Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What I Love And Hate About New York

I've lived in Los Angeles for the past 10 years and just visited New York City for the first time since I was five years old. Though I've typically defended L.A. against the standard east coast attacks -- lack of great food, alienating environment, governors who starred in Jingle All The Way -- I think I now understand the charm and allure of New York.

There's definitely a feeling of camaraderie and shared experience in the city that it's hard to achieve anywhere else. That's why, from a true "western" perspective, I wanted to share a few things that I love about New York, and a few things that drive me nuts.

First the good stuff:

1) Jaywalking is legal. There seems to be an unspoken agreement between the police, the cab drivers and pedestrians: we get to walk when cars aren't coming, the police get to hit on girls all day, and cab drivers get to finish their turn as long as the front bumper doesn't come within three millimeters of the back of your heel.
2) Accessible public transportation. I appreciate being able to travel from one area of Manhattan to another in just a few minutes. Once you figure out the placards, maps and signs, apparently written in Swahili lest an undesirable figures them out, you can get pretty much anywhere you want in about 15 minutes. If you get lost, any number of compassionate molesters will come quickly to your aid.
3) Bread and cheese. Your pizza is too damn good. I'm lucky I don't live in New York, because if I did I'd eat about three loaves of bread a day and start looking like some sort of Mario Batali-John Madden hybrid. Why can't Los Angeles replicate that? Is our water somehow not sludge-filled enough?

Okay, now to anger all you hardcore New-York-is-the-best-city-in-the-world purists, a few of the things that make me glad to live where I do:

1) In New York, air conditioners have only two settings: Off and Fortress of Solitude. Seriously, I know it can get muggy, but literally every building I went into for a week had the A.C. cranked up (or down, I should say) to about 45 degrees. Apparently, you're all storing dinosaur embryos, because no room should ever be that cold. You know what we do in L.A. when it gets hot? Open a window!
2) Your beautiful women are actually successful. In L.A. we have tons of beautiful women as well, but at least here they're all struggling actresses or musicians and are desperate for approval! In New York, there are tons of gorgeous women, and yet they're all successful marketers or art gallery curators or journalists. There's no way they'll ever talk to me. I just can't get behind that.
3) Pompous Direction People. Some New York citizens, often just after meeting you, will immediately ask how you got there and what route you took. "I took a cab," I say. To which they reply: "Oh you could have just taken the N train to 14th street and then walked three blocks east to Lexington, or you just walk to 12th and University and take a cab from there up Broadway because it'll save you time, it's like a hypotenuse, then walk four blocks past the National Arts Club to Madison Square Park and pick up a rickshaw from there down to 28th street..." Yeah, I get it, you know your way around. What are you, a Sherpa?

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest, you guys. I'm definitely open to receiving hate mail, but if you send it through the postal service, could you pack some Chinese food from Dumpling House?

Monday, August 10, 2009

People Sounds Like Peephole

This is a poem I wrote while sitting on a park bench at W. Broadway and Beach St. in lower Manhattan. This is not your typical New York poem.

At the intersection of five streets
at an oval-shaped park with
two trees jutting from where the
eyes would be
At the meeting place of buses,
taxis, couples, vagrants, children,
cell phone addicts, those with
their heads down, those with
a poodle in hand
I've practically collapsed on a bench,
My backpack and duffel bag dragged
along beside me, my left heel
pulsating and throbbing with red,
cartoonish pain, and I sit here
and try to take the pressure off.

I have hours to kill, nowhere
to go, no feelings to feel or
companions to tease or criticize, and
I wonder if my entire life has
been building up to this, nearly
three decades of walking, listening,
looking, thinking, experiencing,
to a point where I move my
left foot and try not to feel,
pick my head up and
try not to look,
pull my bags closer toward me
and try not to possess.

There is definitely something here
but I lost it, somewhere between
the bars, the work, the hotel, the
text messages, from that point
to this one.

And here I am now, and there are
beautiful women and babies in strollers
and pigeons and trash and fire escapes.

There are delis and pharmacies
and Irish-themed pubs and
people from Seattle and
Puerto Rico and India and
Chile and New Zealand.

There are street signs and buildings,
water and mail boxes and construction.

And there's also me in there somwhere
With my backpack and my duffel bag,
my swollen heel and my jeans and
shoes and my shirt with the fish on it,
and my red hair and my small hands,
my pen and my notebook and the bench
that I sit on.

Tonight, I'm the only thing that will
be gone. And the wind breathes calmly
and people keep walking and the
sun peaks out through the clouds.