“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” ― HENRY MILLER
For the past few months I’ve been treating New York like an ex-lover that I’m ashamed to still be sleeping with: continuing to use and abuse it, while complaining about it profusely to all those who will listen. My knee-jerk reaction to anyone who sings its praises is a giant, adolescent-worthy eyeroll. Somehow, obsessing over New York began to seem like the most basic partiality of all, right up there with liking EDM or considering Shake Shack a Top-10-worthy spot. People’s nearly universal affection for the place began to feel naively saccharine, a delusion paved by an overly-sentimentalized subway system and our collective propensity for all things black.
Every atom of my contrarian ass was compelled to rally against this, and the miserable winter only aided and abetted the process. Surely dealing with incessant snow would be more palatable elsewhere, somewhere far away from what I’d come to refer to as “my shithole.” And, of course, the rest of the world would also be lacking in the so-many-shitheads that I’d convinced myself made up 99% of Manhattan’s population.
Evidently my disdain was so pronounced that my mother took it as inspiration for her gift giving, buying me a copy of Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York—hobby fodder for the hater-hobbyist. Given my cheery mood, I found the book pretty awful, a compilation of words so poorly written, it’s practically shameful their inspiration was Joan Didion. However, the messages behind these sham-says (my official new term for less-than-stellar essays) definitely resonated: New York was too busy, too crowded, too fast-paced, too bitchy, too desperate, too lonely, too superficial, too too too. I closed the book, and like a good millennial, drew a hashtag in the air and whispered “preach.”
It always feels good to have one’s opinions reinforced, especially those of the unhealthy strain. And misery is the ultimate emotional man-slut, accosting everyone in its wake until they disrobe and concede to being equally unhappy [in English this translates to: misery loves company]. So I happily let these authors’ opinions sustain my own hypothesis, and continued on in my un-merry way, shitting on New York (while still in New York) whenever possible.
Recently, though—which is to say the last 48 hours, so let’s not set this in stone—I’ve had some sort of come to Jesus moment, although Jesus here shops at Atelier and drinks eight cups of black coffee a day. I’d already known I was probably a little off the mark with my ganging up on Gotham, projecting my own issues onto the city’s landscape—though I didn’t care enough to fix what didn’t feel broken.
But a string of only-in-New-York type nights has driven me back into the city’s arms like an addict who failed to get clean. There was bowling in Brooklyn to the tune of uber–Jewy men and the whitest white chicks (nope, not including me) you’ll ever see doing hip-hop karaoke, and genuinely killing it; East Village wine-bar-hopping, complete with a rooftop-set nightcap with the Empire State Building; a bad date made worth it because, well, Mercadito; a ‘meeting’ on a park bench with a stranger, resulting in a cool writing gig; and, finally, stumbling upon a handful of spots I’d never heard of before whose quota of strange, attractive faces and game-changing gin potions made it way too hard to complain.
Great weather and greater friends hasn’t hurt my backpedaling, but New York itself has played the starring role, sending me a friendly reminder that—sometimes—the shit we believe does stink: a potpourri of self-fulfilling prophecies and sour grapes.