Archive | City Matters

No Candle Can Replace It

I’m really milking every last bit of summer out of this month. Today I had to read the wonderful book Tracks for a gig so I planted myself behind Red Hook Fairway and read the afternoon away on a bench overlooking the NY Harbor. As the sun dropped lower, more and more locals and Fairway workers came out to watch. I couldn’t stop grinning. When hanging out on the West Coast years ago, I’d been so touched that people would casually congregate on streets and in parks to watch the sunset. I’d never imagined we hardbitten New Yorkers would do the same (which goes to show you how much time I spend on the West Side Highway, I suppose). It all felt even grander since I’d spent the day with a loner in her Aussie desert, widenening into a wordlessness that she painted with the same voluptuous palette.

On the way home, I felt that sour apple feeling: happy to be nestled in a poncho and a long skirt, sorry the layers were rapidly growing essential. It reminded me of when I started back East on my road trip around the country. (My sweet auto Sadie was but a lass back then.) The first night the sun dropped in my rearview mirror rather than my windshield, I wept bitter tears. From then on, I understood manifest destiny not just as a race toward gold but as a race toward the glory of the sun itself. I felt that same grief tonight as the day exploded in the back of my now-geriatric car—and so early, too. Oh, oh, oh. A real lump in the throat. Anyway, apples and fire: that’ll be this fall.

Listful and Asea

I’m sitting up in bed—an unmade bed, even, which is so unlike me these days. It’s a big, soft tousle of linens and pillows and books, and I’m leaning against a velvet headboard, drinking a latte—extra-hot, extra shot—while eyeballing the grey, cool morning right outside my window. I like the idea of it all but, frankly, I’m exhausted.

Part of my exhaustion is just another day at the races: I did my laundry, fetched my groceries, picnicked by the water before it was even 10 am. But partly I’m exhausted because this was a huge week for me. It marked the real end of my Summer of Reckoning.

I fear bureaucracies—the IRS, the DMV, health insurance companies, housing agencies, patriarchy—the way others fear public speaking or being alone. In June my fears came home to roost or, rather, the rotten fruits of my avoidance became unavoidable. In the months since, every day I’ve had to do something that scares me. Which, of course, has not been the worst thing in the world. But a fun summer it did not make.

I crossed the last onerous item off my SOR to-do list yesterday morning, and immediately took off for the beach to celebrate the occasion. It was my first trip to the Rockaways this summer, never mind that to most summer had already ended. Continue Reading →

September 11 in Parentheses

Every year September 11 takes me by surprise. I forget that the day after September 10 isn’t just a day when an article is due, when my this-or-that class is scheduled, when I’m supposed to meet up with so-and-so for coffee. I don’t remember the import of the day until it arrives, when comments start flooding the social media you can’t escape anymore. That’s when I realize what my body has already been registering for days–in the generalized depression I’ve been feeling, in the uncharacteristic anxiety that has been seizing my limbs and messing with my attention span, in my suddenly sour stomach (gut instincts being almost mundanely literal). What I recognize is I can’t run away from the losses of that day. For me, the events of 9/11 will always be profoundly personal—someone I loved died, a future I’d envisioned for my city and myself (one that included a marriage and a child) died as well. But it’s a date that everyone in the world quickly seized as their own. Now it’s the worst kind of personal-is-political—a day upon which everyone projects (institutionalizes, even enforces) their particular brand of fear and fury. If only we could make it National Shut Up and Think Day instead.

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy