I got E.B. White’s essay “Here is New York” out of the Brooklyn Central Library on Sunday by utter happenstance and read it in fifteen minutes while waiting in line for a falafel truck. I almost don’t want to quote it, because I dislike those people who just mine writers for fortune-cookie-slips to stick on their fridge doors or Tumblrs or whatever, and also because I’d end up typing out the whole thing verbatim because it’s so good.
On any person who desires such queer prizes, New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. It is this largess that accounts for the presence within the city’s walls of a considerable section of the population; for the residents of Manhattan are to a large extent strangers who have pulled up stakes somewhere and come to town, seeking sanctuary or fulfillment or some greater or lesser grail. The capacity to make such dubious gifts is a mysterious quality of New York. It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No on should come to New York unless he is willing to be lucky.
I drove fourteen hours, twice, back-and-forth to Chicago in a Volvo sedan nearly as old as I am and with plenty more miles. The air conditioner makes this horrible screeching sound like the carburator is falling out and the brakes are failing all at once, but only one window rolls down so what can you do. My boyfriend and I took shifts, ate string cheese, listened to the Beastie Boys. One of our many en route fights that started with my wailing about the future and its lack of promise for me ended in sync with a rainstorm, and we saw an incredible sunset over Indiana that was all bulging and purple-pink like something weird and alive.
I also did that thing where I get bored while driving and start singing snippets of whatever high-school girls’ choir songs stroll into my head–Bist du Bei Mir, the Vivaldi Gloria, Ascendit Deuses and Ave Marias and that stuff. At one point my boyfriend said, without looking up from his iPhone, “Oh, you really can sing. Usually you sound so goofy.”
Four and a half years and I’d never shown him that serious ability. But it didn’t suck when I did, so.
I spent all of last weekend in Prospect Park because I was tired of spending money and wanted to read. I bought some pears at the Farmers’ Market and finished two YA romances in a sitting. I brought my banjo but didn’t play it for three hours because I was shy and didn’t know what the protocol on being a Park Musician was but eventually I just tuned up and plowed through “Soldier’s Joy” and no one cared, even though that song is actually about morphine addiction. Pears, apparently, taste waxy and awful.
Then a bunch of Park Slope kids detached from their parenting pod and starting ripping up handfuls of grass to throw on me.
One of the stay-at-home-dads noticed and chided his spawn: “Sebastian, stay on this side of the tree.”
I’ve always wanted to name
my Sims my son Sebastian and now the name is forever sullied by this little shit. Another argument for early banjo exposure in babies.
On the train home yesterday a boy got on with his grandmother at Canal Street holding a plastic bag with a goldfish in it. (Didn’t even know they were still giving those out for prowess in ring toss!) He was telling another little boy nearby about it (how he won it with fourteen tokens, how you have to take care of them, how they can die really easy but not as easy as turtles) but his voice was, I think, loud enough for my benefit, as I was reading Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions on my Kindle a few poles away and still got all the details. I could see he had the greatest eyelashes, the kind of thick line of black fringe that I’m always trying to coax out with sticky mascara and liner.
“You’ve got great eyelashes,” said the other little boy’s mom, like there’d been a train-wide brainwave about it.
“Yup. And I’m never gonna cut ‘em!”
“I don’t think you can cut them,” his grandmother said.
“Well, I’m not gonna. Did you know they make fake things to make your eyelashes longer? Not fair!” he crowed.
And they do! It’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I loved this kid. I’m never gonna cut my eyelashes either.