Tuesday, 3 June 2014

New York, New York

(Suggested Listening: Sinatra here. There's cheesy and then there's classic.)

Living and loving a city is not that different from loving a person.

Being familiar with unduly curves on a body and the odd but distinct placement of a mole gives you as much ownership as knowing about an underground book store makes a city yours. You could spend a decade with someone or have a heady four month relationship and yet never truly quantify which symbolised greater love and passion. And so it is with cities.

I remember discussing this with a friend who lived in London a year longer than I did, and why that made it more hers more than mine. And years later, why two weeks in New York feel as familiar as those years anywhere else.

                          (Fences can't keep the truly wild in. Or out. While walking up the Museum Mile)

But that's what we forget. Two week, eight months, two years or even ten - New York's not going to belong to you. Though you'll make sure you tell everyone who'll hear, that you belong to it. Maybe it almost works because there are around 20 million people on that island attempting the same thing. 
Of course most of them are pissed off daily. I'm guessing it’s because the damned island won't commit.

I didn't get off the plane looking for a relationship with the city; I knew I'd be leaving soon enough. But when did relationships start with contemplation and a well-timed heads-up?

(The Standard Hotel Rooftop: Of skylines which remind you of soaring hearts)

Especially when it involves a city which stretches out every morning with a strong smell of coffee, impatience, lost dreams and new plans. Where Sunday afternoons are almost entirely made up of pancakes with blueberries and mimosas.
Where the coffee, like its cocktails is stiff, tall and if you're living and renting in this city, almost enough to substitute a meal.
A gigantic park here, houses Whimsy (slabs of quotes from Alice in Wonderland), Memories (of Yoko+John and Strawberry Fields) and Practicality (save money by cutting East to West in the city through the park) in the span of 5kms (or miles, if you've even subscribed to their metric system). Whimsy, Memories and Practicality are also the names you've given to the tenants in your apartment building- those you only manage to wave to while rushing in and out.

In this city, you can only walk so far without running head-first into a bar, a homeless man or another Kate Spade outlet.
Of course, most New Yorkers don't have time to look up and notice either. But they will have time to run through abandoned warehouses turned into a set for a play, or on the Highline when the sun's out, clothes are off and hybrid arm-bands help you wear your ipod and your heart on your sleeve.
Tourists on the other hand can be found around Times Square, MoMA, Tom's Restaurant (from Seinfeld) or smiling and talking too much on the L Train.

There's nothing you can't buy in New York, except love. But most nights a good lap dance feels like the same thing, I've been told. If you stop long enough to catch your breath, you might see that this city- its’ museums, stunning views and endless walks- seems to be designed for single people everywhere. To find, immerse and lose themselves in crowds, parks, works of art that you can't bear to look at directly, meals for one so big that they’re begging to be shared and a winter harsh enough to remind you of the benefits of body heat.
But you're not going to find love here. No, not even the Woody Allen version.

                         (Love notes scribbled everywhere you don't expect them to be. Soho)

If you’re lucky and looking up though, other things might happen, like they did with me:
Friendly strangers will hand you charcoal sketches they made of you in the train when you weren't looking; a crazy subway lady will sit with a big plastic bag around her head reminding you of the apocalypse; your phone will go off in the middle of the night declaring a State emergency and lookout for a Honda Civic which abducted a young child. You'll take the uptown train instead of the downtown one and end up at Jackson Heights at one am and miraculously not get mugged or murdered; your friend will more often than not charm her way into free yoghurt at the neighbourhood deli; you'll have margaritas which even your hardened 20-something system will not be able to stomach.

You'll never have had your fill of coffee or Central Park or mustered the sheer will to join the line for the Empire State observatory deck. You’ll somehow manage to fit gigantic bread baskets on the ridiculously tiny Balthazar tables; you’ll get drenched just to get a stunning Instagram of the city’s skyline in the rain; you’ll bemoan constantly how you don’t have enough time to see everything.

You’ll fall in love with stationary and remind yourself that going back home with four notebooks is impractical and silly. You’ll never have enough time or money.

And so you’ll leave New York, like you'd leave a lover. Having tried to bend to become its, but never really succeeding in making it yours.

Pro tip: keep their oversized, I heart NY t-shirt, it fits you better anyway.

                                           (With Lennon at Strawberry Fields, Let It Be)

1 comment:

  1. I cannot help but be jealous about your passionate affair with the city I loved more than any other in these limited sunrises. The read opened floodgates of memories I've been trying hard to keep shut. I miss the morning coffee and newspaper with half the quirks in the neighborhood, the afternoon naps in the lap of the Tompkins Square Park, the sunset run along the east river, the indulgent evenings drowning in the often stumbled upon concoctions of fancy cushions, music and spirits, the surreal midnight bike rides in dreamtown Soho and LES and the sirens ensuring you're never alone in bed.

    Just moved to New Delhi but sadly haven't stepped out of my door much at all. I've seen glimpses of the charms the city has up its sleeve with its history, food, architecture and the scary hipster scene. Insider tips from your or a coffee chat would be rad.