It is summer in New York, officially, which means I must put away my broodiness and write something cheerful. I find it unfortunate that I am not able to readily pen the beauties of life; perhaps the reason is that I am too busy enjoying them to write about them.
Since I last published, so many things have happened. I was miserable on my own and reconciled with my girlfriend, Marisa (in spite of my glaring declarations that I wouldn’t do so/alas, I was incorrect); I made the trip from Amory, MS to New York, New York on my motorcycle; and someone who means very little to me on the periphery of my life accused me of lying in regards to my post about divorce. All of these things are items of which I am quite proud. Without them, I wouldn’t feel I was doing anything right. One needs adventure, reconciliation, and opposition. These are some of the most satisfying things life can present.
For the first time in my life, I feel some peace. The only guilt that plagues me is what I believe to be healthy guilt in place of an agonizing guilt that can cut one down to nothing. I’ve retained an acceptable fear of failure without the consummation that often follows. Here, I’ve found some real comfort, but I don’t believe it has anything to do with my social location. My mind, however, is finally “in the right place”.
This is likely why I haven’t written in a while. There simply isn’t time between work and really enjoying being in and around the city. It isn’t hard to imagine, right?
Well, perhaps it is.
Let me tell you about New York City from the perspective of someone who hasn’t lived here very long.
Everything is still relatively new, and the common “angst and cynicism” that one hears in any conversation about New York that isn’t held in New York has yet to set in. Not that it ever will. People here really love it, especially if they are over 40.
I admit it is not difficult to mythologize this place; towers of glass and steel, extending up into the heavens like immortals while the feet of millions of people beat the pavement below on streets so old that it’s impossible to calculate how many lives have lived and died on those same stones.
My day starts in Harlem. I moved to Manhattan after a two month stint in Brooklyn where I lived with a friend for a while, so that I could get acclimated to the city. The air was cool at that time, and every other day, I awoke with fresh snow on the ground, a detail that arrived in my routine with magic and excitement, only to exit with a new found appreciation for its absence. I awake early in the morning around 5:30 AM, something I learned I could do in the summers I worked at the golf course in Nashville. Coffee helps everything.
I walk a few blocks over to a gym of which I am a member. The cost is not too high, and so I included it in my budget. Having a gym is a nice convenience, especially if it’s raining. I’m no good with rain unless I’m out of it.
The rain comes about as much here as it does in Nashville, and when it does, the smell of the place carries up and into your nose; quite the intruder. Sometimes the air smells of bread or fresh flowers, if you’re in a park, but most of the time, it smells like shit—human shit. After six months of living here, I am still unused to the stench.
People are swarming the sidewalks by the time I’m off to work. Harlem is still predominantly nonwhite, despite the gentrification brought on by people like me. I don’t feel guilty, but part of me wants to own that guilt. I couldn’t tell you why right now, but it probably has to do with my privilege. I still don’t know how I feel about it entirely outside of the fact that I am aware I am the minority in my neighborhood.
The two or three train screams to a halt, and I wait for those exiting the car to step off. I always hope the number of people leaving is high, as the amount of people crammed into a subway car isn’t regulated, and suddenly, you are intimately close to infinitely strange people with all sorts of habits, looks, and smells. The practice is particularly uncomfortable for those who are short and not able to hold their head over the horizontal stacking of bodies. In that regard, I suppose I am quite privileged.
The part of my day to which I look forward the most is that moment where I resurface in the middle of everything out from under the ground. In my immediate line of sight is the Empire State Building, reminding me how far I am away from home and all of my preconceived notions about what life here would be like. The sunlight dances off of its shape as if it were extending the glow from within. Sunrises here are truly beautiful if you’re in a position to see them.
Already tons of people are crowding the streets, especially here in the middle of the world. Shoppers, commuters, NYPD crossing guards, business men and women in calculated outfits, homeless men and women in their only outfits: each is a pixel in an enormous picture. I see it every day—extreme to extreme.
This is the tale that I am living. There is no in between here. You either are or you aren’t. It is or it isn’t. Nothing is a little of this and a little of that, even if everything is a grey area.
As the Earth traces its path around the sun and the night falls later in the evening than I remember it falling before, I find myself looking up and down and wondering how I managed to land here in this place. It isn’t a story of massive success but instead one of “right place/right time”. If I can do this, surely anyone can, but it isn’t about sheer will. I feel much like Bilbo Baggins being swept off on an adventure for which he only had to make himself available.
Now and then, I wonder what my life would’ve been like had things not played out the way they did over the last year, and I can say with completely confidence that I am thankful I’ve been gifted wonderful friends, an amazing job, an apartment in the greatest city in the world, a functional relationship with adequate communication and true to life expectations, an amazing family, and the rediscovery of who I was before I tried so hard to be what everyone else wanted.
Life, for me, is often extraordinary, simply because I pay attention to it. I know what it means not to pay attention and coast by without really processing the realities.
But hey, I’m simply living it as it comes, and today, this life feels good.