Those Who Wait

It has been exactly 30 days since I left New York City. 

What a strange thing to admit out loud. I left New York, a city that became less of a place and more of a person over the 15 years I lived there. I wonder if this is what divorce feels like, abandoning a relationship I never imagined I would say goodbye to but knew I couldn't sustain anymore. We no longer could give each other the things we had promised years ago. No hard feelings - we simply ran our course.

But that's not 100% honest, is it? I ultimately left New York for someone else, someone New York introduced to me. It was a Saturday night at a bar, a traditional 'meet-cute.' Boy sees girl. Girl sees boy. Boy and girl know it's something, just not what. And then five years unfold, punctuated by space and heartbreak and reconciliation, in no particular order and not in singular fashion. 

If that seems like an untraditional love story, you should meet New York. At times challenging, infuriating, and disheartening, she can also be inspiring and generous. She made me better, and even when I hated her, I knew I loved her. She's both the reason I stayed for so long and the reason I had the strength to leave. New York happens so fast you hardly notice change - embracing it is terrifying.

Over the last few years though, New York became a city to me again - magical, rhythmic, and full of life - but a place, not a person. And he has, well, he has become more than a person - he is a place.

He is home.

Knowing

Outside, the world is screaming. An illness has taken her, a plague. There is smoke in her hallways and wreckage on the boulevards. The sound is contagious, growing, overwhelming. The more men breathe the sickness, the more death feels alive.

But New York, New York is quiet. A din pervades - traffic, babies, heels, expletives, cheers. Over and over it plays, like she is humming a familiar song. Headphones in, strutting forward, hoping to escape the growing sound of unrest.

Knowing she will not.

24 Hours of Sunlight

There are some parts of the world where the sun never sets. The further towards the edge of the earth you go, the longer the light. This can stretch for days, weeks, even months. They call this the 'Midnight Sun.'

I used to believe New York was the only place where time was irrelevant, where sleep was an idea and not a necessity. I used to believe I would drown in the day-to-day of anywhere else, the monotony of 'a simple life.' I used to think I wanted everything until I had everything but one thing and then, like time, it became irrelevant.

What if New York wasn't the dream? What if I've been awake this whole time? If I closed my eyes, what if I could take myself to the edge of the earth where the sun never sets for days, weeks, even months on end? 

Maybe what I really want is just 24 hours of sunlight. 

Age Pt. 2

One day you will wake up and the whole city will be brand new, like a snake shedding its skin. What was once familiar - a street, a face, a feeling - no longer attaches itself to a memory. Friends will become strangers. Strangers will become lovers. 'Home' will once again be a vague notion you chase but can't hold on to. New York will feel like magic and decay at the same time. And you'll look in the mirror and think,

When did I grow up?

 

 

The Gambler's Fallacy

In baseball, a player is considered 'due' if he is in a slump, remaining hitless for innings or games on end when his batting average, and our own reasoning, tells us change is coming.

This phenomenon is known as 'the gambler's fallacy' because it is, by mathematical standards, a lie. Things remain as likely or unlikely regardless of the surrounding circumstances. A coin will always have a 1/2 chance of landing on tails, regardless of how many times it is flipped. If you lose half your money on Black 15, it doesn't matter if you move your chips to Red 32 or stay right where you are. Odds are odds, no matter how you spin it.

Of course, being human, the fallacy exists for a reason. Our hearts, and our heads, tell us to believe that, particularly when it comes to luck, something's gotta give. In New York, a city where a thousand things happen to us every day, this feeling is only compounded. It seems to track that work, relationships, 'life,' all ride highs and lows together. We are thriving here or we are dying here, pendulums skirting the balance, living in extremes, swinging for the fences.

It's been a long few months up in the air. I guess what I'm saying is, I need a hit.

 

The Underbelly

Not everything here is blooming.

There is still waste in the street and the slick of grease in the air. Rats curve through her architecture. Poverty is a disease. Just because a city is alive doesn't mean it is without illness. 

The girls here have the privilege to go hungry every day. They will spend their last penny to sweat with miserable company to fit in. When my friends eat, we talk about eating. We are keenly aware of every piece of matter that goes in and often aware of what comes out. Sometimes what is sick here is generic.

Some of the most beautiful things I've ever seen in New York were the least alive.

 

 

Sprung

It's the first day of spring and the snow has turned the color of tar. The weather is biting, almost rude. When we talk seasons in New York, we cannot be scientific. Spring appeared, and then retreated, and now we are in limbo.

New Yorkers only let the Gregorian calendar dictate one important part of the death of winter, and that is the birth of the summer diet. Some begin resolutely, with gym memberships or the cutting of food groups (sugar, salt, carbs, meat, processed, fried, edible). Others dive right into juice and spiritual cleanses, maybe even a delivery of something (re: poison) masquerading as skinny tea. My favorites are the ones who begin by overhauling their workout wardrobe with handsomely priced spandex and shoes (soon after purchase, these will be worn as 'athleisure-wear' and may never make it inside a gym.) 

The melting of ice, the elongated days - these are really all just a means to an end. It's summer we've been promised and summer that we crave.

Spring is simply a bridge over which our most anxious vanity blooms.

 

When January Became March

I've lived in New York long enough to know that extraordinary things happen here every day. Not just the newsworthy parts, but the ones we are fortunate enough to take for granted - the sheer diversity of politics, class, religion, and love that make up our populace. If our city chose to identify and behave the way the world around us seems to, we would be in ruins. Instead, we make it work. Not because we don't face the same issues, but because there must be something greater that compels us to stay together.  After many years and testing many variables, the only constant I've found is New York.

Our city is so much stronger than what divides her. I saw it myself this weekend. For the first time in months, I was hopeful.

 

Inside-Out

Two blocks west of my apartment sits the Hudson River. In the warmer months, it's the perfect backdrop for a long run on the edge of Manhattan, curving past piers and a pool of sunlight dissolving into glass. It is the odd lot of the New Yorker that this view is more New Jersey than our own city, a false reflection of home (with no offense meant to our neighbors). The real luck is across the water, the bridges, the tunnels, or high above it all, behind a storied window or framed by clouds and light from a plane that is coming or going. Perspective is so valuable in a city like this.

Sometimes you have to get out to get it.

Something Old, Something New

It has become a personal tradition that on the eve of each new year I write something reflecting on the one I am leaving behind. The interesting exercise is not necessarily in writing them but in revisiting them a year, or years, later. They string together like lampposts, illuminating a bit of the history surrounding them along the way - a new job, a break up, a muddled symphony of desire and fear. They are full of longing to see the light ahead. Above all, they are hopeful.

It’s a strange thing – when I started thinking about writing this, I was going to join the ongoing discourse of ‘why 2016 was a terrible year.’ I even mentioned it to someone who, I assumed, like most people would say emphatically, ‘I know.’ Instead, he asked me to tell him ‘why.’ And so I rambled on about the loss of creative lives, the state of American politics, a few personal speed bumps, etc. etc. and slowly my argument unraveled. Not because any of those things weren’t true, but because they were, and talking about them didn’t seem to make it better or worse. When I looked back on my post from the close of 2015, I had quipped at the time, “I’m going to be selfish for a moment and tell you that 2015 was hard for me. To put it more eloquently, 2015 was complete and utter shit.” It seemed selfish to go back to those sentiments again.

So I went back further. My friend had pushed me out of my head, the banality of blaming 2016 for its happenings, and made me reflect harder on what defines a year. Pain, hurt, suffering – these are just the cost of living. They sit at the fringes of experience. If they overshadowed love, happiness and hope, we wouldn’t exist. We wouldn’t evolve. We wouldn’t even care.

After 5 years of reflection and posts that spanned my personal history, I made my way back to 2011 where something I told myself once seemed to resonate again,   

We could sit here and tell each other what a long year it has been. We could talk about the things we regret, the people we lost, memories we made and places we went – the moments we remember being truly happy. We could line all these things up together and try and measure if it was a year of losses or gains, and then determine how we could avoid all our pitfalls in the new year.

 But life, thankfully, is not a stock market. There are no years we are set back or we just break even. We have gained experiences, good and bad, and we are all around richer for them. 

 I think now there is no such thing as a ‘terrible year.’ There is yesterday, today, and if we are lucky, tomorrow. How the days are measured is not in the quality of what they offer to us but that we have the good fortune of living them, and the chance to fill them with as much love, happiness and hope as we choose. A new year is just 365 opportunities to do the same, over and over again.

I’m choosing to be happy in 2017. I hope the same for you.

Take care of each other kids x 

New York, I Love You

Long ago - let's say 6 years if you want to get technical - I ran up the stairs of the Empire State Building. 1,576 of them. 86 flights into the ether. 19:01 minutes of slow, raw pain. More of a climb than a run, and more of a battle than a race, I found myself alone on the 86th floor observatory, stairwell dust in my lungs and the sting of winter across my face.

I knew why I was there. I was fighting the sadness that had taken root in me. With each step I was trying to get back to myself, to prove I was stronger than the part of me that wanted to collapse or simply submerge below the surface. I had to find higher ground.

And there she was in the beautiful cold quiet. My city, frozen. I could not tell if I was looking down on her or she was looking up at me. Still, for a moment I believed we saw each other and an understanding passed between us - an understanding E.B. White defined even longer ago...

It is by all odds the loftiest of cities. It even managed to reach the highest point in the sky at the lowest moment of the depression.

Sometimes being alone in New York is the only way to find yourself again. It isn't easy, it might even be devastating, but when you fall down, she will be there to lift you back up.

Don't forget, my friends. And don't ever give up.

The End

It has been almost two weeks since I had anything to say. Sometimes New York swallows your attention so completely you lose the ability to see it and simply circle the drain.

If ever there was a time the end of a year felt like teetering on the edge of something, something terrifying, perfect, and new, that is where we are. This city has lost its borders and the world is pouring in.

There are simply no guarantees anymore. Everything is about to change.

Oh Wonder

It starts small - the twisting of lights around a streetlamp or the smell of pine in a gift shop. Then more lights, more color and dazzle, and more trees than belong in a city this gray. Soon it is in the storefronts, animated with wonder and longing, windows smudged with the noses of children who still 'believe'. Then the soundtrack to the entire city changes, as if someone lifted their finger to the tip of the Empire State Building to broadcast the same few melodies over and over again...

Although its been said, many times, many ways...

For some, the holidays descend upon us like a disease. A virus to avoid. A reason to stay put. For others, they are filled with as much warmth and familiarity as a homecoming. After 12 years in this city, I have learned how to differentiate the two. The question is simple.

Are you in love?

But more importantly,

Do you believe?

Blue

Some days New York is the perfect shade of blue. The sky cuts so clear above the city it appears to hang low, as if you could reach out and brush your hand against its soft, cerulean facade. Maybe you could even ride an elevator to the top floor of a midtown tower and step right into it - just be swallowed up in the blueness of it all.

The deep, deep blueness of it all.