City of No-Shits-Taken

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New York isn’t New York without you, love.

There is a woman in this video who is bent over in pink tights and a leopard leotard, and she looks wonderful. I keep the song on repeat, although I don’t know whether the lyrics piss me off or not–is there not a sort of martydom in the lines “but for you darling, I’d do it all again.” What exactly is it, Annie? I feel like screaming yo, get a life, bitch.

For as long as he’s lived there, Keith has assured me that New York City is fucking disgusting. He can’t imagine being anywhere else for long, though. I remember the summer after he moved; from Locust Bar and onwards, he marveled at how damn tiny Philadelphia was. The gardens: tiny. The sidewalks: tiny. The row-homes: might as well have been miscroscopic.

I love New York City’s exhausting labyrinth of lives, but I’ve been told I laugh too much to live there–dangerous thing to do on the subway. Might be misinterpreted. Could end in homicide.

Last January my heart was broken and everything hurt. At any rate, I felt an unfamiliar clarity even, and perhaps especially, while puking up my feelings in a Granadino apartment that looked out on the Sierra Nevada and reminded me of being twenty. I was equal parts pathetic and bold. I wanted both my mother and to be wearing platform boots in Bed-Stuy.

On the final day of that vacation, as we prepared to pay three euros too many for a pair of coffees and toast, my brother, blessed may he be for his quiet understanding, asked: “who the hell wants to be a side character?”

“Everybody is a side character and anyone who thinks they aren’t, is a bitch” I told him, eyes swollen, nothing if not eloquent.

A few months prior, I’d stopped in for an iced coffee and a bagel at Hudson Yards. Construction of the Vessel was well underway at the time. I eavesdropped on men in hard hats discussing the details of their next Eurotrips, their wives’ pregancies.

In Manhattan, I wrote, the idea that one might never find love, or life, is absurd.

Easing Into The Asscrack of Dawn: A Lesson in Absurdity

As recourse to life crises and generalized discontent, I  like to pull journals at random. Nine times out of ten I find a younger version of myself who, much to my surprise, has something insightful to share. More often than not her lesson is this one: you have been better and you have also been worse.  Additionally: Nudity, in its many diverse forms, may save you.


Philadelphia
August 2013

In my temporary job as a nanny, I care for two boys aged 4 and 7. This means that come 9:00 am I have usually acted in upwards of fifteen death scenes. Given the work hours and my suburban exile, it also means that I have to wake up at 5 a.m. to prepare for and make the commute downtown. Most people would call this “hell on earth.” Sometimes when I am sipping cold coffee at noon and running on 3 hours of sleep, I use that phrase, too. Commutes, on the other hand, have always calmed me.

To get to my dual-screened corporate hell of a cubicle job in Green Tree last summer, I ran through summer mornings on a 1 hour, 2-bus commute. I would catch the bus in Oakland, walk a few blocks in dahntahn Pittsburgh, then hit the highway on the 38 and pop off at my office building:  a big brown concrete monster next to a K-Mart where I’d often eat lunch alone in a windowless Little Caesars. After spending eight hours with a phone glued to my head, I’d make the trek back, usually stopping to sit in Station Square or by the Allegheny River before going home.

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Walkway to David Lawrence Convention Center. Pittsburgh, PA 2012

One evening, however, I didn’t stop. I got right back on the bus to Oakland. Somewhere along Fifth Avenue, we got stuck in traffic. Horns blared, passengers sighed, heat waves danced along the highway. Suddenly, I heard chuckling and craned my head to see what was going on at the front of the bus. Looking through the massive windshield, I quickly realized what the fuss was about. There was a woman.  Her feet, shoe-less, were planted firmly on the asphalt in front of the bus, and she was posing defiantly–her hands on her hips, chin lurched towards the driver, right there in the midst of rush hour traffic. The bus-driver honked impatiently and threw his hands up. After that, things escalated quickly. Within moments, and much to the surprise, horror, and confused delight of the daily grind office workers, the woman removed her dress and triumphantly spun it above her head—no panties, no bra, 200 pounds of pure, unadulterated absurdity. She then proceeded to flip the bus driver off and make her way back to the sidewalk, dress covering her most intimate lady bits and giant breasts still swinging along.

Nothing has rivaled that sighting since, but I still enjoy my commutes.  When I arrive in Center City Philadelphia, it’s still too early for the Market East morning Saxophonist and all of us–temporary and permanent members of the Dawn Club–file up the first escalator and onto the street. I walk among the blue-scrubbed, the corporate climbers, and the construction workers. By the time I get to Lombard Street, I’m mostly alone. It’s a quiet hour and I get why you might want to do yoga in it, if yoga was something you did.

By the time I head back home at 5 o’clock, surrounded by drooping lids and skewed ties, I understand why there are so few revolutions in America, and I think about tearing off my clothes.

I AM NOT A NOMAD.

There is a place that I will always call home. It’s where my family lives and where the friendships I have are ones that have survived such insurmountable things as adolescence, separation, depression, and my Phantom of the Opera phase. The sheer amount of life we have experienced both together and apart is impossible to re-create. Still, I leave those people year after year after year to come to Spain. Sometimes I know why I do this. Other times, especially in the days and weeks after I return, I don’t.

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You will likely feel a lot of things when you move and you will feel these things in part because you are too romantic for reality and because you are impatient, but mostly because that’s how humans react to change (unless you’re one of those cool nomads who just needs a couple of succulents to feel at home, I guess).

First, you might feel disappointed. I envisioned myself returning to my Spanish apartment and waltzing around in slippers and lingerie with a martini in hand, transitioning easily back into a glamorous life that I’ve never actually had. Let the record show that the only martini I’ve ever consumed is the Italian-brand vermouth. Let the record also show that my evenings have never looked like (I imagine) Rihanna’s do. Here’s what really happened: As I scrubbed my kitchen counters in a t-shirt and dusty jeans two sizes too big for me, my neighbor came to the window and asked if I was the cleaning lady and, if so, what was my rate? I, broker than I’ve been in many years, thought about saying yes.

Another thing you may also feel is loneliness. In spite of how you feel about this sort of self-help, you’ll watch a Ted Talk called “The Simple Cure for Loneliness.”  Baya Voce, the speaker, will say that the secret is to create rituals like putting on leggings and poppin’ open a bottle of rosé with your best friends! or taking a trip to Paris with your girlies! This video, although you’re sure that Baya is a lovely person, will nevertheless make you feel like eating all of your leggings and then your own hands.

You will probably feel both hopeful and hopeless, sometimes in the span of five minutes. Maybe you should chill the eff out, read this article, binge watch Cardi B’s Instagram rants, and then go on a run or pretend your empty living room is actually just a home dance studio.

En fin, I don’t always know why I do what I do, but I keep doing it. When I’m not busy questioning all of my life decisions, I try to laugh.