new york


For the past three nights, I’ve had a dream about a medium-famous person. He’s famous enough that most people would probably know who I’m talking about, but not famous—or destructive—enough to be in the pages of US Weekly. 

Other than the fact that I’m not famous, this medium-famous person and I would get along, I think. We seem to have the same sense of humor, definitely like the same music, and, according to Wikipedia, have similar backgrounds. We could celebrate various holidays together with the same level of irony. 

One of my real-life New York friends, who is known in certain circles, though is not famous by any means, knows my medium-famous crush. When I wake up from these dreams, I think maybe I could get set up with this guy. And then I remember someone medium famous probably isn’t interested in starting something long distance. Hell, I’m not famous and I’m not interested in something long distance. 

In New York, it’s easy to be adjacent to things like fame and creativity. Bumping up against money isn’t hard, either. One of the best restaurants in the city is in a mall. A fancy mall, but still a mall. In Denver, I’m adjacent to the mountains, which, when considering reality, is much better for my quality of life. But for better or worse, or just honestly, I miss the chance to be adjacent to more unattainable things. 

Bad Luck and Bad Decisions

A few days after I came home from Part II of the Teen Tour Summer, Eastern European odyssey, I was in my hometown on my way to buy ice cream, when a woman approached me. She looked like she was about to cry, and said she needed $20 because she was locked out. The rest of what this woman said won’t make my ultimate decision—to loan her $20 and keep her son’s social security card as a kind of collateral—seem any wiser. 

But I had just come back from a trip where a lot of people helped me. There was the college acquaintance who let me stay in her apartment in Berlin, the Israeli real estate investor who gave me a ride to the train station in Burgas, and the teenage Turkish girl who showed me around the Asian side of Istanbul. She approached me when I got off the ferry—I was with some cyclists who I had met at the Black Sea in Bulgaria—and said, “I know a lot of people in Turkey are trying to rip you off, but I just want to show you around.” 

As sales pitches go, this was maybe not the best approach, but the bikers believed her, and I was with them. She led us to a good place for a lunch, took us to the bathhouse we wanted to visit, and brought us to a beautiful meditation garden, where she often reminded me to cover my legs. She was insistently friendly and odd, so odd that even though she paid for our bus tickets, I worried all day that she would lead us into an alley where we would be killed. But she didn’t, and now she and I are Facebook friends. 

All this is to say, when I got back to New York, I wanted to do the universe favors. I wanted to live in a place where if I got locked out of my apartment, someone would lend me $20 for a locksmith, and I would return that money. 

For a while, or like a week, it bothered me that I was naïve to give that woman money, that I should have paid more attention to how dirty her fingernails were, that no one responsible enough to pay back $20 would be willing to give her son’s social security card away, or would have the social security card of a stranger. I’ve outgrown that feeling. I’ve returned to a self I wouldn’t even call hardened, but a self that can’t get caught up in calling a strange woman every day for a week to get $18 back on a $20 loan.  

There are homeless people in Denver. They hang out at long traffic lights, willing to trade cigarettes for dollar bills. They hold signs about their service or their kids to distinguish themselves from travelers and oogles. In New York, when the subway door opened, and a man with no shoelaces and three coats shuffled through, there was no need for a sign. Still, anyone spending their day at the corner of Colorado and I-25 is probably not in a great place. And somehow, or because that’s the only way to get to work and get on with it, you have to roll up your window and not think too much about the world you would like to live in if you locked yourself out of your home. 


I started this evening making asparagus and watching Page One, the documentary about the New York Times. Early on in the movie, someone says, “News will still exist, but the quality will change.” That guy was right on, because I spent the rest of the night on Twitter reading about the Hurricane. During a weather crisis, no well-produced, rumor-free article can be as fast or as easily digestible as 1,000 people spouting information in 140 character increments. But the accuracy isn’t great. Every time I went back to Twitter after doing something analog, I’d read that some story I hadn’t heard about–like ConEd workers being trapped in a power plant–was a rumor. Fifteen tweets down, I’d see the story posted as true.

I still think it’s a little weird that tonight I was getting my news from the same place I get my retweeted GIFs. While 90% of my twitter feed was about Sandy, occasionally, there was news from a bar or a picture of the sunset in L.A. During a national crisis, can we all agree not to send foursquare updates in? 

The first time I was allowed to walk alone to my dad’s midtown east office building, I was 11 and had no sense of direction. When I called my dad from a pay phone from the the corner of 47th and 6th, he suggested a cab. On my way over, his partner told him, "Just like a woman to get lost in the diamond district.“ 

You Can Go Your Own Way

Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn-out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortune may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth. – Nathaniel Hawthorne, taken from the epigraph of Unaccustomed Earth

The other night, watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics at a friend’s house, another guest asked me how long I had been in Denver. “So not even a year,” she replied, which struck me as odd, even though it was factually correct. 

A year isn’t that long, sure. But I’ve been here this whole time, trying to figure out how to live and make friends in a city that until less than a year ago, I had never visited and where I knew no one who owed me anything. All that I had was an idea, stolen from Jhumpa Lahiri, stolen from Nathaniel Hawthorne, of striking my roots into unaccustomed earth. 

I might have known that an idea is not the same as a friend who’s not doing anything, but wants to know what I’m doing or even a crashable house party. There are times when I find myself, if not homesick, then acutely aware of where I would be if I hadn’t left New York. Some of my friends rented a house in Woodstock this weekend; I’m sure I would have had a great time. 

I’ve never regretted my decision to move to Denver. Like Hemingway’s idea of love, there is no choice anymore. I live in Colorado. Still, there are lonely times, when I wish I had one more person I could call or a place where the udon soup always put me in a better mood. While wanting these things, it’s easy to forget that my new life isn’t even a year old. I know I’ll look back on this time as a transition, but meanwhile, I have to live it. And unfortunately, to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau, there is no remedy for time but more time. 

But there are many moments when moving on an epigraph makes sense. Every time I parallel park successfully (which is not every time I parallel park) and sometimes when I ride my bike along streets no one I used to know has ever walked along, I feel proud and also free. Last weekend, I’m not sure what I would have done in New York. Probably something fun to escape the heat and maybe a party where I would have known all the guests for too long. I couldn’t have predicted a year ago what I ended up doing in Colorado: mountain biking and then going to a house show where the band played Side A of Rumours. But there are still more friends to make, a set of Colorado license plates to be acquired and hiking trails to learn. In short, there is still more time to pass.

The Plantonic Ideal of Ice

Right now in my backpack I have many things, including, but not limited to, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, two books I had loaned to a friend, a DVD another friend had loaned to that first friend, and an ice cube tray. 

I wanted this ice cube tray since I spotted it at the Whole Foods on Bowery six months ago. The tray is made of a silicone-like, hopefully non-cancerous material, and can hold six three-inch ice cubes. Though I rarely drink liquor, it was easy to image how beautiful one of those large ice cubes would look dissolving into an amber liquid. But when I first saw this ice cube tray, I was already living in Denver, and naturally thought it was absurd to travel home with kitchenware. I would soon find out that no Whole Foods in Colorado carries these ice cube trays. And now, back in New York for two weeks, this ice cube tray was one of my first purchases. It was $8. 

Eight dollars might seem like a lot for ice, but what is $8 in the face of perfection? That was the question I often asked myself while living in New York, in reference to a bowl of Udon soup or an artisan sandwich. While much of New York is out of reach, small, perfect things are easily acquired. It was those small, perfect things that made New York livable for me. Even if I could not afford good light, which a woman who had recently purchased a classic-six on the Upper West Side told me is the most expensive thing in the city, I could afford the very best meatball sub in maybe the whole world. 

There are many things I still love about New York. I love that there is a web site devoted to what people are reading on the train, the way the east coast smells during the spring and the fall, that the Met is free, and that the subway goes all the way to the beach. But it wasn’t until I left that I realized that small, perfect things are just that: small. I’m happy to visit, to read on the train, to make plans to swim in the ocean, to see Juan de Pareja, and to walk my parents’ dog. But I’ll also be happy to go back to a life of imperfect sandwiches and light from the mountains. 

On Not Being in New York

So I’m on a farm north of Fort Collins for a few days, in what would be an amazing writer’s cabin except there are a ton of flies and I have to pee outside. 

A lot is going on back in New York. There was the earthquake and the hurricane, and the tenth anniversary of September 11 is coming up. My friend Jordan said there’s an energy in New York right now, a sense that everyone in the whole city is dealing with the same thing.

I can remember that feeling, and I can imagine what my life in New York would be like if I hadn’t moved. I probably would have felt the earthquake from my second floor apartment, while I was writing, or more likely, reading something frivolous online. I would have holed up with some friends in Clinton Hill and watched movies for the Hurricane. On the anniversary of September 11, I would have remembered my awkward and uncertain reaction during my first week of college, when I went to top floor of my dorm and could see smoke from the fallen Twin Towers.  

But as I write this, the farm’s border collie is playing with a dead mouse. With all the thinking that went into leaving New York, I had no idea that on August 31,, I would be watching a dog who just licked my hand lick the inside of a rodent.

So there’s that.  Also, this is true every year.