Monday, May 19, 2008

New York.

I’m in New York. The noise and crowds and traffic are so out of my system now and they stress me out in a way they never did when I lived here. Or, more likely, when I lived here I accepted the stress as a baseline and didn’t read it as stress. I wanted the excitement so badly, I had looked forward to it for so long, and I ate it up and loved it. I had no idea how numb I had become until I left. New York is like white noise: it’s nice for sleeping.

Yesterday, when T and I were driving around midtown, I remembered that during a visit to New York in the summer of 1981, a couple months before I moved here, I witnessed a gruesome murder where two guys hacked another man to death with machetes a few feet away while I was eating dinner with friends at a sidewalk cafĂ© on 43rd St. and Ninth Ave. It was shocking to be sure, but I don’t remember reacting to it with the kind of horror that I’m sure I would feel now seeing something like that. It was just part of the excitement of New York.

That sounds so perverse when I think about it now. But New York was different then. The subway cars were covered with graffiti, porn shops and prostitutes lined 42nd St., drug dealers descended on you when you walked through Washington Square Park or along First Avenue in the East Village, there was filth everywhere. A machete murder was just part of the mise en scene. New York was scary, and that was a big part of what I loved about it.

We drove down to 26th St. to look at a rehearsal studio. Afterwards, T and his little boy T went to a movie on 125th St. and I caught the A train back to T’s place on 200th and Broadway. It turns out that on weekends, because of some construction in the subway, the A train stops at 168th and you have to catch a shuttle bus for stops farther north. It was a warm day, so I decided to walk the rest of the way instead of taking the bus. 32 blocks is about a mile and a half, which is nothing, and I’d never really seen Harlem and Washington Heights.

Even though it was a mild day, the kind of jacketless day that’s rare in New York, everyone looked grim and gray, and I was depressed by the time I got home. People are so burdened by their lives here, so defensive. I’ve caught a cold too. I haven’t had a cold in years. (My allergies have gotten worse in the meantime, and don’t even talk about cedar fever, but I haven’t had a real cold for a long time.) I’ve been taking mega doses of zinc, which, much to my surprise, works.