You spend the fall of 2005 and the winter of 2006 happily confused. You didn’t know what to expect when you moved to New York City, and it’s better that way; Even if you had, you would have been wrong. Everything is harder than it should be. This is why so many would-be residents depart soon after arriving; they either burn out and move on or quietly fade into the larger canvas of New York. You won’t figure it all out, but you resolve to haltingly inch closer.
October 7, 2005, the day you add the Kaiser Chiefs “Oh My God” to your iTunes library, marks roughly your quarter-year anniversary in Brooklyn. No one celebrates. In that amount of time, you learn the basic ebbs and flows of New York, which you unironically begin calling “The City” as if it adds gravitas to your largely anonymous presence. New York is; therefore you are.
You find a job at a restaurant in midtown that requires you to clear martini glasses until 2 a.m., 3 a.m., sometimes 4:30 a.m. The bar sits far enough off Broadway that the patrons are actors, not tourists. They tip well. The successful ones come for a drink after their seventh performance of the week as Sir Robin in Spamalot, and then depart. The “actors” drink Jack Daniels and Amstel Light until your manager, fueled by cigarettes, anger, and the eternal frustration of being a New York Mets fan, finally tells them to leave.
Because the myth of being poor drives your decision-making more than reality – you will take a 50 percent pay cut when you get a full-time editing job – you eschew cabs to take the subway home to Brooklyn, behavior that’s partially fueled, you suspect, by the implied romance of the venture. Isn’t the promise of a 4 a.m. trip on public transportation why you’re here?
Invariably, somewhere between 14th street and the Broadway-Nassau station, a debate ensues in your buzzed brain: take the C to Clinton/Washington or the G to Classon? The latter stop almost certainly requires a long wait on the platform but leaves you a block and a half from the duplex apartment you share with two friends from college and a high school buddy who won’t get along in six months; the former doesn’t necessitate a transfer but drops you more than half a mile away.
Inevitably, you stay on the C, emerging above ground on a leafy street in Brownstone Brooklyn that’s ominous when it’s dark and you’re new to the city. You wear stained black clothes that signify you work in the service industry. You’re obviously carrying cash. “Oh my god I can’t believe it / I’ve never been this far away from home,” Ricky Wilson screams out of your white iPod earbuds, the only thing separating you from the blackness. It strikes you that you are rather far from home. And that it’s probably your own fault if you get mugged.
Just as quickly, you and Wilson begin to disagree: “Cos all I wanted to be / was a million miles from here.”
Sure, you may walk a little faster, but you’re happy where you are.