27 December 2009

New York redux forever now

I grew up in New York City. Oh, I was raised on Long Island, and lived many years there as an adult. But sometime in the 1970s, I moved to New York City, and I put away childish things for things that were absolutely fun. I went to the movies and I walked the streets of the City—sometimes I even think I prowled those streets—I went to concerts and theater and then more movies. In the days before Netflix, I saw at least three movies a week. Even today, thirty or so years later, I recall viewing certain films I had long forgotten I had seen. I re-screen them now on Netflix. In New York City I anonymously walked the streets open to experience, though not to all of it, of course,

I learned to live in New York City. Which is to say that I learned in New York City what I enjoyed and what I didn’t so much like; I learned walking the streets of New York City to think for myself and even about myself; I learned in New York City to be the man I’ve become and of whom I have grown a bit fond. I adored living in New York City. I loved myself in New York City.

All of this in preface to a brief, preliminary report of my recent foray in New York City over the past several days. Staying on the Upper West Side, my home during my years of maturation, I walked the streets again, but both the streets and myself had changed. I didn’t know where to go comfortably, though I did find one bar where no one was half my age. The wine was lovely, though the music didn’t appeal to me, and it was too loud. And the later it got, the more noisy and crowded it became—fortunately I had to leave early because I go to sleep and awaken early.

It was delightful to see old friends. It was delightful to sit in crowded bars and crowded subway cars, to walk the streets again stopping in stores and cafes and even a Mall at Columbus Circle. I liked knowing how to get around: to buy the MetroCard and not once get lost on the subway. Everywhere there were people dressed in jeans, (I’ve grown to dislike the ubiquity of jeans; for me they will always be dungarees. They became fashionable in the 1960s as we identified with the working class and tried unsuccessfully to lose our middle class situation. I remember a poster from the 1960s during the heyday of the beatniks and incipient hippie-dom, in which everyone was dressed in jeans and the poster said, “Protest the rising tide of conformity”). But it was delightful in the streets of New York City to see the display of clothes and elegant finery that people who want to flaunt themselves wear. People who would dress knowing they will be out and seen in the world: who are dressing for themselves and the world. I love the grace and stylishness, even if it is faux. And I am honored at the attention.

New York is not like the rest of the world; it’s so nice sometimes to be out of this world, and I’ll be glad to return to it tomorrow.


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