Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Back in the New York Groove

After months of lolling about on my Weehawken couch, watching every last reality show and HBO special I could scrape up (I never want to see "Jon and Kate + 8" or "Little People, Big World" or "John Adams" again!), I finally got off my lazy ass and went back to work. Well, actually, I'd been doing some freelance work this whole time, just sporadically, and at home.

The last job I had paid so well, when the project ended, I didn't HAVE to do anything for months... I thought that would be fun and liberating---instead, it was just mind-numbingly dull! There's only so much of Weehawken one can see---only so many library cards one can get, mom-n-pop sandwich shops one can visit daily, etc. When my "freedom" first began, I thought: "Oh, now I can do some sightseeing in NYC at my leisure..." Nope. Instead, what I ended up doing was playing around on the Internet until 6 or even 8 in the morning, sleeping 'til 4 in the afternoon, then just LYING THERE bemoaning how hot it was while channel surfing for some, any, reality-show episode I hadn't seen yet! Then, once sunset approached, maybe wandering around Weehawken/Union City for an hour or so before picking up my fast food and beer for the evening.

For some reason, I could not summon the energy, month after month, to even call my temp agency or to send out any resumes. 'Til finally, thank god, some internal mechanism kicked in and at least I put in the temp agency call (and desultorily have been sending out a few resumes---I'm still not in "full motivation mode").

So I'm now at last off my duff and waking up to the alarm again! It's invigorating. When you're home all the time, you get mushy and lazy. There needs to be some CONTRAST between your worlds for you to appreciate any of them. (It's nice to have that "It's nice to be home" feeling again, for instance, as opposed to the "rolling-over-with-a-hangover-and-hating-your-same-four-walls" feeling!)

And, while Weehawken's been cute to look at, I definitely missed the mighty might that IS New York. For instance, once I cross over from Joisey and land at Manhattan's Port Authority (8th Ave and 42nd Street), in my 20-minute walk to my current temp job here's some of what I see:

Every time I walk through and by Times Square, Bryant Park, the library lions, Grand Central Station, and the Empire State Building (all in two daily trips!), I get a thrill... and then flash back to the times back in Austin when I would drive 20 minutes past various strip malls to my job and later stand outside in a parking lot having a cig during breaks looking at all of the cars and the strip-mall surroundings, thinking, "My god, this is depressing and horrible." And then, "My god, what's wrong with me? This job is nice and cushy; I like my co-workers; Austin's a nice town; why am I so depressed?" (Note to self: Strip malls and parking lots ARE depressing, honey.)

Austin is indeed a nice, pretty, liberal, university town. But I haven't missed living there for one second. There's no "there" there. It's like "West Coast lifestyle"-lite, and I hated the West Coast when I lived in San Francisco for 2 years back in the mid-1990s. Hated its phony, PC, "feel-good" boosterism. (When in fact there was nothing at all to boost. Both San Fran and Austin are the center of exactly NOTHING, but at least Austin is slightly more humble and laid-back about it, without most of the annoying 1970s Berkeley crap still reverberating, as in SF---and with less crime and attitude. I certainly never got mugged in Austin, and never had to sit at a bus-stop for what seemed like an eternity because some thug assholes didn't want to pay their fares.) Austin and SF are also both extremely lazy artistically, with no criticism of the arts to speak of. Everything's just "good, man," as long as it has a patina of "weird" about it. What I like about New York is that it seems to be run by adults and not hippies or PC granolas. Adults with some standards and critical acumen.

But what I really like about New York is that, to me, it just "feels" right. In a recent issue of "Time Out NY," Briton Ricky Gervais was asked, "Do you like playing in New York?" He answered: "Yes. It makes me feel funny; it smells good. When I get here, I just feel strangely at home." That's it exactly in a non-intellectual nutshell! The second I first came here for a vacation a couple of years ago, the city made me "feel funny" and it "smelled good" (like my German grandfather's basement and baked goods) and I "felt strangely at home." (When I lived in San Fran, on the other hand, the place to me constantly smelled like a nasty combination of piss and pigeon-poop.)

Maybe NYC will kick me out (if I can't ever find a permanent job that pays the rent!)--- but that's New York's decision, not mine. If kicked to the curb, I'll always be able to say that I tried, and that I once lived in the greatest, grittiest, most glamorous and ambitious city in the world.


Anonymous said...

NYC is gloriously unique and wonderful. I have never been to Austin, but I grew up in CA and have been to SF a number of times. Like you, I really did not see anything appealing about SF. In fact, the city depresses me. I'm a southern California (San Diego!) boy at heart.

Now I live in Washington, DC. It's a great city and since it is not in a state, I still feel like a Californian. Part of what keeps me here is the proximity to NYC. If I am in the mood for a visit to the capital of the world, I simply find a hotel on Hotwire and hop on a bus.

Anyway, I'm glad that you are still enjoying your NYC adventure. Good luck with the job hunt.


Beth Austin said...

It's weird and interesting about where and why people feel comfortable! Seems to be some sort of "organic" and not intellectual thing...

When I was in SF, I hated it and so considered myself completely a Texan and couldn't wait to get back "home" to Austin... (I loved how San Francisco LOOKED, but just didn't like either the people or the politics of the place. Everybody's opinions seemed "received"---they hadn't thought anything out for themselves.)

Now that I'm in NYC, which I love, I consider myself a New Yorker (though I'm sure natives would argue with me about that) and have no desire to ever go back to Texas... though I'm definitely proud of my Texas roots...

San Francisco was/is dumb. New York City is definitely smart.

Anonymous said...

I, too, am a transplanted Californian (from Fullerton, in Orange County - aka the OC which is the trendy thing to call that now, gimme a break!) and now live among the yuppie scum in Bucks County, PA. Which I'm not exactly happy about, but for a myriad of reasons, it's where I need to be for now.

However, from the first time I visited NYC, and every time since, I have the overwhelming feeling of being someplace where I feel I belong. Where I am comfortable and happy and feel like I am home.

I love NYC for that reason alone, (not to mention a hundred other reasons at least!)