I’ve been living in Richmond, Virginia full-time for the past couple months, teaching at a college in the area. Whenever a Richmonder hears that I’m from New York, as in actually born there, they’re always all, “Whoa, how do you like Richmond, it’s not New York, lol.” I know it’s not New York, genius. It’s like people are just WAITING on me, the ever skeptical/sarcastic/condescending/all-black wearing New York person to confirm their stereotypes and make some kind of comment about how much Richmond sucks. The thing is, Richmond doesn’t suck, and I like it well enough. It’s cheap, there’s lots of space, and it’s really easy to live there.
Right now I’m back in the city for Thanksgiving. I’m in a Brooklyn coffee shop where it is possible to purchase a very nice piece vegan fudge, and I’m reminded of all the things I miss about New York that no other place can reproduce. Things I used to take for granted, but things I see as the reason people keep coming back to this hot urban mess.
A few things I miss about New York:
- Having 12 bodegas within a 2 minute walking distance.
- Cute boys every 2 feet.
- Wondering where people are going/what they just did when I’m on the subway at 2 in the morning.
- Everything is open past 9 as well as on Sundays.
- Going to shows.
- Brunch — New York City’s own sporting event.
- The urban cacophony.
- No pants subway ride/flash mobs/prank troops.
- THE NIGHTCLUBS.
- Magnolia Bakery.
- Always feeling like I’m missing something.
I rolled into Port Authority late Tuesday night, and I was so excited to be back that I walked all the way from 42nd Street to 14th Street to take the L train to Williamsburg. When I stepped off the bus, the station was totally packed — hundreds of people leaving New York to go back to wherever they’re really from. 10 seconds after being off the bus I see two people with dip dyed/ombré hair in Kool Aid colors and I think, Ugh, CIVILIZATION!!
Now before anybody goes apeshit about ombré being so over (it’s not), the point is that in New York, there is a wonderful individuality of expression where people are not afraid to be themselves, to just put it all out there. In fact, people come here so that they can be themselves. My humble observation about living in the South, and I know somebody is going to try to correct me, is that people seem so afraid of sticking out that everybody blends in not because they want to, but because they have to — the hot breath of society makes people conform.
As I made my way down 8th Avenue, listening to “Open Heart Surgery” by Beth Ditto over and over and doing that thing people who live in New York do where you like WORK the song as you walk down the sidewalk, I had a “New York Moment.” I ran into my friend Elliott who I haven’t seen in probably a year. What are the chances that we would both run into each other, at 1:30 in the morning on a Tuesday on 8th Avenue? I miss those “New York Moments” where you run into people you really like but rarely get to see because you’re so busy, and you make brunch dates with them, dates you hopefully keep.
Then I saw a brightly illuminated ad for Manhunt on the back of a telephone booth. Two dudes were making out in it, and I got excited. But that’s not why! I used to ignore these things, or maybe ignore is the wrong word. They were just so normal to me that I never used to see them. But right here, fresh off the bus from the Deep South, the thing calls out to me like a 9-inch cock, and I’m really excited to see it. It’s amazing what things we take for granted, only appreciating them when we were removed from the context.
You can only realize why you love New York if you leave New York.
As I walked back to my apartment from the Bedford station, people were out and about, walking to get pizza, still going to the bars — at 2 in the morning! People are going home at 2 in the morning in Richmond. There was liveliness, vitality, and a sense of youth that can only happen in a place that doesn’t take itself so seriously.
People who love New York love New York, and people who hate New York hate New York. Even though we come from different stripes, and even though some of us were born here and others have waited their whole lives to move here, the one thing that New Yorkers share is the feeling of excitement of getting out of New York to go other places. But no matter where you left the city for, when you get back there’s no feeling like getting back, no feeling like curling around the bend and into the Lincoln Tunnel, the special place where the city lifts her shirt and flashes you her tits. The second you step off the bus and receive your first waft of concrete and piss, you’re like OH THANK GOD.