Sunday, November 23, 2008

On Loving not Hating New York.

Living in New York can be like a badge of honor for some: an occupation almost. As if in response to the question "what do you do?" (always a favorite of mine because it comes with a lot of qualifiers: "I'm an actress,er, with a day-job but, no an artist, and no I don't always get paid for it, and, and, and...blech") they can answer "I live in New York". Being a resident of this City is a job, never mind the actual job. I often describe living here as Darwinian which I don't think is original or a stretch to say by any means though recently in describing it as such I did elicit a quizzical look from someone (who lives in L.A. - go figure). After you've been here a while you realize that, for better or worse, much of the rest of the world disappears into a hazy fog of "out there". I don't particularly care for the all-consuming tunnel vision that comes from living here but unless you are wealthy and have a country house or thousands of frequent flier miles the rest of the world becomes something you visit after a 4 hour Greyhound bus ride.

I would say that I have more of a love affair with this City than a love/hate relationship with it (though I do have days when I am felled by the daily challenges: waiting for the subway which is rapidly, almost shockingly, decaying with every passing year, tromping to and fro for even the most basic of middle class amenities, groceries, laundry, and don't even THINK about a car). Though I didn't grow up in the American suburbs my parents eventually did retire there. I am always shocked at how, well, contained life is in their development. How little contact there is with, well, the outside world funnily enough. My parents can go for days, if they so choose, just seeing each other and the good people who work at the Food Lion. They are older and spent 40 years traveling around the world (my Father was in the foreign service and his first post was Senegal and his last was Switzerland and in-between there were stints in Paris, and Rio and Hong Kong so these people have, you know, lived and seen a lot of shit and met a lot of people both paupers and princes)... which is to say that this is by no means a judgment call, at all.

Still it is, I suppose a comparison.

What I think I love about New York in contrast, to say, the cul-de-sac in which my parents are living out their golden years is the fact that there is no escaping the humanity and, by extension, the humility of being one of many. Butting up against these life stories, this constant throbbing mosaic of urban life, its ugliness, its beauty, its millions of triumphs and bitter disappointments. The fact that you can feel beautiful one minute and with just the opening door of a subway as ten women better dressed, more beautiful, taller - definitely taller- breeze in and sweep past, instantly humbled. For a drama lover there is nothing better than the endless mini-series of human storytelling that is perpetually being played out by 14 million of us against the indifferent steel and chrome, the City.