view of New York has been insulated lately. I live with my girlfriend, work a 10 minute walk away and rarely venture outside of my neighborhood. The most common view that I have is a combination of the BQE and tree branches. This view is from the window to the right of my desk, at which I likely spend the most time aside from my bed. I tell myself that it’s the weather which keeps me in, this last sputtering of winter, but I know that’s not really it. I’ve started losing the energy to keep up. Recently at the grocery store, an old woman ran into me with her cart. Her apology: “Sorry, I thought you’d be moving faster.” The further I get from Manhattan’s magnetism — that ceaseless energy which both inspires and destroys — the slower I’ve become. I suppose it’s time to find the balance between relaxing and making it happen.
Head uptown and you’ll find some great parks for running. Some might say Riverside Park ends in Harlem, but I consider it the starting point. Up toward Washington Heights, you’ve got Fort Washington on the west and Highbridge on the east. This summer, I plan on heading up even further to Van Corlandt in the Bronx, the final stop on the 1 train. And yet, with all these places within reach, I headed back out to Central Park this week. Maybe it’s the convenient 10.5-mile round trip from my apartment and around the loop. But I think the recent weekend of unseasonably warm weather had me thinking about my first summer there watching softball, eating at picnics, tossing disc. The place helped me realize I wanted to move to New York, so even when I run through Central Park, it always feels like I’m racing toward it.
I live in Jersey but I’ve spent years commuting to the city for internships. Here’s what was happening inside my head as I traveled through the city for a job interview this week:
Come on bus! I’m freezing. Great, it’s crowded. Please stop elbowing me in the side, sir. Don’t fall asleep on me. No! His head’s on my shoulder. Almost there. Lots of time to wait for the train. Ow, lady, that’s my foot. I wonder where that girl with the crazy hair and sparkly pants is going. That guy in the suit looks like he has a “media” job — would it be weird if I handed him my resume? Yes. Coffee time. “EMPLOYEE BATHROOM ONLY.” What do I have to do to find a bathroom in this city? Almost time. It’ll be fine. I have lots of experience and I work hard, I just need to convey that to them. That was kind of short…but I think it went well. Lunch time. This salad looks good and will surely counteract the 500 Oreos I had earlier. Eleven dollars?! I just paid $11 for a salad. How do you people sleep at night? Time to window-shop for things I can’t afford. I wonder how the bed bug situation is going. I hope they hire me. Time to go home. Rush hour chaos.
This week I’ve been getting ready for my parents to come and visit for the first time. Cleaning the apartment, brushing my awkward cats, putting something non-liquid in the fridge and, not least, trying to find things to do. Nothing has made me smile more this week than the thought of my well-dressed folks climbing out of their Camry in front of my row house in Stuyvesant Heights. I’m looking forward to the quick looks up and down Throop Avenue (which I recently learned is actually pronounced like “troop”) and carrying their rolling luggage up my stoop. I’m also looking forward to taking them out to some of my favorite neighborhood spots like Black Swan and Project Parlor. Thinking about what my parents will think about my place has given me a temporarily fresh perspective on New York. Even though they’ve spent a ton of time in the city (my dad worked in the World Trade Center before it fell) they are by no means New Yorkers.
I’m no New Yorker, but I’ve visited enough times to appreciate a few of the basic effects. Emerging from Penn Station, joining the crowd, I’m always struck by how actively and successfully everyone manages to ignore the human swill. With the spectrum of people on a given street so broad and so dense, it seems to me a Darwinian miracle that New Yorkers are so aloof to the madness, making playlists on their iPods while mindlessly hopping rivers of bum-piss. In L.A., we’re constantly checking each other out. The peacocking is so extreme that to abstain from it gets you even more attention. New Yorkers have no time for that nonsense. They’re cold, and they’re late. People on the street are nuisances at best, and if you’re like me, there’s a wry sense of freedom in that.