How's New York?

They all ask when I see them. And my answer changes based on what they want to hear, or what I think they do.

I had a kind of nightmare today as I showered, rushing in as I considered it and then damming against my brain when I turned towards other thoughts. I was handed a giant megaphone that broadcasted into every home and mind for five minutes. I could say anything, and the entire world would have listen. And I was speechless. I had a million thoughts and none of them complete, all ringing somehow false, all with preimaginings of a million counterarguments and scoffs. (In retrospect I would have said ‘all you need is love’, and it would ring hollow and without much hope of impact.)

My grandfather buys and sells real estate. He once asked me about the indie film industry and I told him that most people don’t have money to pay anybody, and nobody knows what’s going to happen to it all in a few years. He said “It’s the blind leading the blind” and I said “but Grandpa, aren’t we all blind?” And he said “your father and I aren’t. We have goals and we move towards them.”

What are goals? Does hope count?

Tomorrow I will shadow a friend in Law School. I read the case studies and saw the reasoning of judges, dissecting the meaning of a dozen precedents in the context of a host of laws and coming up with concrete answers using abstract reasoning about imprecise thoughts. And it’s necessary that this happen for society to move forward. I’m reminded of Descartes, who “proved” that god exists by heaving words around a page. I’m reminded of Henrietta Lacks, whose cell line was taken and replicated a million times over without her consent, and whose descendants feel robbed. How can you lay claim to the descendants of your cells? “Possession” is only what you hold on to.

Standing in the shower thinking about the megaphone, I borrowed someone’s shampoo (it’s a friend’s shower–I’m in Boston.) Then I looked for conditioner. There was a bottle next to the shampoo of the same brand but a different shape — shampoo. Another bottle next to it — shampoo. Eight bottles of shampoo, and no conditioner. I thought it was hilarious.

New York is good, work is going well, I’m happy, things are great. I’ve got five meetings this week – three films I might work on and two related to jobs. No I don’t know what I’m doing next year. I’m finding it hard to reconcile these most productive, interesting, and adventuresome years with this pervasive experience of hamsterwheeling. And I’m finding it exceedingly difficult to reconcile purity of intent and my quest to do good, with drive and ambition to succeed and achieve.

No matter what, though, I’ve never been able to escape the feeling that something fantastic and sublime is right around the corner. I haven’t been wrong about that one yet. So I guess that’s how New York is.

Wish me luck for my day at law school!



5 Comments to “How's New York?”

  1. How's New York, they ask?

  2. Daniela 8 February 2010 at 8:16 am #

    I recently read Joan Didion’s Slouching Toward Bethlehem, and the last story is on leaving NYC for good after she had lived here for several years in her early twenties. I put the following quote on my facebook profile because it seemed so apropos for me. It echoes what you say about the feeling of something fantastic being around the corner:

    “… quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later– because I did not belong there, did not come from there– but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.”

    I highly recommend this story (“Farewell to All That”) and Slouching Toward Bethlehem in general.

  3. Mike 8 February 2010 at 8:49 am #

    Aw yes, I like that. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Maha 13 February 2010 at 4:34 am #

    Slouching is one of the great nonfiction collections, something that really changed the way I think about writing when I read it. I didn’t think her last book (Magical Thinking) came anywhere close to her earlier shorter form stuff.

    And I like that I’ve successfully started the hamsterwheeling meme. Score one for Maha.

  5. Mike 13 February 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    Away messages are such a powerful form of discourse.

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