December 19, 2012

Dear City, I Love You

aaronstrout
aaronstrout

When you’re driving into New York from 495, the part just before you dip into the Lincoln Tunnel, at first all you see can see are trees. Seems like average scenery. But as you get closer to the Tunnel, suddenly the trees part and you’re thrown into an unparalleled vista where Midtown Manhattan teases you and flashes you with her perky tits. The only thing separating you from her is a greyish river that always seems larger than it really is. Manhattan invites you to come in closer and touch for yourself. But you know this, and that’s why you’re already on your way. No matter how many times I’ve been on this drive and seen this view, it never gets old and I feel the same sense of excitement every single time.

This isn’t a piece about New York City — it’s a love letter to all of the World’s great cities. Los Angeles, Melbourne, Berlin, Prague, Paris, Chicago.

The French writer Honoré de Balzac once said that urbanites experience the city the way most people experience their living room — a sense of comfort, a feeling of being at ease and at home. And I think he was right. Cities have always been about the pursuit of freedom. It’s the place you can walk outside and hail a cab without having to call for one in 30-minutes in advance. It’s the place you can go to wear crazy outfits and walk places instead of drive. You can hear foreign languages and meet people from countries you didn’t know where real. You might run into an old friend from college you haven’t seen in years. In cities you can do things like go to museum exhibitions or see movies before the rest of the country. You can be gay and hold hands with your partner without feeling judged. You can date outside your race and people won’t stare at you as much. But most of all, you can enjoy all the wonders and surprises the street has to offer and take comfort in knowing that, no matter how crazy you are, there is always someone crazier. Always.

A friend recently told me that he could never live in a big city. We were having a conversation about places we’ve lived. He grew up in a more rural area of Virginia and I grew up in New York. For him, the idea of living in the big city does not appeal at all. Just how, to be fair, the idea of living in a suburb or another such secluded enclave freaks me all the way out. I told him he should come to New York, that I would show him around. And that’s when he said he had zero interest in even visiting New York. I was devastated.

Doesn’t everyone dream of living in the big city? Isn’t the city the place you escape to after getting teased and tormented in high school, the place you run to reinvent yourself because nobody knows who you really were? Isn’t the city the place where gay and other marginalized people have gone to live a big old fabulous life?

Living in the city is to experience the theater of life, and that’s what makes us feel alive. Cities allow us the chance to fully experience the beauty and sensations of being human. But even cities are living, breathing organisms. That’s why they always seem to animate and give life to The Middle Of Nowhere. When you approach the city from the highway, three lanes become five lanes, and there’s more lighting, more businesses, more people on Grindr, more places to shop, more buildings, more exits, and more combination Taco Bell and Pizza Huts. And then, inevitably, there it is — The City. You’re here, where you’ve always wanted to be. TC mark

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