clap clap blog: we have moved

Thursday, November 20, 2003
New York can actually be quite lovely in November sometimes, if it is clear and not too cold. If you are crossing Broadway at 23rd street, for instance, there is a pleasant busy-but-not-too-busy buzz to the area, and although it being dark at 5 might not be ideal, everything looks very well-defined, and lights from blocks away shine brightly (as do the intrusive LCD video ads above subway entrances). The wind blows and maybe you didn't dress quite warmly enough that morning, but it's still very--pleasant.

You spend so much time in one area in New York, if you have a steady job--a caveat I regrettably feel it necessary to add in these depressed days--that you have to work sometimes to make it feel foreign, because there are times when foreign feels nice. If you have been compelled to move to a big city, it almost goes without saying that you feel this way. If you want consistency and slow change, it's possible to find this within a city if you limit yourself to an unchanging 4-block area, but you're much better off moving 200 miles away to eastern Long Island or Connecticut or above Albany or maybe even Vermont. (Slow change and consistency pretty much being Vermont's state motto.) But in a city, sometimes you'll want it to feel new again, want to break that routine, and so you can just cross the street, or walk past where you'd normally stop a few blocks uptown, or visit the park at a different time of day. And everything looks a little different, even though you've only moved to a miniscule degree. Maybe it's the light, but maybe it's the Christmas decorations. But it's nice. It slows you down, and it brings you out of the crowd sometimes.

It is also nice to walk alone, and without any destination. It is nice to, say, notice new shops, or stop and read menus at places with names that you're fairly certain translate as "Flower of Salt" and to wonder exactly what that means or is supposed to convey, and what exactly "tastings" are and if you could do that because it sounds just fabulous. You notice the vacant storefronts filled with temporary fly-by-nights selling ornaments and coats out of boxes, notice furniture stores with interior design services and interiors on sort of a loft model which looks charming, notice different delis and oddly appealing awnings and men walking behind you with coats and microphone stores and billiard halls.

It is nice, as I say, to be alone--or to feel alone, anyway, aloneness being a highly relative concept in areas such as this. It's nice to walk with your hands in your pockets and not worry about how you look or what you should be doing, or even how fast you're walking and whether anyone is annoyed at you. It's nice to think about being alone, to be free of expectations and other people's schedules and all of that. And you think it might be nice to see a movie alone, which you haven't done in quite a while, and if that movie could maybe be about dragons somehow. Dragons or cars. Or car-driving dragons.

You think a little about how important aloneness used to be to you--how loneliness got to be oppressive at times, but how good it also felt to walk calmly like that, unencumbered, and see a movie, or browse through the bookstore, or sit and drink tea. How important that was to your creative process--how many ideas you used to get while out walking, how that feeling of the wind on your skin seemed to encourage you to think in words or melodies or rhythms instead of goals and processes and concerns. How maybe--or maybe not--that's affecting you. The not-having-aloneness thing.

It is nice to be alone after spending so much time, so much time, 9 hours a day, in an office. Nice to be alone--or feeling alone--and very nice to be outside, silly as that may be. How outside can it be in a place like this? But it is, technically or otherwise, outside. There's the breeze, and the expanse of sounds, and no goddamn fluorescent lights. (Swear to God those are going to make your head explode.) Because OK, sure, it's not a park, and you wonder if anyone would tell you if the trees didn't actually turn colors this year, but it's outside. Outside enough. All you need is an open space, and you seek them out in the city: areas where the canyons of buildings--doesn't matter the height, even the three-floor factories in your neighborhood are bad--breaks up for a half-acre or so and you can get a real sense of space, of sunlight. Intersections are urban fields, and the one at 23rd and Broadway is a great one, multi-tiered, as Broadway is actually crossing 5th here, with a park on one side and a nice broad sidewalk on the three others. You can cross and turn your head to the sky and stop in the middle of the crosswalk (though not too long, it's a short light) and look up and down the great broad avenues. You can take a deep breath and feel quickly what it would be like to be abandoned and depopulated, but also feel what it's like to be here at foreign times. You can see all the lights, see the buildings up on 34th street, see the Empire State (which you love with a quiet passion that you never quite feel comfortable sharing with anyone) and see the mist shrouding its spire and wonder what it feels like up there, way up high, maybe leaning out a window or just sticking your hand out and flying it in the high winds which your father (or a friend of your father's) has assured you proliferate there, way up high.

And eventually you get back to the office and are weirdly calm and maybe a little sad but maybe a little more at peace, too, like you've been grieving, or, I suppose, like a kind of shock, of numbness. But it's a good numbness. It's a transferral of body parts, a shifting of priorities and nerve endings, of thoughts and all that bullshit. And you put on music when you get back, a CD instead of your normal MP3 playlist, because you want something that's going to sustain a mood. And you sit a while, and you think.