I haven't written about New York in awhile. It's something I did a lot when I first moved here because I was just trying to make sense of it. I've been here just long enough now that the city has slowly become the backdrop for my experiences instead of being the experience itself. Sometimes for fun I'll try to think about how to sum up living in New York to someone unfamiliar with it. Like if I were talking to my former self, how would I describe what he was in for by moving here?
I think one way to understand the city is to realize it's attitude is one of apathy... or maybe it's stoicism. It's probably some mix of the two. It just doesn't care. The whole thing's covered in a thick, leathery hide. It's complex and layered but it takes awhile to see those deeper layers because the outer ones are so tough to ply.
This uncaring can make you feel small here. New York doesn't care if I'm funny because so are all the other comics, which can be disappointing. Other times the apathy is welcomed. Sometimes you want to feel small and you can count on New York to overlook you when you most want to be overlooked. It doesn't care if I'm vomiting on the sidewalk because I've been out all night drinking. It doesn't care how I'm dressed in public or if I use foul language. No matter how you're behaving there is someone crazier within a 20 foot radius to take the heat off you. That's all great. But in February it also can't be bothered with the fact that I've got to walk to work. It's 10 degrees, bitch. Deal with it.
New York gives zero shits about you getting anywhere on time. Train delays are a bulletproof excuse for tardiness, instantly forgivable because we've all been blindsided by MTA fuckery before. This is good and bad. Obviously it's bad because you end up late for things you'd rather be on time for but the upside is you always have an excuse. I don't abuse it though. I'd say 9 out of 10 of my alleged train delays are legitimate.
I wish more than almost anything New York would care that I want separate checks at a restaurant so that each person can pay for exactly what they bought, as is done by EVERY OTHER BUSINESS EVER. But it doesn't.
I've learned not to take any of this personally. The city practices negligence but never malice. When misfortune happens the question isn't "Why me?" The question becomes "Why not me?" Why shouldn't I have been the one whose eye got hit with gross water leaking from the ceiling of the Times Square subway station? Why shouldn't I be the one to show up at Chipotle just as they ran out of guacamole?
But this harsh indifference makes it all the more meaningful when finally for a brief second, you don't get New York to care but, as a sort of consolation prize, you hold it's attention for a moment and get some acknowledgement. Maybe it's a new joke that gets a laugh from a crowd of 7 tired people late night at the Comic Strip. Often it's a good time hanging out with a cool group of people you'd never meet anywhere else, people who DO care contrary to the city's culture. It could just be a stranger telling you how fly your shoes are. It's these times, when you make New York City halfheartedly grin, that you start to live for because that tiny grin means so much coming from a city that normally gives so little.