Hello New York

29 March 2009

New York hits you over the head with its monstrous size from the moment you cross over into Manhattan. It's a city absent a sense of scale, ironically -- everything is so enormous, so in your face, that you can get no perspective on it at all. Little bacteria struggling through the veins of some immense beast. You can't comprehend it.

And you have to slice it up. Everyone slices New York up. The buildings in New York are tall, but the streets are lined by tiny storefronts, little slices of giant buildings, people trying to get their own (tiny) little storefront slice. It's how the city works, I guess. All jammed in.

Coming back to New York, now, I feel like the time when I could've fallen in love with the city has passed. It's not my kind of town any longer. Maybe it's that I've come to belong to DC, or maybe it's just that as I grow older I also feel settled in a way I didn't before. But I don't think I'll ever become a New Yorker.

A few of my friends were born New Yorkers (even ones that weren't born in New York). But a few of them really aren't of the city.

It manifests in weird ways. I stayed with a friend in Brooklyn, and his apartment sits over a subway line. Every time a train runs below, the whole apartment shakes. It's loud. Bottles clink in the drawers. You feel it. The New Yorkers who've roomed with him, and who visited, tuned it out quickly, just got used to it. Almost two years later, he hasn't.

New York's very much about the impact of sharing the little space you have with the other eight million or so people who are also trying to inhabit it. It's all compromise.

I guess I'm not interested in that sort of compromise any longer. I don't see the need. I once would've loved the roar of the subway through my bedroom, I think -- the impersonal intrusion of an enormous community into daily life, gently reminding you it's there, waiting for you.

I think now I'd rather keep things on my own terms. That's just me. If you're still the sort who wants that, be my guest. I sort of envy you. In its own way, it's quite an appealing romance.