Thursday, November 19, 2009

erika in the USA: NYC's not so bad

The last few days found me in New York City, that famed mecca of American ideals. I’ve never had much of a fondness for the city, what with it being huge and concrete and with rude people and stinkiness everywhere. But as I arched over the river on a tall green metal bridge and saw the classic glittering nighttime skyline stretched out before me, I realized afresh how beautiful New York can be.

I was in the city to visit my beloved cousin Corban and his charming girlfriend Adrienne, who were very gracious hosts in their sweet little Brooklyn apartment, and to check out a grad school program at NYU. Being in Brooklyn with such nice people and being able to see their comfortable lives made me realize that it’s not such an impossible thing to live in New York: I wouldn’t want to stay forever, but maybe I could do it for a while. This is a shocking consideration for me, as I have gone my entire life determinedly stating that I would never ever want to live in NYC. Thanks to Bangkok, though, I’ve become slightly immune to the rigors of big cities: at least in New York I can read the signs, ask passersby questions, know the laws, know the history, and pretty much know the system. I’m also to the point where the benefits available in the city, like the profusion of world-class institutions and opportunities and the conveniences of organized urban life, may outweigh my distaste for built environments and pee smell. I’m surprised to find that I’ve also changed enough that I now appreciate the fashion, food, and other cultural opportunities more than before. It’s like I’m growing up / becoming classier: who knew?!

NYU was hilarious. I’d been in their part of the city before, both as a gay tourist (it’s in the middle of Greenwich Village, the gayest neighbourhood in an already gay city, and just blocks from the Stonewall Inn, the site of a pivotal gay riot) and as a performer back in college. I’d never really slowed down and observed the student population, though: oh oh so trendy, fast-talking intelligent yet naive rhetoric, posturing and prancing and pretentions, gay boys, bourgeois angst, but delightfully energetic, alive, engaged, and very well-connected. Kindof an embodiment of the stereotypes of the city. I was impressed by the program I was checking out, and am looking forward to applying.

On my way out of town I had the chance to meet up with a friend and former colleague, Marissa, with whom I crammed about three years of catching up into an hour’s lunch break. She’s an inspiring woman, and it was refreshing to soak up some of her enthusiasm for international social justice work.

No photos, since (as you’ve probably gathered by now) I didn’t bring any cameras with me on this trip. Instead let me part with lingering images from the city: the Statue of Liberty as seen through the piers of the Brooklyn Bridge. The joyful smiles of five old black homeless men singing perfect barbershop do-wop quintet. Two baggy-pants’d bucket-drummer teen boys huddled with their buckets over their heads in a doorway trying to stay dry in a cold cloudburst. A dignified old white silver-haired man striding ramrod-straight with the skirts of his black woollen trench coat billowing out behind him. The canyons of a long straight skyscraper-lined street fading into mist miles away.


clairebearkiss said...

oh man, we'd love to have you guys in NYC! I came for grad schoool, brought a crew with me, and have stayed even though some of the crew left. I keep telling myself I probably won't stay forever but I keep loving it.
Having Marissa as a practically-neighbor certainly does not hurt :D

cecily said...

Good luck in applying to the NYU program & SAFE travels.

Sylvia said...

There's also Manhattanhenge.
(google it!)