New York is a city of exclusions. People who pay thousands of dollars to live in a shoebox (in midtown!) look down on those of us who pay the same about for a four-bedroom house nine miles away. We are the “bridge and tunnel crowd.” Uptowners won’t go downtown. Downtowners know there is absolutely nothing interesting to do uptown. I once had a person tell me, without irony, that she doesn’t go above 14th Street. She got offended when I laughed (I thought she was kidding). Everyone tries to stay away from everywhere the tourists want to go. Brooklyn knows it’s the best borough, and its inhabitants only wander into gauche, overdone Manhattan in their skinny jeans and fat glasses if that’s where the job is. They never go to Queens. Queens is clannish and a sure of the hometown appeal of its boxy little houses, sure that it’s suburbia, even though it isn’t. No one mentions Staten Island or the Bronx, except as places where they grew up, so I won’t either.
People who arrived six months ago from Ohio are more “New York” than those of us who have been here for decades, if they live in Manhattan and we live on the outskirts. They eat at the right restaurants. They revile the right things, like showing excitement and enunciating. They are too bored with everything, because to be otherwise is to be too eager, too new, trying too hard. The theater is boring. Restaurants instantly lose their appeal once they get written up in New York Magazine, that tourist rag. New York is an exercise in being over everything. Those of us who go watch soccer games on grass are insufferably boring for our bourgeois attachment to the wrong material things.
I love New York. I really do. My first act of independence was to sneak into it on the Path train at fourteen when my mother thought I was doing something proper (ah, the freedom of a cell-phone-less adolescence). I walked around the Village and ate Ray’s Pizza, feeling the thrum of the pavement, knowing that everything exciting happened here. I bought James Dean postcards to put up in my locker. I told myself that if I could make it here I’d make it anywhere. And, yet, as my middle softens and my roots need more frequent touch-ups, I begin to see the folly of New York too. The disconnection. The chaos. It has begun to occur to me, for the first time, that New York City might be a young person’s game.
I appreciate that little patch of land that makes me “bridge and tunnel” more and more these days. Even as the chill cools the earth, I go outside and sit alone and look at the full moon, soaking in the simple joy of it, watching my garden gather itself for the coming cold. There is a vibration to the Earth that you just can’t feel in the city. I still love the city’s thrum, but the heartbeat of the Earth is louder for me now. I want to feel it more and more.