Dear New York City,
Today I took a trip via NJ Transit (the transportation of Kings!) up to visit you. You are the city that never sleeps. Or showers, apparently. It was a sweaty day -- the kind where everyone trudging sadly down 8th avenue looked homeless. Strangers growled at each other. My bottled water tasted corrupt. My hair got greasy. Your Penn Station bathroom was out of order just to make me have to walk more and test my bladder. I hate you. I hate you so much.
I'm sorry, New York. I don't hate you. You're great. It's not you; it's totally me. I'm just lashing out because you make me anxious.
I'm not sure why. I've had a bunch of fun times with you, dating back to a visit to Yankees stadium to see my childhood sports idol Don Mattingly. There's a picture of me with an ill-fitting Yankees hat and a big grin. I think I was 7. The Yankees lost, as they did for much of my time as a young fan, but I had a fine time. (I contend that the ease with which I adopted the Phillies as my new team was directly linked to the struggles the Yankees had in the 80s.) It would be my last family organized visit to Yankee Stadium, as my grandmother, great uncle, and parents were not keen on the cursing and drunkenness. oh, the drunkenness.
My dad also took my sister and I to visit you, NY, to watch the July 4th fireworks a few times. This is the same idea that thousands of other people had, so there are no pictures, just memories rooted deep in my body of being jostled. When I hear the word jostle I immediately think of fireworks . This should not suggest a negative memory. We always loved seeing the your river-barge-launched fireworks up close. I just didn't like the idea that I could -- at any moment -- be separated from my dad and sister, lost forever.
Oh island of Manahatta (as Whitman calls it), you host many musical acts. I venture, rarely, into your embrace to see them. I remember Pantera & Tori Amos (Tori Amos opened for Pantera at Madison Square Garden. It was magical.)*
*this is obviously not true.
I saw a Pink Floyd cover band once. On a date. I spent most of the concert worrying that my car would be stolen or worse: used as a toilet. Pink Floyd cover bands are, as you can probably imagine, bad. (though not all are this bad).
I saw Radiohead at Liberty State Park in late August of 2001. Scenic view of Manahatta. Towers, liberty, ferries, etc. But that's technically in NJ.
I could do the thing where I blame 9/11 for my anxiety. Seems easy enough. I was in Manhattan a week before. Got to the Guggenheim. Took tons of pictures of which only four were any good. Ate a deli sandwich. A fine time. But it's not the same to be there a week before and then project back. "What if it had happened on 9/4?" Not the same as "I was supposed to fly that day..." stories.
But NY, I was not with you for 9/11. That is not why you make me anxious. There seems to be no reason -- even when I am anxious to visit.
Consider this: a few years ago my wife had to drive me to see Don DeLillo -- my favorite author -- read at the 92nd Street Y. I spent much of the "scenic" NJ Turnpike telling her to turn around -- we would be late; I had to get up early; we hadn't eaten dinner; we would get lost. She refused, pitied me and dismissed my lame excuses. Of course, I had a magical time; got DeLillo's autograph. Still, I buzzed with panic until we returned home.
So, whether I take the train or drive or have someone drive me, I am anxious.
Perhaps there's no reason. Perhaps you and I are just not meant to be around one another. Let's just agree to remain apart except in those rare instances where I get to visit and maybe even eat one of the best portabella mushroom sandwiches I've ever had.
Here are two things that happened, neither of which made me anxious:
While sitting in a health food lunch place eating delicious almonds, a hippy-hobo came in, checked out the various yogurts, and then proceeded to scream at a woman for stealing from his backpack. "I know you went into my bag!" He yelled "Fucking pickpocket!" he spat. He might have been crazy; he might have done it to disguise the fact that he'd stolen something. But no one paid attention. The hippy-hobo left. The woman left. It was like a little play.
On a corner on 8th ave, I heard a man tell a woman: "I'm gonna report you. You were on that corner twice and now you're here. You're not supposed to be here or there on the corners. I've told you. I shouldn't have to tell you." I would like a pamphlet from the secret organization that polices the corners.