Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sights and Sounds of the Season

Like screens on a window, some things you don't notice until they're right in front of you. There are a few such instances I've taken notice of this holiday season that I find are especially New York in nature.

For example, nothing, not even the the monsoon-like downpour of snow last Saturday, can keep a New Yorker, myself included, away from their Christmas shopping. I trudged through the snow that just kept falling all day (perhaps it's because I'm from Florida, but I've never seen anything like that in my life; it was, in fact, rather bewildering) because that day was the only day I had to get such things in order. As garbage as it can be to trudge through the New York snow, there is no place else I would rather be trudging. And I did it like a champion, no thanks to the herds of SantaCon-ers crowding the subway whom I prayed would not vomit on me in a drunken stupor, only to apologize with a high-pitched "OMIGOD I'M SOOOOO SORRY" or "Oh, uh, sorry bro." Nonetheless, I enjoyed my trip to one of my regular gifting locations, the Strand Bookstore. I got lost as I always do in their miles of books, at least one mile of my own that I lust after every time. I stood in that crazy holiday line to purchase gifts, dreaming about what book I might like to buy next.

It's also wonderful to get a brisk, crisp chill alongside some sun, which I have been fortunate enough to have these last few days in the city. One night it was even warm enough to walk down the street with my coat unbuttoned, and I got to enjoy a nice cozy stroll before heading uptown. I started at Beyond Sushi, a vegan sushi joint on 14th and 3rd (only in New York, right? But it was delicious, and I highly recommend the Mighty Mushroom roll. It features purple Six Grain Rice, Enoki, Shiitake, Tofu, and Micro Arugula, and is topped with a delish mushroomy paste YUM. Wash it down with a cucumber mint lemonade, hello goodbye.) I walked through the West Village, past the gorgeous brick brownstones and 1970s apartment buildings whose lobbies featured leather armchairs for guests, praying silently to myself that I may one day have the pleasure and privilege of residing in one of them.

I like the wetness of the subway stairs when the snow has melted. I like the gift vendors in Union Square. I like the store clerks wearing elf ears with their Marilyn Monroe t-shirts against their will. I like the rush of the cold air on my hands, the posters of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty outside of the obnoxiously large Regal Cinemas on Broadway, and the proliferation of red Macy's shopping bags. I like the jingle of the Salvation Army bellringers with their red buckets. Older women in luscious minks as you head uptown and the younger women in their faux fur coats downtown.

After the Strand, I sat down in a bubble tea shop--called Comebuy, on 14th between 7th and 8th, it had the most kinds of bubble tea I had ever seen in my life, though I settled on a more traditional honey green that evening--and I opened New York Magazine's annual Reasons to Love New York issue. Perhaps it's the season, this time of reflection on the almost-finished year, but I too felt nostalgic. I had also just finished reading James Wolcott's memoir Lucking Out, about his experience living in New York in the 1970s, arriving here with little else than a letter of reference from Norman Mailer in his pocket. Wolcott writes about his experiences getting, as he says, "down and semi-dirty," in the city, living on Horatio Street and in a man-cave on St. Mark's Place as a writer, when such a thing was still possible. I wonder what my 2010s memoir will look like, should I decide to write one. Will everyone expect it to look like a season of Girls? I shudder to think. What will be the things that I miss the most about my New York now, thirty to forty years in the future?

I wonder if I am just kidding myself sometimes about New York being a place to go, for lack of a better phrase, to chase your dreams. People have a lot of things to say about the way New York is now: that it's inhospitable to artists, that it's all but eliminated a middle class that used to easily live here, that it's gone corporate, that it's a money-driven Disneyland. But I still believe in the hope of New York. You can get lost in the difficulty of it all, or you can just push past it and make your life happen. Maybe it's because I am but a relatively new New Yorker (going on three and a half years), but I haven't given up just yet. I don't know that I ever will.