Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Being new to New York

feels exactly like this, in case you were wondering:


Just kidding. Kind of. What it really feels like is a total reinvention of the self under an unfamiliar network of very bright constellations. It's an adrenaline rush and filled with potential and utterly disorienting. This morning on the subway I was set upon by a goofy-looking semi-crazy fellow whose breakfast hobby, it appears, is to eloquently bitch and insult other subway riders, breaking that 4th wall of collective public indifference that we all know so well. I appreciated his spirit, but his choice of target (me) was obnoxious. My current situation of slightly heartsick joblessness was done no favors by the fact that I was late, on a train during rush hour, with a bike (oh the inconvenience, my fellow riders collectively asserted), headed to a sterile office environment where I was expected to masturbate into a cup and otherwise cement my position in society as a desperate creative type. So within all that psychic malaise Richard (for he introduced himself in soliloquy) struck me as a dick, and I told him so (in different words, rising to the occasion of his eloquence). The look with which he then regarded me told me, quite plainly, that I didn't belong. "As a native New Yorker I have long since learned..." he began his next diatribe, and with that phrase I knew I'd been bested. See, I have been on a bit of a winning streak when it comes to being out of place.

In Palestine it was fairly easy, given that people regard foreigners as you would a rock star and treat them with shocking deference, interest, celebrity, and hospitality. But any good post-colonialist gets tired of that positon after a while, and at the end of the day getting stared at wears you out regardless. In Haiti it was more of the same, but now whiteness was a synonym for exploitation and bad history, which made breaking the ice with a videocamera a bit of a challenge. Then there was not speaking Spanish in the DR, or, for that matter, speaking Polish in Poland, Mayorg in Hungary, etc. All's this to say that after 10 months of travelling in as many countries this puppy is worn out. And the last thing I wanted, in the US of A, the goddamn melting pot, and furthermore the only place I can ever be from, was to be an outsider. But an outsider I feel. Up on 181st I feel like a visitor in a sea of black and brown faces whom have made this place theirs, over the generations, and down in Greenepoint I am disgusted by what I see as the fruits of the young bright things' invasion into such places. With the punks of Zuccotti park I feel like a square (who needs an apartment! Who needs a job! Who needs upward mobility to be effective! That world's tired, and broken, and no fun anyway.), on my bike I feel like a stereotype that's been co-opted, and in a tie and a button-down shirt I feel like I'm playing dress-up and being earmarked as an impostor with my self-inflicted haircut.

Ahem. So it's funny, despite all that, that I'm having an incredible time. Building the beast that other folks know as 'the network' and I simply know as making friends, one hears glimmers of things again and again that start to materialize in front of you, names of organizations and initiatives and projects and places. Already, 10 days in, I've popped inside some of those places and felt the potential there. The roofless ability to, if one plays one's cards right, be effective. That's where the intoxication of New York comes from, the fact that behind the glibness and the hipness and the self-involved posturing and the bustle and the grime and the ego and the challenges there's actually potential, real potential. The ability to take what you do and kick ass with it. That's already been worth it. Furthermore, there are 8 million people of every stripe out there, and while you can't get to know them all, you can meet a ton of them, even in your first week, and they'll let you into their worlds. I'm tremendously grateful to the people that have so far done things for me, large and small, considered me for piecework, introduced me to friends, hosted me on their couches, gave me places to connect and volunteer, initiated projects with me, hung out in the park, invited me to meditation, found me jobs, searched for apartments with me, made me feel at home, and are beginning (or returning) to call me friend. So much so soon, and so worth it. Even if there's a moment or two where I feel like I'm getting run over by a Camero Camaro.

4 comments:

Nico said...

I love that you're such a non-car person that you misspelled Camaro. Of course you did!

DBR said...

Heh. Funny. Now I'm in a wavering doubt between thinking Camaro is some kind of rare Spanish horse and a completely made-up word. Look at it this way: at least I knew what Car it was! (maybe....)

Nico said...

I'm no expert, but if the hood decal is any indication, I think that's a Pontiac Firebird Trans Am. Thankfully, you, fine sir, have devoted your brain cells to the storage of loftier bits of data.

DBR said...

Doh! :)

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