new york in words II

"New York blends the gift of privacy with the excitement of participation; and better than most dense communities it succeeds in insulating the individual (if he wants it, and almost everybody wants or needs it) against all  enormous and violent and wonderful events that are taking place every minute..."
 "Although New York often imparts a feeling of great forlornness or forsakenness, it seldom seems dead or unresourceful; and you always feel that by either shifting your location ten blocks or by reducing your fortune by five dollars you can experience rejuvenation. Many people who have no real independence of spirit depend on the city's tremendous variety and sources of excitement for spiritual sustenance and maintenance of morale. In the country there are a few chances of sudden rejuvenation- a shift weather, perhaps, or something arriving in the mail. But in New York the chances are endless." EB White  This Is New York.

The small town that I live in is one microcosm of how colonial life used to be. When someone sneezes 4 miles away, you hear about it. When the weather drops 5 degrees, there is a public celebration. Everyone is connected by location, religion, work or family, and most are related. All of these things are an amazing rarity! And also can be extremely frustrating when you are having a bad day. ha.  When there is a big football game, everyone knows and everyone goes, and if you don't go you feel guilty because you were literally  the only one that didn't see it. But the amazing part about not being insulated from events and neighbors is that we are all there for each other when the need arises. Neighbors mourn with neighbors and the entire community supports those with loss or battling a disease.

 The connection is at equal times breathtaking and admirable and then sometimes baffling. People become so enmeshed in people's choices about how they are decorating their house, or how often they wash/don't wash their car, clothes their kids wear to school and what kind of pet(s) they have or where they vacation. Facebook can take this kind of community and add steroids to the non-limit of privacy. Bedsides those downfalls, I love that my cashiers every day are my neighbors, and relatives and friends, and that everyday I can be surrounded by friends and family. That is a gift.

When we first moved to the Valley in 1997, everyone waved at you as they passed by in the car. I know I exaggerate, but literally everyone waved. It was the strangest thing, and it wasn't a happy "Hey! I know you and this is such a neat coincidence wave!" It is an acknowledgement wave, I think I'll call it the "Howdy Neighbor" wave. For as your car passes by, you simply lift up the fingers and thumb of your steering hand while keeping your palm on the wheel and extend them as a solidified wave, sometimes you add a nod to the head for extra recognition, and then keep driving.  The true locals still do this now, but only when seeing a friend, neighbor, cousin. Now, no one else waves, they are all city folk that have ebbed into the valley seeking solace. They drive by in silence like every other poor soul that never experienced the delight of everyone acknowledging your presence. That you are both in the same miraculous place, living at the same time, experiencing the same heat, the same drought, the same jubilation. That is gone. Sometimes Ty and I talk about bringing it back, that maybe if we start waving at everyone it will catch on again. But that dies quickly as we are always late getting somewhere and in the rush of the century.

In New York, you don't talk to your neighbors, you don't chat with the cashier, you don't even take your earbuds out and admire the amazing places you are in and the people who have walked before you or the fact that Alexander Hamilton is buried across the street and George Washington worshipped every Sunday in the church in front of your daily hot dog and coke cart at lunch break. Or the fact that the Joyce Theatre is 400 feet from your bed.

By the way, I loved talking with all of the cashiers and customer service people in the stores. They were the happiest and most friendly people I have ever met...and not one of them lived in Manhattan. I would say 50% lived in Brooklyn, and 50% in New Jersey. It was pretty neat to learn where they were from, how long they had worked/lived in the city/boroughs and what they do for entertainment. It was an even greater pleasure to learn that on a weekend they just go out to eat and watch netflix like the majority of us.

The next morning I was awake by 5am! I thought for sure I would stay on Nevada time and sleep in, no such luck. My beautiful cousin Steph ( who we had picked up at Chelsea Piers at midnight that day!) was awake too so we snuck out for a walk.
9th Avenue at 6am
 Imagine our surprise as we walk half a block and find an amazing french patisserie. Holy Carb Heaven! We might have eaten danishes every, ahem, morning. NO REGRETS.
We walked past the Seminary building, which is huge and beautiful. We chatted about wanting to see the Highline the night before, and then we look up and ha! it's right there. Like, literally right there.
Can you see the apartment with the area 51 Nevada license plate?
We walked the upper half of it and enjoyed the art and immaculate apartments that keep their windows open so everyone can see their furnishings, art, and location, I guess when you've paid that much for your house you want everyone to know it.  It was pretty comical.
The majority of the people we encountered on the Highline were runners, walkers, monks and tourists. It made me wonder if everyone can tell tourists apart or not, or are there obvious tourists and non-obvious ones? One sign is the eye contact, I'll get to that later.  Maybe every other runner was just visiting? Who knows? But we even saw two nuns out for a leisurely jog/walk for exercise, or sightseeing? It was hard to tell. 

I learned a few things that morning 1. it's not just on the subway that people avoid eye contact. even happy runners and walkers don't look at you. NO ONE in New York gives eye contact, unless they are crazy, that happened a few times. and 2. Monks don't hand you free shiny contact cards. If you take this supposedly free card they will silently follow you and then sneak up and ask for a donation of money from you and then you awkwardly hand it back because you only have your apartment key on you. Steph was laughing the entire time because she told me not to take the card hahahaha.

On the subway is a little easier to tell tourists vs. locals, but even then you couldn't be 100% positive. We had two natives give us the WRONG directions, thank goodness for transit apps. My all time-favorite species of human I had never encountered in their natural habitat (besides the hippie mat meditator/chanter at Madison Square subway stop) was the New England Preppie. My eyes have never beheld chinos that starched or topsiders so squeaky clean with shiny brass ended tassels. Trotting down the subway stairs one evening I heard two girls chatting holding all of their shopping bags and one jabbered off, "Well! Last weekend at Martha's Vineyard, she said..."  Ha! I can't believe that these are real people. 

New York is a conglomerate of everything from the uber wealthy, to every class in-between and the destitute/homeless. But there still is an insulation from it, I believe. Sure, once you get to touristy places there is a sad story (heartbreaking) on every corner. But the homeless people in our town, you know them. They are our old classmates. We know their entire story, we know who they were before their brains were ruined by decades of drug use and living on the street. We can still see in their face the kind, generous, loving people they were before their very existence has been mercilesssly dehydrated out of them. And some are so far gone, even if they can stay clean they'll never be the same again in this life. That is heartbreaking, that is close to home. In NY it's just another beggar, another vagrant. Here it is our friend.

 There the construction worker driving the backhoe, the local fireman, utility worker up on the electrical pole is just a face,  a body, here it is our groomsmen or cousin or our teammate or our spouse. You know every detail about what it takes to get power, water, phone, internet to your home, it isn't just there, and you also know every detail about when things go wrong. When there is a flood, you know the minutiae of how long, how much it took to get things working again in proper order. In a city it is just a thing. It happens. Life goes on. Here it is our very life.

People say "If you can make it in NY you can make it anywhere," and I think I have to disagree. With money, and luck, anyone can make it in New York. But there are a precious few who can withstand rural desert living. You could take 100 sane and healthy people and only 20% of them could handle 5 years without a full service gym, barnes and noble or costco or target. It is 100% up to you to make your life alive and resourceful, you can't rely on your surroundings to just offer it up to you around the corner like a city.  Even if you choose to stay in for the weekend, you could at any minute, go to a last minute show, or eat out at an ethnic restaurant with friends around the block. Here it takes planning, calculation, and the aligning of the planets to meet friends for something. We all have too many kids for that!

And did I mention food? I think my next post will be about NY food. Oh....the FOOD! 
ps: there is always construction, everywhere in NY, it made me miss Ty a lot.

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