I suppose it’s the birthright of being on the lower end of “20-something”: everywhere I go, I tend to picture a potential future there, test it out, see how it feels in my brain. I often wonder if I could ever truly love a truly big city, and especially if I could ever truly love New York. It’s not that I have any grand plans to end up in New York; quite the contrary, in fact. I was never one of those artsy youths from a small Midwestern town who dreamed of leaving it all being and eeking out some semblance of a living in a 6-floor walkup in the Village (though I suppose Brooklyn has now eclipsed any part of Manhattan as the dream destination for said Midwestern youths). Still, though, New York seems to be the “Rome” of every generation, and still of mine: its the “all roads and all degrees lead there” sort of mythical place that still, despite those pesky upstarts out on the West Coast, has such a strong pull for so many people and seems to be where many of my classmate will, if not land firmly and forever, then at least touch down and try out for a few years before “meeting somewhere” and getting married and settled and moving the kids into the suburbs and out of that filthy city that they once loved but now tolerate because it pays them while simultaneously draining them. What’s that song? “New York, I love you but you’re bringing me down.”
Is New York inevitable? Is it, in some capacity, at some level, in the future for most bright young kids from the Mid-Atlantic? Perhaps less so than it used to be. Like I said, the West Coast is increasingly calling those youngins’, myself included. But still, there’s something about New York that makes you try to picture yourself there, stuffed into a loft in Brooklyn like the ones you see on TV that in reality you could never, ever, afford, and you’ll probably end up in some formerly-shady but now-gentrifying neighborhood in Queens.
I love visiting New York, and for my childhood, New York City was the City, Philadelphia and Boston be damned. There’s something inherently life-giving but deeply exhausting about the whole endeavor. I think it takes a special kind of person to eek out and fight out a New York sort of living, and perhaps its encouraging that success doesn’t mean a good, steady, well-paying job at some random consulting firm in Midtown with potential for personal and professional advancement.
I don’t know if that answers my “truly big city question.” Maybe it does, and the answer is “No,” that I’m better built for slightly smaller places, places where you feel a part of a larger stream but not a stream that’s rushing out of a recently opened dam. Maybe that’s what Portland will be for me, or even San Francisco one day, or Nashville, or who the hell knows. New York, I love you so much, but damn, you ask a lot of people, don’t you, you filthy beauty?
As a step away from my shambly attempt at commenting on the plight of the recent college graduate, the never-ending sense that the compass is always moving and north is always changing before you can get your bearings and try to follow it, let me show why I’m talking about New York. A day trip with my sister brought me to that great city (which deserves a much more epic nickname than the Big Apple, can I just say). I did not spend the entire day philosophizing, but rather walking. The day started in Midtown, continued with a long-desired trip to Brooklyn (finally), continued further in Downtown (the span of which was crossed on foot–that bastardly beautiful bridge is even more glorious in person), and ended back in Midtown, so there was a great deal of walking involved and just enough ice cream to cure the full-body pangs. Words are lame sometimes, here’s some snapshots: