Augusten Burroughs, Boston, Brooklyn, california, Carrie Hill Wilner, David Sedaris, Dreams, Eugene Jerome, Francie Nolan, Grant Stoddard, Joan Didion, Lower East Side, Manhattan, New England, San Francisco, Sarah Hepola, Toby Young, Transplant
I was born in California, and grew up on the foggy beaches south of San Francisco, but like many transplants, I lived in New York before I lived in New York. My elementary years I spent in Brooklyn, with Francie Nolan and Eugene Jerome, but although I leafed through those pages until the edges were frayed, neither of them made me want to move across the country.
Eventually high school came around. I’m not sure what I imagined my future would look like, I’m not even sure I thought about it at all. I guess I wanted to be a rockstar, so I joined a band, but my life changed when I found Nerve.com. Trying to figure out what it meant to grow up became somewhat easier when I was able to vicariously live the life of a twenty-something liberal arts college graduate. This, I figured, was a much better life than the life of a sexually frustrated emo teenager in the ‘burbs. So I hung out at dive bars throughout the Lower East Side with Carrie Hill Wilner, cried in restaurants with Sarah Hepola, and underwent bizarre sexual experiments with Grant Stoddard when he did them for science. Looking back, I may have been growing up too fast.
I don’t remember if David Sedaris came before or after that, but so much of the city I remember through his words, and those of Augusten Burroughs. Then I came across Toby Young. Fascinated, I went along with him on his narcissistic journey of losing friends and alienating people. Before I had even I arrived, I said goodbye to all of that with Joan Didion.
When I graduated high-school, New York was too intimidating for me. Considering how many people move here, it’s shocking how difficult the process is. Anyways, when I was eighteen I didn’t want to write about myself. I wanted to write fiction, and while I understood that memoirists lived in New York, it seemed to me that fiction writers lived, overwhelmingly, in New England. At least the best ones did. So I moved to Boston and started writing a novel. I spent the next year writing it.
Two years, three jobs, and dozens more New York writers later, I decided it was finally time to experience for myself the city that had inspired the imaginations writing the books that raised me.
I arrived on a couch in New York six months ago, having resolved to have no expectations. Not long after, I found an apartment in Manhattan that I’m convinced used to be a shower. I think a lot of people come to New York wanting to show the world what they are capable of. I had the opposite experience. Since I’ve been here, the city has shown me what I am capable of.
For me, like for Joan Didion, New York will probably always be “an infinitely romantic notion, the mysterious nexus of money, love, and power, the shining and perishable dream itself.” Success may be a unicorn, but in New York there is a beautiful mirage backdrop to convince you that, yeah, it really does exist. New York seems, at first, to suspend real life, to twist our paths in ways we previously thought unimaginable.
Now, as I move along this newly twisted path and look back on these first six months, I can’t shake two feelings. The first is that I got here yesterday, and the second is that I’ve been here all my life.