I got back from New York at midnight last night. I feel like I was gone for months or years. What I'm doing here is so removed from what I was doing in New York, which is not quite the past and not quite the future, but somehow both.
I spent most of the week in T's apartment working, writing, recording. But we went to see Spring Awakening on Broadway on Wednesday and a show that my good friend K directed on Friday. Also on Friday, I went to the Met to see the Courbet show. So I was out and about a little. New York, as always, made me a little sad, but now I think I have a better idea of what that feeling is, so it doesn't hurt as much. I think of New York as my hometown. It's the first place I ever felt any strong attachment to.
I grew up in Indiana listening to my parents disparage where we lived. They're both from farther north: my dad grew up in Minnesota, my mom north of Chicago. They were married and I was born in Waukegan, Illinois, but we moved to Indianapolis when I was 3, and then to a small college town an hour west of there when I was 12. My parents complained about the hicks and the Christians constantly, and for the most part I agreed with them and couldn't wait to get out of there. I moved to New York when I was 20 and stayed for 17 years. I left in 1998.
Of course, the city is very different now. All things change. No place stays the same. There's the simple, nostalgic sadness of that. What is particularly sad though is that the changes to New York in the last ten years are not just the regular changes a city goes through, the gradual shifting and displacement of businesses on a block. Old buildings gone, new buildings in their places. It is the fact that the new businesses are so often international banks, Starbucks, chain restaurants. It's not just that New York is changing, it's that New York is changing into Dallas, or Orlando. Or Indianapolis.
I do miss New York. It's a city I know my way around. I never feel lost or stranded there, even now. Pedestrians rule there. And I realized on this visit that I still believe somewhere deep down what I believed before I had ever been there and what I confirmed when I was 18 and visited for the first time: that New York is special, better. I think I will always be a New Yorker who lives on Austin. I know I could not live there now, even if I wanted to. I could not afford to live there.