Wednesday, September 15, 2004

What it is about New York? It's dirty, crowded, and smells bad, like any other big city. And like any other big city, it's got art, culture, money, great food and shopping that you can't find anywhere else. Beautiful people walk the streets, and there's good coffee on every block. And you could easily go months without walking on grass or seeing the stars.

New York's just another city, but because so much of our art, literature, music and drama comes out of New York, it looms large in our internal landscape. If you can make it there, they say, you can make it anywhere. But if you can make it anywhere, why New York, where your eyes are drawn always upward, and there's always somebody higher, making more money, with a bigger apartment, better abs, cooler hat, or what have you, and "making it" just means a higher level of aspiration, with "good enough" alway just out of reach?

For a kid that dreams of being a writer, it's easier to dream of being a writer in New York than in any other place, and for a reader, to walk the streets of New York is to walk the streets of dreams dreamed over and over again in the pages of this or that paeon to the wonders of Living the New York Dream. This can create vertigo, as when I opened the window of my 8th floor hotel room to hear the city, after walking 5th Avenue in first-night-in-town boredom, then sprawled on the bed and turned on the TV to see Carrie sprawled out on her Sex in the City bed, writing her column while listening to the sounds of the city, and they cut to the girls walking down the same streets I just walked, and a circuit breaker in my head went "pop" from one too many layers of meta.

I was in my thirties before I ever made it to New York in person, having already been to Chicago, Boston, London, Tokyo and Seoul, and having lived for 15 years in towns so small you could walk across them in a day, so that I know it's just another city and I know I'll never live there, because the part of me that feels at home there isn't the man I want to be, and doesn't live the life I want to live, but still a part of me does feel at home there, and that little part can't help but wish that the rest of me didn't love the stars, the grass, and Missouri quite so much.

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