Some thoughts and photos about New York City, a half life later.
I’ve always loved NY. It’s been nearly 20 years since I lived in New York. Although “lived” might be a bit of stretch. My best friend and I decided to move out to the big city one summer in between the college dazed early twenties. We sub-letted a barley habitable basement tenement in alphabet city, as close to the mystical east village as we could afford. The infamous energy of the city was intoxicating to a young self-styled debonair adventurer. I wanted life. And I had found it.
I had read all of Henry Miller’s New York autobiographies and was eager to live them myself. And I tried. From my roaring 90’s temp job as an admin assistant at an insurance brokerage firm just off of wall street, to the 4am closing time at the night clubs. Though my time in New York was brief—a mere 5 months before I set off to Europe for the first time—but it forever shaped me. In some ways I feel I have never left. I still read the New Yorker nearly every week. (It is consistently some of the best writing and reporting anywhere. And the comics only get funnier with age). New York has always seemed to be right there, still one facet f my identity. And I had always thought I would be back, but it turns out my path has gone elsewhere and I now realize I will probably never live there again.
Now at the cusp of middle age and with an amazing wife and two small daughters in tow I am visiting again. This is the third time I have been back but it is the first time I visited the old haunts and actually reflected on my brief time there. The run-down ground floor apartment where we bathed using a hose attachment to the kitchen sink is now a fancy footwear shop for the hip and posh. I’m finally turning grey. Instead of nightclubs or art shows I spent most of my visit hoping from playground to playground chasing my two year old down slides. Today though the city feels very different. There is still an energy but I don’t feel it as strongly. Where once it roared, today it murmurs. I am sure that might be more about the seasons of life than about the city. But I can’t help notice that the city is very different too.
Update: – June 2018. A much better writer than I makes a similar, if even more stark, observation as I. Kevin Baker’s The Death of Once Great City in Harper’s Magazine (June 2018)