Leaning into it (Gotham ode)

marathonWelcome to New York (It’s been waiting for you!)
Welcome to New York
Welcome to New York

This (T) Swiftian greeting blared out of the speakers at the conclusion of the New York City Marathon’s opening ceremony Friday night to an amped-up fireworks show. The bleachers along either side of the closed-off Central Park street were filled with friends and family of the 50,000+ runners, waving their country’s flag or the mini-pennants with the TCS Marathon logo printed on them. Beanies, mittens, and fleece coats were aplenty.

The street itself was filled with runners, all bundled up for the cooler (thank god) fall temps as well, wearing their country’s colors or even traditional patriotic garb, with many holding their own flags. They had just done a small parade down the street (this is where the finish line would be for today’s race), and were now dancing and cheering, all intermingled, watching the lights and explosions in the sky. American red-white-and-blue, German black-red-yellow, Swedish blue and yellow, Brazilian green and yellow (with some blue), all mixed together.

I was working the event as my first assignment for a temp agency I recently joined called Mustard Lane. The people I was working with were beautifully friendly, easy to talk to, and silly. We danced and gyrated in our neon-yellow traffic vests, branded as “United Airlines Runway Crew,” or something to that effect. Our responsibilities ranged from exciting the crowd with t-shirt throwing (sadly without cannons), and controlling parade traffic.

bookbookEarlier in the week, things were running slowly at Bookbook, the small bookstore I work for part-time in the West Village. I was sitting behind the counter munching on the ham-honey mustard sandwich I had made for lunch and Joanna, our neighbor and friend, came in to swap stories with my coworker Frank about nights-gone-wrong in shows they’ve seen over the years. Joanna had her small pup Leo with her, blind in one eye, and waiting complacently for the special treats marked just for him behind the counter.

One of Frank’s stories was about an early preview of Beauty and the Beast when they were still working out some technical glitches. The angry mob had their battering ram-tree trunk and were trying to break down the front door of Beast’s Castle. They tried and they tried, but to no avail. Silence descended. Suddenly, a voice rang out “Let’s go around the back!” and the curtain closed to an announcement of “technical difficulties.”

Joanna had seen Equus’ original 1974 production on Broadway starring Anthony Hopkins, of whom she was/is a big fan. It was 10-15 minutes into the beginning of the show, and the ushers were still seating late patrons in the first couple rows of the audience. Joanna and audience members around her (who had arrived on time), were grumbling in annoyance. After it had happened more than a few times, Mr. Hopkins himself, on stage at the time, stopped what he was doing, looked out into the audience, distraught, and apologized for the annoyance. The crowd cheered. He then asked the audience where in the scene they’d like him to go back to. People were shouting lines at him. He picked one, and then he and his scene partner effortlessly began the scene anew at the chosen line. She said it was one of the most incredible things she’s ever seen. What’s more, she ran into him afterwards at a bar across the street, and he profusely apologized to her about the intrusion.

frank-pumpkinOne week ago, on my 23rd birthday, I was surprised by a secret trip to Coney Island with my boyfriend. It was a beautiful morning, and the temperature surprisingly went up into the low-70s, but I didn’t mind since we were at a beach (it’s allowed to be warm near the beach). The sky was clear, and crystal blue. It was the last day for the amusement park’s fall festival, and there were kids running around in costumes along with their parents and park workers. I paid for a pass to go into a small corn maze and pick out a pumpkin, on which I then attempted to paint a Frankenstein (it didn’t go over so well).

The sun was shining bright, and warm, and the breeze was filled with salty goodness. I was blind without my sunglasses, but that was okay. Nicholas saw some french bulldogs that made him squeal, I ate a corn dog that made me squeal. We shared a dish of fried Oreos covered in white powdered sugar that he spilled all over my pants. I felt relaxed, and I think the happiest I’d been since I’ve moved to the city.

E.B. White wrote a famous essay called “Here is New York,” and in it he describes New York’s ability to “bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy… for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail.” New York “can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him” and no one should come here “unless he is willing to be lucky.”

New York “blends the gift of privacy with the excitement of participation; and better than most dense communities it succeeds in insulating the individual against all enormous and violent and wonderful events that are taking place every minute.”

New York “carries on its lapel the unexpungeable odor of the long past, so that no matter where you sit in New York you feel the vibrations of great times and tall deeds, of queer people and events and undertakings.”

“A poem compresses much in a small space and adds music, thus heightening its meaning. The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines. The island of Manhattan is without a doubt the greatest human concentrate on earth, the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive.”

city-views

The car horn blares on an off outside my apartment window as I type this, and the sunset colors the sky in shades of pink, peach, and purple. Tall “project” apartment buildings loom close, built over the highway that extends from the George Washington bridge. It is cool and our sheer white curtains billow softly from the breeze. Nick is rambling about this impending doom of an election for his YouTube video in our room, door closed. Kathryn just returned from a date, and her/our black feline Azula roams around, staring at me with her bright green eyes as if to say “get the hell off the couch, bum.”

It’s been two months and two weeks since I’ve arrived in this curious city. It feels smaller than when I arrived, and more personal despite its obvious largeness. It’s warm at times, and paranoid at others. I feel distant, and lonely, but I think I’m on the path to finding a nook to crawl into, with people to call friends.

Don’t forget to breathe, and take this all in.