Saturday, July 2, 2011

It seems that all the talk now is about leaving …  Well, that’s not too far from the truth. And thoughts of leaving bring on much contemplation. Looking back. Reviewing the two and a half years we’ve lived here.

Survived New York City.

I say that only because New Yorkers themselves talk about surviving the city. And just recently, two unrelated stories in the New York Times discussed that very same challenge. The first, by Brendan Bernhard, talked of how, if you could make it in New York, you could make it anywhere. Just like the Frank Sinatra song.

It is a sentiment to which countless scrambling [NYC] residents still subscribe. If they can just work hard enough, be ingenious and ruthless enough, they, too, will be “king of the hill, top of the heap” because this is the place. Or so we like to think.

The story also talks of New Yorkers “stowed away in tiny apartments with their sorrows and pets”.

 Yes, in New York space is a premium … personal space, living space, breathing space. Which leads me to the second story. It was initiated by a theatre experiment in Times Square, where a single member of the public gets to witness a short piece of acting by one artist in an extremely confined space. Now, New Yorkers are used to sharing their very limited space with others. But when it becomes this intimate — a one-on-one, with direct eye contact, and sometimes physical touch — it gets highly uncomfortable. And having spent the last couple of years myself trying to establish meaningful relationships in this high-strung place, it kind of struck a chord.

Theatre critic Charles Isherwood expressed it this way:

 …this artful production leaves you with an unsettling sense of how guarded, mediated and constrained most of our daily interactions with other people are.

H. and I, in fact, have had many conversations on this subject: what is it about New Yorkers that makes deep connections so difficult to cement? The transience of life here, that most people are just travelling through? Young initiates testing their limits of perseverance; ambitious job-seekers gaining precious experience before the city’s rough-handling wears them down and they move on; musicians, actors and artists trying to make the Big Time… Is the reticence to form bonds the fact that, surely, one day they must be severed because inexorably, inevitably, people in this city move on?

We haven’t quite answered our own question yet, but while reflecting on our own precious but limited time in the Big City, it intrigued me that this subject kept on coming up. For myself, I’m eternally grateful that I did manage to form a few deep connections in this Great Big Apple, but it certainly didn’t come without concerted effort.

And in spite of that, New York, I still ♥ you.