How Can The City That Never Sleep Contain So Many Dreams
After six years living in NYC I wanted to try to talk a little bit about the way I feel about this place. I believe in place. Where someone is, is an incredibly important factor. The ideas of “home” and “belonging” are tricky to think about, and for me even trickier to express. Like I said, I have lived here for a while now, but It has yet to feel like Home; “H” Home. This is me trying to work that out. Pretty sure I still haven’t quite figured it out, but I think I’m getting closer.
New York City isn’t real, It’s not, at least not anymore. I guess it was at some point, but it has long since transcended the island made of concrete blocks, seemingly insignificant brick buildings built before the war that held our heroes of the artistic realm, and rivers of yellow cabs endlessly circling the center of the known universe. After countless books and films, both fiction and non, it escaped the physical world to seek refuge in the hearts and souls of the hopeful. At risk of beating the already unrecognizably bloody pulp of the dead horse named “New York has really changed...” I am one of the many who came in search the creative riches and inspiration believed to be buried within the coffee shop basements of the West Village, only to find the stones all rolled away revealing many beautiful, yet empty tombs.
With the exception of a few long months working at a grocery store in Chelsea, I spent the first four years in NYC working for Matt Umanov Guitars in the West Village. He and his instrument repair shop were at the epicenter of the West Village “Folk Scare” in the mid 1960’s. When Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, or literally anyone else you can think of that played in those days who needed work done to an instrument, would’ve been found hanging around his shop. After years of getting to talk with the West Village old timers, hero after hero, legend after legend who all spoke at length about those days of treasure hunting in the foul streets and the sticky bars of The Village, they all eventually got to that same tired line “...yeah, but New York has really changed.” But, has it really?
I know, the details are different. Yes, rent used to be much more manageable as well as almost anything an ol greenback could get you. Yes, the neighborhoods are changing in a myriad of ways, but that’s a different conversation. The list can go on longer than a Rite Aid receipt, but has the essence changed? The hope of opportunity any less potent? According to census information of the five boroughs, a resounding “Hell no” can be heard from the ether. Almost every borough in the city has seen more than a 5% growth in population from 2010 to 2017. I do think more folks moving here are doing so in hopes to achieve different goals than the artistic weirdos that did it to join the beats or the folk singers of the 50’s and 60’s. What once was a city of artistic dreamers has maybe shifted more towards one of finance and marketing. The guitars and sketch pads of the west village and LES are now the cell phones and laptops in the hands of digital marketers “trailblazing” the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, but I don’t think it’s all that new. I have the feeling that New York changes all the time. People either forget and get used to the changes or new people move in, then the next big change occurs in another ten years or so and that ol dead horse clip clops back into town and the cycle spins on. With every change, every new period, that elusive “ real New York”, gets more spectral and soaks deeper into our hearts and further away from reality. Unless, that is the “real” NYC? Maybe, all these things that New
Yorkers love to gripe about are the real thing, Like a bunch of rats standing on their each other’s shoulders, filling the clothes of a person. We complain that the person doesn't move quite right. Maybe, there’s an odd smell and we can never quite understand what this strange wiggly man is squeaking at us. We expect the human shaped conglomerate of creatures to behave humanly, but by its very nature cannot. It is a constantly shifting, squirly thing that we see what what we want it to be and not what it truly is. Maybe that’s a strange way of looking at it. (Y’all know I tend to come up with strange metaphors) This city is just a hard one to collar and maybe that’s why we constantly struggle with recognizing it for what it is; an ever changing mass of noise, steam, tangled streets, people coming in and people coming out, stores opening and closing, sirens, torn up shoes, tired train tracks, violence, peace, city juice, and maybe virulent, but always unbending hope that special things happen here.