Monday, August 30, 2010

road trip, part one of two

America appears both innocent and sinister from the interstate.

Eleven hours out of New York and the difference is clear. The salad bars are full of canned beets and wilty lettuce, plastic ladles in assorted crocks, ubiquitous bacon. The everyday staples of city life: New York Times, coconut water, whole grain bread, are few and far between. Billboards don't advertise lifestyle living or hipster trends, but that largely unclassifiable "shit you need" factor—cheap places to sleep and all-you-can-eat-buffets—gas/food/lodging and cheap cigarettes.

It made me realize how simultaneously vital the city is, and yet—how ridiculous. We become accustomed to everything at our fingertips. We either grow into richer, more evolved consumers, or we become finicky yuppies who, when unleashed on the quote/unquote 'real world' are ill-prepared for reality. I mean, really, we have wasabi peas and hazelnut gelato available 24/7 in our convenience stores.

I suppose this month (and yes, that's the final timetable) will be a bit of an adventure in normalcy and my ability to adapt. After five years in New York, I've been thoroughly citified: acclimated to public solitude, multitasking and tuning out the background noise. Instinctively, I brace my face away from bus exhaust, I can apply eye makeup anywhere—in subway windows, on park benches, in transit and on the fly. I know the city by zones, train stops and restaurants. I can acquire almost anything in any neighborhood.

Like it or not, the land of shouting crazies and midnight falafel has become home to me. Maybe not the whole package 'home,' the fantasy of what that word is supposed to hold in four measly letters, but 'home' in the sense that I have built my life there. A life which transcends even the basics of job and apartment, the mechanics of waking up and hoarding food in winter. A life that works just as well–if not better—out of a suitcase.

For better or for worse, this is my city. I know, I know, last month I hated it here. This place is a beast. A sensory barrage. A swift kick in the everything—and that's all before breakfast. But, even so, it took trying to leave to make me finally feel at home. Or home enough.

Five years ago, I moved to New York with nothing but a backpack and a laptop, chasing some harebrained dream of being an actress. I survived infestations, shady plumbing, studio living and bar rot, among other things. I have conquered and been conquered. I've gone to galas at the Waldorf and I've eaten diner pancakes at three am. From the Met to the Manhattan Bridge, from squalorous dumps to slinky lounges and four star bars. It's all my city. A new world every block. And it's home. Or the closest I'm going to come to it for now.

At least when I wake up in New York, the world makes sense. The structure of the grid cast out like sonar, the x factor of travel time and train delays, and of course, the anonymity.

If traveling is mystery and newness, discovering the rules from the road, home should be where the rhythm makes most sense. And unfortunately, I picked a place that didn't entirely suit me. And now that's where I belong.

Maybe someday I'll get my herb garden and laundry lines, a herd of cherubic children in ladybug galoshes playing in the mud puddles. Or maybe I'll die in a cramped apartment lined to the rafters with leather bound tomes. Life has become one big choose-your-adventure storybook and I'm flipping back and forth like a madwoman, leaving a lot up to Fate and fancy, but feeling free.

So I've got a month. One month to get my shit together, to get good and ready to go back and hit the ground hard.

I guess woke up one morning this month and decided I wanted to keep doing things the hard way. But hey, that's just how I roll.


Scarlet-O said...

i've been there
i've been there
i dun it
i know
i know
i was 17 and it was to be a dancer but
same thing
i miss it
i miss it
dont fucking leave it
dont fucking leave it

Phoenix said...

I think when all you've known your whole life is the hard way... that's the way you choose.

You just don't trust any other way. And the people that run things, the circus ring leaders? When they promise the easy way you know they're lying.

There is no way but the hard way.