I get a lot of, “How could you leave the City? I could never leave New York.” It would seem as if there’s probably a long, complicated answer to that question, but there really isn’t. It’s simple. My New York City is gone.
New York is a city in constant flux – stores open, restaurants close, leases are lost, ever-increasing rents drive out age-old businesses. Only the currently-culturally-relevant survive. New York cannibalizes itself. New York is constantly reinventing its blocks. That’s now-gone downtown Tower Records below – my first NYC job.
The metropolis of Tower Records, Greenwich Village jazz spots and cabarets, theatre district costume shops, and the old lunch counter in the 34th Street Woolworth’s has slowly been transmuted into a city with a Starbucks on every corner, stacks of steel and glass condos, and a theme park version of Times Square. Transmuted so slowly, you wouldn’t have noticed if you were not watching.
Nowadays, when younger folks say things like, “Oh, I love New York! It has so much character,” I sound like a bagel-toting old codger. “Character!? What character? You should have been here in 1990. That was character!” Has it really been twenty years? How time flies.
Really, I came here on a whim. One sunny day in a state far, far away, I thought, “Hmm. Maybe I’d like to go to New York,” and the next Friday, I got on a bus. I arrived in New York City in 1990 with $150 in my pocket and directions to the YMCA. One of the first things I passed was this luncheonette on 42nd Street. Didn’t know a soul. Worked out beautifully though. I’ve had a lot of wonderful jobs, and I’ve been a a poor squatter in an apartment building with no utilities. I’ve hung with fancy folks in Park Avenue penthouses, and I’ve known the scum of the Eighth Avenue XXX district. I’ve dined with Broadway stars, and I’ve produced plays in moldy, damp basements. And I’ve even ended up fairly well adjusted. Ha! So you see, this whole New York City thing seems to have worked out nicely.
Now, it’s time for a new set of adventures. Something along the lines of country-gentleman-without-the-wealth.
I admire folks who decide what they want to do and just do it, whether that’s raising a family, becoming an actor, learning a new profession, or opening a business against all odds. That’s what I try to do. I like to do things that by all rights, should probably be considered impossible. When folks say things like, “I would love to just up and move to Hawaii,” I’m the person that says, “Then, why don’t you?” Usually the person informs me that “there’s just no way I could do that.” I disagree. There’s always a way.
For instance, I’m sure there’s some kid getting off the bus at Port Authority with just $150 in his pocket. My New York City may be gone, but the current version belongs to him. Go get ’em, kid.
See you next month, Adirondacks.