Oh, Spring in Sydney…the scent of jasmine on the still-cool breeze, longer days, the sudden penchant for frozen yoghurt…what’s not to love?
And yet, even though I’ve been back since 2010 (and very happy to be here), this time of year always makes me miss that great city across the seas. Because as we move into the warmer months, my friends in the Northern Hemisphere are ending theirs. And that means the Fall. And I tell you people, there ain’t no finer city in the world, than NYC in Fall.
Here’s a little ode I wrote in 2002, many years ago now, when my love affair with the Big Apple first began…
People’s response to NYC is typically both immediate and strong. You either love her or you don’t. From the second I landed, New York became my mistress. For seven glorious, intoxicating years I was privileged enough to be her lover and while I may never live there again, when we finally broke up, she certainly kept a piece of my heart. New York. A farrago of cultures, generations and influences crammed together in an area only five miles by seven. For many her spice and bolshiness seem rude and combative. Her cauldron of cultures overwhelms and confuses. Her speed and audacity don’t charm they repel. She is more than just a mistress, she’s a dominatrix. She humbles you with her frenetic pace and uncompromising ways, and if you manage to survive all that, she just waits for winter when no one will doubt who’s boss.
If she sees you’re tired, she’ll send the trash train instead of the last A express. If she senses you’re frustrated, she’ll send a torrent of rain when you’ve got to cross town for an audition and forgot your umbrella. If she perceives vulnerability she’ll send your nemesis, wrapped up in a nasty casting director or a canceled flight on your Christmas getaway.
But where else can you do your laundry at two o’clock in the morning and enjoy a beer in the courtyard while you wait for it to dry? Not even the sign saying Please Remove All Bullets Before Washing can ruin that experience. Or go on a first date to Momofuku noodle bar in the east village, initiate him to The Strand bookstore in Union Square, get in a bit of kanoodling in the self help section and marry him eighteen months later at a converted foundry in Queens.
Corn bread and collard greens in Harlem, Ethiopian on the West side, baklava at the Greek café on the corner of Broadway in Astoria. Pedicures in Spanish, bikini waxes in Vietnamese, haircuts in Polish. Get your free coffee at the porn store on 48th and 8th on your way to a callback at Chelsea Studios. Study a lady flossing her teeth in the middle of Times Square and watch a man trim his beard on the crowded subway. Teeming sidewalks, taxis honking, people yelling, everyone ignoring the urgent siren of the ambulance. The Met, the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art. Twenty-four hour diners with a side of mayonnaise, dance class with original cast members of Broadway shows, the rich and famous mixing inconspicuously with the worker-bees that keep that town alive.
Twenty-fours hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year. She doesn’t stop, she doesn’t slow down, she doesn’t have to. Don’t even think about trying to change her, if you don’t like the way things run, move to Westchester and commute like all the other pussies do.
New York. A city of unconquerable energy and its inhabitants, all thirsting for what they’re not sure, but knowing that if it exists at all, they’ll find it here. It was the greatest, loneliest, headiest, saddest, ‘funnest’ and toughest time of my life. I’m stronger now, but I’m more vulnerable, I’m quicker of mind, but more deliberate in action and I oscillate between having all the answers and not knowing a damn thing for sure at all.
Yes, I thought as I strolled 9th Avenue one frosty February eve, I’ve made the right choice. Now let’s get on with the show.