Saturday, March 14, 2009
Even jaded New Yorkers occasionally still have their moments of zen with this city. They usually come unexpectedly. Today I was sitting on the train on my way home, and it was really quiet, and it was the first night of the year when the sun wasn't down by the time I left work, and it felt like spring. And I started thinking about summer in the city, and Swervedriver's "Girl on a Motorbike" was playing on my iPod.
I was born in New York City, although for the first part of my life I lived outside of it. But I always thought of myself as a New Yorker. About every other weekend by the time I was old enough I'd come into the city for a day. I never felt like I really left. I finally moved back inside the city almost 20 years ago. I consider myself a native.
My first summer in my own apartment was when this song came out, and every time I hear it, I remember everything about that year. It was still a pretty dark time in the East Village - the Tompkins Square Park riot was still fresh in everybody's minds, and the squatter riots were just around the corner. (These would inspire the Broadway play "RENT" lateron.) There was a lot of crime. I saw lots of police tape that summer, and lots of helicopters and ambulances. I had major drug deals happening in the apartment below me.
But I couldn't parse any of those things, or if I did, I didn't think of them as bad things. To me, it all felt raw and real and authentic. I felt like I was somewhere, and back home. I wanted to experience everything. There was no good or bad.
People always talk about the energy of New York City, but you have to understand that's a relative thing. It is like that in the beginning. After a while, the way this city is just starts to feel normal. Your body adapts to the pace and the excitement, and you realize that all that energy isn't coming from the city but the people in it. Including you. The city's taking energy, not giving it. That's when its problems seem to overwhelm it, and other places stop feeling boring and start feeling easy and nice. And that's when it's time to leave.
So now I live a mile outside the city limits, where it's a little quieter and a little less draining, and where the people are a little nicer. But still, I'm in the city every work day, and on a lot of weekends. Sometimes I hate it. Certain things about it I hate all the time. It is a myth that New Yorkers all love their city unconditionally.
But every once in a while, I'll get that feeling like I had that first summer in my own apartment. And at that moment, at least, I'm glad I'm there.