I find myself waking in a city that never sleeps. I want to be a part of it.
Deep in the heat of summer I ride against a stream of pushy pedestrians. More like the steam of pushy pedestrians. Cabs are dodged and the vibrato of slow moving box trucks rattle in my ear.
The excitement, the thrill, it cannot be contained. It travels up, up, up to the tops of the buildings teetering above.
And the $15 dollar bridge toll to get in. And the $60 per day parking lot we spent an hour to find. The train would have cost double. The ferry sounded cool, quaint even, but it stopped at 8pm, and we knew we would want more.
The grid is locked. Nothing is moving, not even the air. We peddle on. My friend pounds his hand on the door of a red Toyota pickup. The driver is yelling at us because we are taking up the whole lane, but it doesn’t matter because of the traffic. Right foot hits the pedal, the driver speeds off, just slightly ahead of us. Hands in the air.
These little town blues.
My blood wrangles through me winding around the uncertain path of parked cars with doors opening into the road. Chills run the length of me but do not cool me down.
I am trying to catch up with my friend who takes more risks than I do. We get blocked by a movie being filmed, and hope to see a movie star, but instead just a guy rolling a trash can down the street. Maybe that one guy with a squinched face is a star, but I don’t recognize him.
On the drive into the city, we hear stories on NPR about the one hundred year old subways that are never repaired because they are always running. Trains are catching on fire in the tunnels, delays are up to 5 hours, and people stop attending the broadway shows they love, and the reason they moved to the city wastes away in sadness.
In old New York. The hassle is constant and the hustle is mandatory. With these words that I write, I want you to feel the exhaustion. I hope these words will tire your mind.
The streets are cobbled together with large potholes, long cracks and uncertain bumps. Ladies still wear heels, but they are now matched with cutoffs. Mary Tyler Moore twirls her arms up and gazes up at the sunshine.
The dark cavernous kitchens cower beneath every restaurant where the real work happens, warm and sticky year round.
My friend’s wife sidesteps a bus that is blocking the bike lane, only to find out another bike in the same direction is doing the same, and she hits them head on, bending her fork. At work later, she appears considerably shaken, but visually unscathed in her white pants and white T-shirt. She works at a Swedish candy shop in the West Village. Rent is about $14,000/month for a tiny store.
You can make a brand new start of it.
And because your friend told you to, you listen for the people honking at the cars in front of them just slightly BEFORE the light turns green. Go! Go! Go!
Sneaking in to the Rapha store to use the hoity toity urban chic bathroom.
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.
The tired, stink faced but well-to-do pregnant woman in Soho waits for the light to turn, her Lululemon fanny pack perfectly positioned to hold up her belly.
And I listen to the Brooklynners making fun of the “sma-art” people of Manhattan. And the fast paced back and forth heated discussion swelters about which borough is better. The neighborhoods with such rich history. The lower east side. Harlem. The Algonquin Hotel. The tourists on Broadway. Shit really happens here.
The Village people no longer sing in Greenwich Village, but it’s still a nice place to visit, especially if you’re shopping for a pipe. “Where was ‘Do the Right Thing’ filmed?” I wonder.
Right through the very heart of it.
Loud, loud, loud. The noise and the people and the sights are unrelenting. There are no breaks. There is no silence. New York city is a human petri dish, a large-scale experiment where each person’s movements are carefully orchestrated like a tiny bacteria fighting to infect a cell. The exhilaration is contagious, and it lasts for several days after crossing the bridge back to the countryside and up in the Hudson.
I can’t shake Frank’s song from my head. And now, thanks to the subtle hints in italic, neither can you.