Friday, June 06, 2008

The City Across the River

A few weeks ago, I finished reading Leap Days, writer Katherine Lanpher's ponderings on a mid-life move to New York.

It's insightful, honest, beautiful, and gutsy. One chapter made me cry on the PATH train. If you read it and you know my history, you'll know why. If you don't—if you're not altogether sure what was going on between the paragraphs of Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik's first chapter—well, you'll know why by the time my next book gets written.

In Leap Days, Katherine does something that I have forgotten to do for many years.

As a newcomer, she loves New York City. She reflects on it and appreciates it. Her sense of wonder made me envious. When was the last time I marveled at the skyline of Manhattan? Thrilled to the rush of people on the subway? Watched the police fan out to keep the peace below Houston on a weekend night? When was the last time that I had a four a.m. slice on St. Mark's and Avenue A?

It's been a while.

Yesterday, I announced that I'm here for the long haul this time. Fate handed me an ironic twist, hollowing out my reasons for hanging around right after it was too late to turn back. I have commitments to classes and teaching, so here I'll sit from September to June.

I moved here in January of 1988. (Riverdale, initially, up in the Bronx.) That's 20 years, sort of. 19 if you don't count 2001 while I was traipsing around the world by ship and bus. Probably 17 if you subtract all my time abroad. A little more if you include my first foray, where I lived first in Brooklyn and later on Staten Island in 1985. I was horrified at the city, its poverty and inconvenience. That was it for me and New York. I wasn't going to come back.

Yeah, right.

I'm so used to it all now that the marvels of NYC are just part of my background noise.

I'm taking my inspiration from Leap Days and from the people who gently mock my apathy in my own blog's comments. I'll go out, see the world in my own backyard. I must, or I'll go crazy from routine and lack of new input.

I'll get there.

On my own terms, of course.


Marie said...

My New York is more "After Hours" than "Sex and the City" or "Warriors." Which pop culture model is closest to your New York?

John Bligh said...

You forgot "Bright Lights, Big City" and "Annie Hall" (or "Manhattan" which in hindsight turned out to be creepy)... Don't forget "Saturday Night Fever", either...

I wish the city were as entertaining and hilarious as the Warriors. Love that movie...

Alas, none of them really capture NYC completely (Sex & The City might as well be taking place on Jupiter... Who lives like that?)... It's far too complex and huge to be summarized sufficiently by one movie.

Marie said...

How about Escape from New York? The funny thing is that Escape made sense in a ridiculous way at the time.

I've barely ever seen Sex and the City. The one time I saw it, I thought, "Women chasing boys" and turned it off. But I hear it's much smarter than I assumed.

Marc Siry said...

My New York is (literally) '30 Rock.'

Stuart Moore said...

Mine is kind of like "Bright Lights, Big City" with a bit (but not too much) of "25th Hour." I think I'm the only person in the world who liked the movie version of "Bright Lights." It's about the only movie I've ever seen where the clubs felt right...loud and fun but kind of empty inside.

SEX AND THE CITY is indeed worth another look. But don't start with the has its charms but overall it's a weak installment, overlong, and a lot of the impact derives from events that happened in the TV series.

Matt Hollingsworth said...

BTW, Julie Rottenberg, once of Vertigo and who worked alongside Stuart was one of the main writers on Sex and the City (the TV show, not the movie).

New York is a good place to be stuck. I think the only way you can actually get bored is if you allow yourself. There's more to do there than almost anywhere, right?

Me? New York = Taxi Driver. But with the people I hung out with, not so much.

Marie said...

Julie was Stuart's assistant! As in Stuart commented right above you.

Yeah. Taxi Driver. That's it.

Ed Ward said...

My New York seems to be Up In The Big Hotel, which is why I'm in no rush to go back there for a while.