Tuesday, August 21, 2012

No Sleep Till...

Everyday I ride the subway from Park Slope all the way into the West Village of Manhattan. After one stop, the subway races out of the darkness and for one glorious long stretch I'm suspended above Brooklyn, the sun rising in my face, warming me as the overzealous air conditioning freezes out the car at eight in the morning. I try to stand near the door for this, a view that never gets boring to me because every time I see it, there is a quick flash of achievement reminding me that I did this all by myself. I picked up a life rooted in Los Angeles and eventually moved it to Brooklyn where I have a cute apartment and live in the city that has always made me feel like it was the center of the universe.

I recently read Cord Jefferson's Gawker article about  having to leave Brooklyn, his beloved New York, but how fleeing the love of his life helped him regain his sanity. He mentioned that living in New York made him feel important. Even amongst the view of garbage cans outside his window and mice problems and the typical slum-drum low bar of existence so many young artists in New York City accept for the experience of just being here, he felt important. As Sinatra said, if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. But just what defines making it?

Lately, I have felt in conflict with this love of mine. The summer in New York always does this to me. The people are hot and irritated, rubbing up against each other as they slither through the veins of this city in its most impressive and oppressive mode of transportation. I can't say what officially baptizes you as a "New Yorker," but when I catch myself watching the rats hunt for food in the subway rails while waiting for the train, that's when I feel like it has happened. Or when I tell a cab that I am going to 5th Avenue so he will let me in and then I hop in, shut the door and tell him 5th Avenue...in Brooklyn...that's when I feel it has happened. Or when I notice that I no longer eat pizza that is unfolded or when I realize I don't own a beach towel or that I officially own six umbrellas, five of which are busted...that's when I feel it has happened. But the more I feel my roots digging into the slate and soil of this crazy island, the more I feel a need to cling onto my Palm Tree roots. I miss burgers that have thousand island dressing and being able to wear flip flops all year round and enough space to do three cart wheels and not touch anyone! I miss my father's smile and my brother's witty remarks and my godson's deceiving grin. I miss sitting outside all-the-time.

It's funny what happens when we are not looking. When I was a freshman in college I used to come home right around sunset, put on Bob Marley and watch the horizon sparkle through my screen in my dorm room miles away from the ocean. The sparkle was what told me I was looking at the ocean. And sometimes in Brooklyn, the one long stretch above ground on the F train, high above the people and the rats and the buildings, the hazy skyline just past the flourescent green Gowanus Canal is what tells me I'm living in New York.

And then I think, "Whoa. I'm here."



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