September 29, 2016 | Narrative
Guide to a New York Summer
Everybody here wanted something more
Searching for a sound they haven’t heard before
Welcome to New York
It’s been waiting for you.
– Taylor Swift, “Welcome to New York”
- The man who owns the oldest record store in Greenwich Village will tell you he doesn’t want to talk to you. Believe him.
- Psychics never want to talk to you. It’s unclear why. It’d be interesting to know what it’s like to truly believe that you can see into the future, and why one would elect not to use that ability to game the stock market. But keep trying. Don’t ask too many questions; they’ll start to suspect you’re from the government.
- You’ll be nervous to talk to homeless people but talk to them anyway. The man who panhandles on the corner of 28th and First will cry if you sit down and listen for too long. He will tell you that you are beautiful, but not as beautiful as his wife who died of hypothermia. He will tell you that marriage is a sham, affordable housing even more so. He will tell you, before his speech slides into incoherence, that jobs here are a needle in a million haystacks, and you should think twice before having any sort of dream.
- A boy you meet in a poetry class will ask if you’d like to make out on his Chelsea rooftop. It’s New York, he’ll say. Take risks. Be bold. Tell him no but end up going anyway. His apartment will smell as marijuana-y as he does. This does not bode well for either.
- Don’t bother calling your landlord when the dishwasher stops working. You are quite low in his rent-paying hierarchy, and your priority in his life corresponds. Walgreens sells cheap sponges; buy in bulk.
- If you find yourself in a DJ equipment store, and you only have a few minutes, ask the owner about his childhood, or the weather, or anything mundane. But if you’re in the mood for an insightful tirade, ask them about music. Ask them about the way music has gone since the great “whatever decade they grew up in.” Ask if there’s anything they have that you can afford. Ask them how much longer they think they can stay open. Ask them if there’s any hope.
- Don’t bother looking for a cheaper grocery store. There isn’t one.
- You don’t love him. You’ll think you do, when he whispers in your ear and snakes a finger up your skirt, and your body is as bright as the jungle of neon uptown, and you’re pulsing beneath the lights of the Brooklyn Bridge and he asks if he can stay the night. But when he tells you he has to cancel again because the Guys Are Coming Over With Great-Ass Weed, don’t tell yourself that true love waits. When he stops responding to texts, don’t tell yourself that all love hurts.
- You’ll realize, in the middle of this sea of expensive lights and cars and one-room mansions, that you don’t just hate capitalism. You hate yourself. You hate yourself for being born to parents who pay egregious rent for your closet of a room and send you monthly checks for utilities and organic groceries while they struggle, they all struggle. You are part of this, you realize, in your high-rise housing development in a jungle of other high-rise housing developments surrounded by construction equipment, scaffolding, and “Coming Soon” signs. You are one of the tidal waves crashing into the grunge capital East Village which we all remember fondly from our steel and concrete towers, but do not mourn the loss of.
- Buy a bus ticket home, to Boston, or anywhere far away from here. Pack a duffel bag with clothes and a notebook. Tell yourself that it is okay to need to leave. It is okay that this wasn’t like the movies.
- There is a small beach under Brooklyn Bridge. Across the Hudson, you can see the lights of Manhattan. Go sit and look. In a whirlwind of days and places and eight million people, here you are alone, and the city is still.
- Go to the only art gallery left on First Avenue. It’s run-down and easy to miss, but try to find it. The owner will show you pictures of an older East Village, before the high rises and Michelin Star restaurants, where the artists who the rest of the world rejected made their home. They are all gone now, she will tell you, they were priced out by the big developers. All of them? Yes, every single one. I am the only one left. Then she will cry. Tell her you are sure they will be back some day. No, she will say. The music is in New Jersey now. Ask if you can see where the Ramones used to play, or CBGB, the birthplace of punk. She will shake her head sadly. Those have both been torn down. They are apartments now. Don’t try to rent them. They cost millions.
- Tear up that bus ticket. Throw it out. Some things must be finished. Remind yourself of why you are here.
- Tell him you wish he wouldn’t spit on homeless people. Shelters aren’t for everyone. He’ll say his parents built their fortune from the ground up. Don’t tell yourself that love makes exceptions.
- Don’t stop loving New York. But your love will change. It will be less of a love, and more of a camaraderie with caveats. I get you, you will say. I will keep seeing you. But you’ve got to stop beating people up. Please, stop hurting them.
- Write him a letter. Tell him he is swine. Rip it up. Write him another letter. Tell him you need a break. Get ready to hear that you are nothing. Get ready to cry on the phone because he lives in a Chelsea brownstone with a chandelier, you live in a closet, and the Ramones are mostly dead.