Monday, June 20, 2011

New York City: After

I've been to a lot of big cities in my time. I've been to London, Paris, Madrid, Dublin, Vienna, Sydney, Melbourne, Tangier, Lucern, Munich, Vancouver, Boston, Seattle, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Nashville, Denver, Washington, DC, et cetera and New York City is the only one to ever overwhelm the hell outta me.

As James and I talked in the Kristen's living room on our last night in New York (James on the couch and me on an air mattress), we had a long conversation that included some of the most articulate things either of us have ever said about traveling. We came to the realization that New York City was the undefeatable giant (not all that surprising, but, hey, we thought of ourselves as a disaster strike team). When we went to Portland, we felt like we were louder and crazier than the city itself. With NYC, we talked a big game and feel disgustingly short. We were intimidated, tense and, in the end, put through the ringer.

However, I say this as we were unversed and arrogant when we showed up in JFK airport. We may not have been the conquerors we set out to be, but New York City was a gigantic monster that glowed and sang for us. It was tremendous. It was fun, hectic and downright spectacular. I loved it. I finally saw the city and it was more than I anticipated.

I wish I could tell you what he and I said while we laid there in the dark, hearing the muffled sounds of honks and shouts. But I can't. We came to the city laughing and shooting our mouths off and we returned with severed nerves. Our entire systems were only able to hold our muscles together by the end. So, instead of a thoughtful piece on what New York City is, I am only able to manage some fractured thoughts about the Big Apple and my tiny experience eating it.

Some quick thoughts on the place:

- Whenever New York City did something that surprised him, James would thin his eyes, smile and say, "Well played, New York." I'd say that phrase became the catch phrase of the trip.

- The cabs were clean and strangers were kind and helpful. Maybe things have changed or you have to be there long enough to really see the city's dirty secrets.

- I went to the top of the Empire State Building and the buildings went on forever. I mean, I could see badlands of New Jersey and what comes beyond Brooklyn, but, for the most part, it just looked like some futuristic landscape of tall buildings. It was unreal. New York City is like old Rome if they had focused more on tourism instead of conquests (you know, if they had just abandoned east, west, north and south to only go up instead).

- I smoked a cigarette by myself on a fire escape in New York watching traffic. I think, at the age of 16, that's all I would've needed to consider myself a success.

- Growing up, I thought of movies about New York as somewhat of a bad influence. Sure, there were a lot of pretty moments about extraordinary love and healthy marriages in the Big Apple. But, for the most part, I feel like my parents implied that I shouldn't smoke my lungs dead, shouldn't drown my liver and shouldn't sleep with women only to leave in the middle of the night like a whisper...and then it was always New York City who kind of said, "Hey, what if you did all those things in abundance instead?" That doesn't reflect my trip or my lifestyle, by the way. It's just sort of how I imagine everyone lived there when I was a teenager.

- I want somebody to get really high and go to the American Natural History Museum, so they can tell James and I if it's as cool as we both assumed it would be.

- The only time New York City shook my heart was when I saw the minature Statue of Liberty at the 9/11 Memorial covered in firefighter badges and notes to loved ones that disappeared. I felt a wave vibrate through my entire system.

- I see the influence of New York in everything now, from Regina Spektor songs to the Grand Theft Auto games.

- You can be happy in that city for free very easily. Well, ok, maybe the price of an ice cream cone. There was one point when I was eating an ice cream cone on a Brooklyn dock, looking at the city skyline in the mid-afternoon summer sun, and all I could think of was what I was looking at. I had a hard time coming up with where I lived or when I was leaving or what exactly I do for a living. All I could think of was ice cream and the New York City skyline. It filled my entire brain.

- There is such a crazy amount of attractive women in that city. Kristen told me that the ratio of women to men there is 3 to 1. There were a lot of moments where a hot girl passed us and I'd turn to Kristen and say, "3 to 1? Are you kidding me?"

- Also, from what I hear, I don't know how most male graduates of NYU don't die of STDs by their 30s.

- In a way, New York City is like Disneyland for adults. It's so perfectly organized and each of its five lands have some wonderful sights and rides. Everything seems so rehersed and experienced.

- My brain broke several times on the trip. It just became too difficult to really take in and keep my sanity. It was like visiting a holy city. Gods must have built this place, I thought at one point; it would've taken mankind thousands of years to do this. At its worst, New York City is one big tribute to man's ability to simply exist. At its best, it's anything you want it to be.

- If I lived in New York, I'd like to make it a hobby to bet on kids' tug-o-wars in Battery Park.

- Much of my previous knowledge of New York City comes almost entirely from movies and television shows. I realized this as I recognized much of Central Park from shitty romantic comedies. In fact, most of the time I was there, I had the distinct feeling I was walking around a film set.

- When I was atop the Empire State Building, I watched individuals walking the sidewalk by themselves 86 stories below me and all I could think was, "How the hell can anyone move here and think they're going to become somebody important or famous?"

-When I finally got home and had dinner with my family, there was a brief pause in conversation and I looked out the open top half of our Dutch door. I saw nothing and I heard nothing, and it was something. After three days of noise in the city, even while sleeping, it became a powerful sensation to acknowledge the quiet of the suburbs. In fact, it's one of the only times I truly thought of silence as deafening.

- Coming home from New York City was like dating a hot celebrity for a while and then realizing you're more fond of the girl-next-door type. Sure, I'd love to go to big Hollywood parties and talk up famous people, but I'd ultimately be more excited about taking it easy, cooking dinner and staying in to watch violent interracial porn with my old lady (hey, I don't want to get too boring).

- James was the perfect traveling companion and adventurer, and Kristen was the perfect hostess and guide. I had a lovely time. Well played, New York.

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