February 3, 2017

Things I’ll miss…

I’ll miss the spring. Spring seems like a special season here in the city. Truth be told almost every season does for it’s own reason, with the possible exception of winter. As a child winter was something magical, so blatantly different from all three other seasons and so full of wonder and excitement it was hard not to be a fan of it, no matter how many layers you had to put on. As an adult though it changed for me. I know some people still revel in the beauty of it all, but for me on the best days it became something that had to be endured, much like a cold or a prostate exam. Other times when I let my mind really wander on it, it felt to me like the season that so many others have associated it with throughout the years, the season of death.

Death comes to all of us. It is as much a part of living as life itself is, and no matter how many ways we strive to find ways to cheat death we ain’t going to do it. Many religions have answers for that, a promise of life afterwards, but no matter whether it is the concept of Heaven or the idea of reincarnation, I’ve yet to find one that promises you rebirth into the life you’ve been living. I think that’s part of what makes spring so special. It is the season of rebirth, but not anywhere other than where you have been with who you already love and what you already know. Spring in the city really embraces that as everyone seems to emerge from their own form of hibernation and living in a shell to truly come alive.

I’ll miss the subways. I’m a sucker for trains, always have been, always will be. There is something fascinating by seeing not just any random train, full sized and imposing, rumbling into a station, filling the entirety of it all, but the concept that the train you are looking at is only one of a hundred currently on the tracks. An entire system exists to move hundreds of thousands of people all over most inches of the city. And even realizing the scope of the city, that it would take me an hour and a half to get from the Bronx out to Coney Island, may help to reinforce the sheer size of where I live it also did something to diminish it as well. I could enter one turnstile, make one transfer, and be wherever I wanted to be.

I’ll miss the city-ness of it all. Maybe if it hadn’t been the first city I knew well (Hartford, for as much as I love it, doesn’t really count in comparison.) I wouldn’t have had such a romantic notion of living here. Everyone compares their first city to all those that follow, and it is certainly easy to find faults with others when remembering their own, but to me there is nothing like New York when it comes to the definition of what a city should be. The layout of the grid, the soaring of the buildings, being the center of so many different enterprises and industry, the romanticizing of it that has gone on for decades bordering centuries, all of it conspires to make it the iconic capital of the world that it is.

That being said though, there is much about the city-ness itself that I won’t miss. I met a guy a few months ago from Arkansas, in town for business, something he’d be having to do every few months. He spoke about New York in terms that so many others had, as a machine that seemed to power itself. Well, it almost does. It has to draw power from somewhere, and that somewhere are the people themselves. Some rise to prominence in their chosen fields, some get chewed up and either spit back or swallowed, but most just keep plugging away, cogs in an ever growing machine. I’m not going to miss that energy, that need to be part of something that is so far greater than you that your presence is both inevitable and expendable. I’m all for living a life full of energy, but not when the energy is being harvested away from you. The phrase running to stand still never felt more appropriate.

On a similar note I’m not going to miss the type of people who are part of that. I know that the price I paid to have a comfortable bartending job meant dealing with people straight out of the Gordon Gecko “Greed is Good” school, and to be fair I’ve met a few who have been the exception to the rule, but there is a level of humanity I’ve come to see that I couldn’t believe actually existed. In many ways I feel like I have more in common with the people who live here in my neighborhood in the Bronx. These people surely represent all facets of what makes people great and not so much, as we all do, but I’ve felt a greater connection to them in many ways, a recognition that they are somehow more real, more connected to who they are and what life is about, than many of the people I’ve poured drinks for. I’ve certainly learned that what might seem like the greater difference between two people, the color of their skin, is the least important aspect of it all.

I’m not at all upset I came back here. It was all kind of a whim, and for the last year and a half it has been a mostly positive experience. I got to spend time with old friends, I’ve made some new ones, a couple of whom I think will stay part of my life for a while (especially if I ever make it to Perth,) I got to learn more about myself, I’ve certainly become a better bartender and I think I’ve definitely become a better person. Most importantly I’ve learned a lot about home, and place, and being somewhere not because you can or you have to, but because you want to. There are very few minutes of my most recent time here I would trade in for anything, so few in fact that I cannot recall them. I guess in the life of a writer there are always new chapters to be written. I’m looking forward to writing the next one, but I’m damn glad I got a chance to write another New York chapter in my life. Like the song says, “I’ll always love you though New York.”

Click here to hear the song that says that. (Kind of touching and ironic date of making the video.)

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