This piece was authored with my associate Stephen Mulvey, who decamped to London after a year in New York City and reflected on his experiences in the Big Apple.
"I still love you New York..." Ryan Adams said it best. Sang it best. Willingly but wearily. Intoned with fondness. But also with the telltale fatigue of a man whose expectations have been firmly reset by a deluge of days in the concrete trenches.
New York City. I love you like my banged-up Uncle Scott with the gambling problem. And Scott, each time you come a-stumblin' back from the brink I'll offer you a seat at the table and a firm embrace, but ...you're not getting my money anymore.
New York - the band whose hits are so overplayed and glassy to fans that to hear them now, to really hear them, you've got to sift through old half cooked b-sides. These are the nooks of the outer Aves and sprawling boroughs that offer the best clues to the city's character. Dive bars and greasy bodegas and sleepless diners...Crumbling near-gentrified hoods freshly spray painted, dripping character.
Me? Well I don't have familial ties. I skated in from afar and just as soon as I'd finished being taken in by the glitzy tat (quite soon it turned out), I wanted to know what was happening below. So this past year when I wasn't busy working I was busy wandering.
And yeah my expectations were reset too. But the shock of a grossly overstuffed subway car, a searingly cold February morning or a $30 bill for what really ought not cost $30 - you numb to these trivialities. You tune in to the little asides. The moments the city peels back and relents. The times it all came together. And it really sometimes did...and mostly didn't...but when it does...
And I love the New Yorkers. I love watching them navigate it. Their trusty weaponry: snow boots, air cons, caffeine and cream cheese. I loved being a part of it in the early AM. Sliding into the bustle and discovering you could keep pace. And maybe we're fools, every one of us. Maybe we should pack our stuff and retreat, return upstate, or the midwest or Ireland, or Asia or any place. Many of us will. But I doubt we'll look back in anger or regret. We'll simply declare that that was then and that was New York.
It was silly frivolity (brunch), profound beauty (sunsets across the east river), cultural deep diving (vegan Ethiopian food anyone?) and the full spectrum of humanity. It was too much. But muchness is the point. Let's get stupid just a little trippy here. We're human and we humans feel the need to matter. Not just individually but as a species, as a thing. So, on our lonely planet we've declared a rock called Manhattan the center and faithfully cultivate upon it a screaming ball of us. And maybe just maybe the noise and the color will carry up and away - away across the universe. And some distant other will hit upon it in some distant time on some device, and look on down and through and know. They'll know and they'll marvel and think, you know...pizza...that's a great idea.