The three summers I have spent in New York City (2009, 2011, and 2012) have all felt a bit like being dropped into the pond of a Murakami short story. I’m constantly finding myself awake at strange hours, hot and restless, mystified by the shade of the early light coming through the window and how the little mundanities of my life feel somehow portentous.
I sit at Silver Spurs and wonder, “Will this be my last shitty cup of New York diner coffee?” Or later that same day, “Will this ’round table discussion’ at an absurdly nice TriBeCa apartment being house sat by my best friends be how I remember them, frozen in time until we see each other again?” … If, ever?
I imagine returning to New York, but who knows, really? I suppose this question bleeds into another one, which is (hold onto your hats, New Yorkers):
“How much do I even like New York City?”
Some days, I can’t imagine living elsewhere. Other days… I remember reading on an OkCupid profile that someone thought New York City to be the most status obsessed, social-climbing place he had ever been (he had traveled a lot). Assuming that’s true–I could imagine a decent argument–this city and I are simply not compatible. Amassing wealth and social butterflying have never been interests of mine, let alone skills. I’m too neurotic, too unaware of the rules that govern that world.
Example: housing-wise, I have no idea where I fit. I can’t afford the areas of what seems to be my demographic, but in living elsewhere–i.e., Harlem–I feel like I’m part of this ugly “gentrification” process.
So, either I find a way to afford a lifestyle that seems exorbitant (to me, unused to New York prices) and I have privilege guilt. Or I live in Harlem and feel guilt anyway, for being/appearing to be a part of the always-occurring “urban renewal” I see going on–every time a bodega is torn down for a new Duane Reade, or hear the obnoxious Columbia undergrads throwing a part in our largely family-occupied building’s courtyard: “Hey Harlem! Who wants to get fucked up and get fucked?”
Add to all this the fact that, at the end of the day, I was raised in a certain suburban comfort. And am used to certain, well, creature comforts (like spacious, air-conditioned Duane Reades, or streets not smelling like garbage…), and you can call me Miss Ambivalence.
Because you pay a lot to get so little on this island, in terms of physical living space and the quality of it. But, you get to live in the most culture-rich city in the United States. At least in terms of the performing arts–my field in one way or a million–there just is no place else with so much going on.
And yet (not even mentioning that high quantity doesn’t necessarily mean high quality) I’m just one person! How much does one person need to live? To survive? To thrive? This all varies by one’s definitions, and preferences, I suppose–and those are what I need to ascertain for myself. What are my requirements, my needs, my demands of my habitat? To quote another OKCupid profile (in response to “5 things you couldn’t live without”), “I’ve lived with a lot and I’ve lived with very little. I’ve found there are many things I can do without.”
For the next bit of time, anyway, I’ll be surviving on what I can fit in half of a sedan–hopefully that will illuminate some of these quandaries and queries. Also hopefully, these burgeoning questions won’t drive Jay Will Math crazy along the way. And finally hopefully, if I do return to New York, I’ll have a clearer idea of how I feel about it when I do.
But for now, adios muchachos! “You rock, don’t ever change!” (Kidding.)