Sunday, July 07, 2002

What NYC Means to Me--

This fourth of July weekend is my one-year anniversary living in NYC. I ended up here by default. For me, it was being ready to leave someplace but not knowing quite where to go that placed me in the lap of this city. The experience getting here was one that I love--loading up the Ryder (it gives me a great sense of freedom to feel me & all my possessions together as a mobile unit), driving through the hollars and plateaus of this country, seeing cities I’ve never seen before, places like Pittsburgh, wondering what I’d be like if I grew up there. Would I talk funny? Would I scramble to get away all through my teenage years? My brother went with me to Pittsburgh. We started out in Chicago and ended in Astoria, Queens. When I think of long trips, he's usually there too, riding the many windy backroads of Texas with my Dad and stepmom in the front, chain-smoking with their windows cracked an eighth inch, and Jeff and I in the back leaning toward each of our windows like caged birds in the middle of a yellow, hazy coop. But I loved it. I love being on the road. I probably spent half my childhood in a car, going to Richardson, Port Aransas, and Kerrville again and again. All our friends and family were in Texas. We never left the state. Everybody’s there, and I’m in New York.

I’m painting a picture of separation, but in actuality this not being true has given me my sense of belonging since I moved here. The other morning I was walking down my block on the way to work and a childhood friend zoomed past on his bike. I called out and we had a chat before heading off. That’s community. It's smalltown.

That’s what NYC has come to mean to me--smalltown. There’s great comfort where you can simply be, amongst people doing the same. In some places in the city I feel this more. Tompkins Square Park reminds me of Barton Springs, the drag, and Hippie Hollow in Austin. If you walk through neighborhoods you notice the shifts--ten blocks moves you from bohemian to uptight, Arab to Italian--you notice the blends, and a melody of languages. There are not-so-pleasant times when the horns, concrete, and metal tubes underground start to close in on me. I long to be near water that expands to the horizon, or standing in the middle of hills filled with cedar and oak. In these moments I’d settle for not breathing in dirt. But because the city gives me meaning, I'm learning to temper these feelings.

I don’t think I’m having a love affair with New York. It’s more like New York is letting me give it a try. I didn’t expect the city to speak to me. I didn’t expect much at all. When I moved here I had been broken down for awhile. But what it has given me is a sense that helps me attune to humanity. It speaks to me through the many languages and brands of people communing. It is tolerance and fluidity. It never stops.

No comments: