Today is the day! The Big Anniversary!
On March 15, 2010 I became what I had hardly dreamt of: A German moving to New York. The City of 8 million. The Big Apple. The town that offers hundreds of possibilities, there to pursue. My student life had changed 180 degrees as I stepped out of my first cab right in downtown Manhattan. I remember the first street I stood at. Columbia Street. I remember my first (foreing) cab driver, who took it from there and delivered me to the Best Western Hotel in Queens. He was Indian, a professor, and only he knows why he had given up his higher education benefits in his home country to pursue life in the City. However, he gave me the most valuable of advice. Said: “New York has the best of people and New York has the worst of people.” To date, this little wisdom I share with you has proven to be very true. So true, that indeed every time I remember this day and his words, I shake my head in astonishment at how they cannot be twisted and turned but simply apply to life in New York.
Two years in the City. Three different jobs, but none of which are career-worthy. Three different apartments, some of which have proven to catapult me to something I can call home. My discovery of the Flatbush ghetto and then the nice side of Brooklyn called Park Slope. A few interesting roommates later. A few boring roommates later. None of them which I had wanted to miss out on. Friends, heart breaks, coworkers, relationships – they have all guided me through the past 24 months and have formed my time here; created my memories in their own unique ways. Two years later, and I am reflecting.
Have I have become a different person? I have turned into someone else. Unsure yet if if I like the person I’ve become or if I hate what New York has made of me. The safest way is to go with a mix. Some traits have made me survive in all of these extreme circumstances I am walking through day by day, living every moment as if it could be my last. Others I wish I could deal with better. The coldness that comes with you when you have to choose between politeness or rudeness when brushing off the overflow of advertisement, vendors, promoters. I know some New Yorkers can justify being impolite towards strangers. I am still having a hard time with it. At least I don’t care anymore when someone pushes me out of their way on my way to work. Is this a sign that I have truly adapted, though? Or that I have forgotten what manners are for?
Every year has changed me to a degree I would have not foreseen. Only one thing seems granted in this city: Happiness does not come easy. And it most certainly does not come when you expect it to. I’ve found myself torn down after earning more money or going to a show I thought would be amazing – my expectations being too high on this one little thing, underestimating the true factors of life. And then I found this warm, joyful feeling when walking beneath skyscrapers in the Financial District of Manhattan or discovering the West Village on a sunny April afternoon. The feeling I had whenever I looked at the skyline from my second
old apartment – indescribable. This City was right there, in its miniature form, and everything had seemed so clear to me. Now I work in the Empire State Building and the New York dream seems farther away than ever.
The one thing New York has truly given me: I have created my life new. I have created myself new. Every day, every hour, every moment spent in this precious city I have indulged in, I have caressed, I have made sure to become worthy to remember. Starting with discovering various neighborhoods: Harlem, Bedstuy, Bushwick – we were quite fearless in the beginning. Meeting random people at bars and on the streets, ending up being involved in night-long talks which came to a close on the red steps of Times Square. Working for three cheap Irish guys who did not even pay hourly wage for their bar employees. My first tears when erring around in a bad area, fearing Russian gangstas or other hoodies might pick me up and shred me to pieces.
Our unbelievable luck in this City. New York has this very specific way of applying Karma to everyone who enters and stays for longer than a few days. You laugh at a person on the streets? Be sure you will trip over the next misplaced stone within the next few seconds. It’s the small things that this city will gladly show you and those are the ones you have to appreciate. It is not about the beauty of this city, because this city is seldom beautiful in the traditional sense. It is about the quirks and downsides that make Nueva York a fascinating place to live in. The rainy mornings that turn into sunny afternoons and warm your heart. The rainbow colors in Central Park. A day at the beach, that is so trashed, you would have never stepped foot on it if you were on vacation in a different country. The annoying paper bags from Trader Joes which always seem to break at the wrong moment. And then of course the random people in the train station that come to your rescue and provide you with so many plastic bags, you don’t know how to thank them.
New York is a City of Extremes. And she has her very special way of showing you when it’s time to move on. Believe me, I have seen it in many people. Some of which have come here for a few months. Some of which have stayed for three years. It all ended in the same way: They got the insight that it is time to leave. To pursue something better. It is just too darn bad that every other city outside of here seems too gray to live in once you’ve tasted the forbidden apple. So be sure you enjoy every single moment here because you never know when will be your last!
This is why I want to cherish today. The date. Hold it tight and never let it go! Happy Anniversary to me and to my dream come true!
Last night after a great show at Bar None I walked to my car chatting happily with fellow comedian Rachel Arbeit. I was looking forward to taking Rachel home and getting myself home at a reasonable hour for a couple of beers and some relaxation with my boyfriend before falling to sweet sweet sleep in my giant downy bed. I became confused, however, when we came to the place I was sure I had parked and my car was nowhere to be found. In fact, there were no cars parked there at all. I felt more than confused, I felt disoriented. I was so sure I had parked there. We walked around a little more but again we returned to the place where I was positive I had parked. My confusion turned to a sick feeling of dread when I looked more closely at the menagerie of signs under which I was sure I had parked. “No Parking After 10pm Monday thru Saturday” the fourteenth sign down whispered. The time was 11:15pm. My car had been towed.
The adrenaline high I felt after the successful night of comedy was immediately drained and I went limp. I suddenly became keenly aware of the frigid temperature. I had been through this before. I knew what I would be facing. A tow pound full of angry, smelly people. A $185 fee just to get my car back. A police escort to my car, where there would be another ticket for $125 tucked like a gift under my windshield wiper. In an instant I went from feeling the best feeling in the world to feeling helpless, abandoned, cold, and full of rage.
I called 311 and sure enough my car was at the tow pound on 38th street. I apologized to Rachel and tried to get her to take the train, but really I didn’t want to be alone. She said she would stay with me and we proceeded to hail a cab. Or, I should say, try to hail a cab. There were hundreds of cabs but none of them appeared to be in service. We walked blocks and blocks, our cheeks and noses and fingers frozen, hailing cabs to no avail. The warm adrenaline high I had felt less than half an hour earlier was now fully transformed into icy anger.
We finally got a cab and drove a few blocks up to drop my faithful companion off near her apartment. Oh how I wished I lived so close. Now alone with the cab driver, I remained stewing silently, gazing with ice cold eyes out of the window. Then the cab driver began to speak to me, asking why I was going to the tow pound. “Duh my fucking car got towed you fucking idiot” I felt like saying, but instead I unleashed a wave of emotion at this poor innocent man, crying “woe is me” about the situation I had once again found myself in. I cried about my fifty thousand dollars worth of debt and the injustice of the world and particularly of New York City, and how I had been tricked again by the crafty NYC parking signage. He sympathized. He told me his story; how he had moved his family here from India and had to work thirteen hours a day to support them, and was still not able to provide for them the way he wished. We both agreed this was not quite the American Dream we understood. Still, the man seemed happy. He was still able to laugh and smile and he did often. He was awake and alive and seemed to harbor no anger. He made me feel warm again. It was then I decided I would make this tow pound experience the best I possibly could. I felt the rage drain from me as I swiped my nearly maxed out credit card through the taxi’s reader.
I walked into the tow pound unusually calm, joining about twenty other people who were there for the same purpose. I looked around silently with my arms crossed and jaw tight as I stood on line, taking inventory of the characters who accompanied me. Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asians, and one Hasidic Jew. We locked eyes with one another desperately. We were all in the same boat. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so connected to so many different people at one time, in fact. The playing field was level here. In the tow pound, we were all just people who were simultaneously getting raped by the city of New York.
I checked in and found a seat to wait in, three seats away from Hasidic Jew. He wore the traditional garb: long black overcoat, yarmulke, payot. Soon, three young Hispanic men came to fill in the three seats between us. On the seat closest to Hasidic Jew sat a wool hat with a Nike symbol on it. The Hispanic teenager picked up the Nike hat before he sat down, asking Hasidic Jew, “Is this yours?” “Clearly not” said Hasidic Jew. I laughed out loud. I turned to them and said, “That was the funniest thing I’ve seen all night”. Hasidic Jew and Hispanic teenager laughed. I realized at once how connected we all were. We were connected at that moment by tragedy and by comedy. The adrenaline I felt earlier again began to bubble inside me.
We all went back to staring straight ahead, waiting for our names to be called so we could finally pay our fines, collect our vehicles and eventually drift off for the night to sweet sweet sleep. Finally, a shrunken, wigged elderly lady behind bullet-proof glass spoke into her microphone, “Amy Carlson, window two”.
I approached the window, nearly maxed out credit card in hand. I felt strangely serene as I handed the card to her gnarly fingers, knowing that with one swift swipe she would add another $185 to my debt. As she processed my ill-gotten payment, I turned to look at the people waiting behind me. A black couple cuddled in the right corner, absorbed in the screens of their smart phones. A lone white musician, guitar in hand sat to their left, staring unblinking at the floor. A gregarious group of well dressed Hispanics sat to the left of the musician, followed by Hasidic Jew, Hispanic teens, two Asian females and a mixed group of who-knows-what. I looked at all of these people, and for the first time ever I really felt at one with the human race. I cleared my throat and prepared to make an announcement.
“Guys?” I said loudly, hoping to get their attention. At first only a few paid attention. “Hey, you guys?” I said a littler louder, and almost immediately all talking and web surfing stopped as everyone in the room looked at me, eyes wide, undoubtedly wondering what kind of crazy shit was about to come out of my mouth. “We may not have much control over what we’re going through right now”, I said, “but I just want to let you know, I just farted in front of this window. I farted in Bloomberg’s general direction”. The entire room broke out in uproarious laughter. Black, White, Hispanic, Hasidic Jew. Everybody laughed. Some people even clapped and cheered. It was the best feeling ever. It surpassed the adrenaline rush I had had earlier in the night. At that moment we were all just people in a fucked up situation, and for one second we were all able to let go of anger, of rage, of feelings of injustice and separation. For that one moment we were all just humans, laughing at a fart joke, and at our own helplessness.
I’m not really sure what I learned from this experience. A part of me feels like I learned (or maybe I should say confirmed) that fart jokes are universally funny. On a deeper level though, I feel like the whole night taught me that no matter how much debt you may have, no matter how marginalized you may feel as a member of your particular group, no matter what, we can all be made to feel like humans through comedy. That is the power of comedy, the power of laughter, and that’s why I will never ever stop doing what I do. I may be over fifty thousand dollars in debt; I may even have to eventually declare bankruptcy. But when I drove home last night I felt like the richest person in the world.
Bloom: I was a Flower of the mountain yes…..
While she spoke of a rose in her hair, I conjure that in his haiku-like streaming of the consciousness of Molly Bloom Joyce’s own subconscious may have whispered ‘cherry blossom’. And, in keeping with the Zen of his pen, perhaps he presaged a subsequent chronicler of the poetry of the promised effulgent fruit to come:
“I want to do to you what spring does with the cherry trees.” (Pablo Neruda)
It is in this spirit–almost literally–that this offered depiction is made of the fitting union of Central Park as the ‘yes’ of New York’s apple reputation (that fruit’s stern-sounding genus being ‘Malus’) with the seductive serenity of that bloom whose genus is called ‘Prunus’.
As Zen master Shunryu Suzuki has taught the West, ‘….we study Buddhism to study ourselves.’
Copying nature’s feminine rule (as well as Joyce’s voice in naming ‘yes’ the ‘female word’), this bloom appears to us as briefly as a cloud, a picnic spread upon some natural knoll, in that Park, for a brief interval, much like that Park. Imagine a young woman, Hanami Sakura, whose soul does say ‘yes’ to the fleeting bloom, again joining with her sister Molly Bloom’s long-suffering celibacy from nature’s joyous display.
Since before New York was a place, her Park unimagined as a bloom within that space, ‘flowers’—perhaps the one imagined by Joyce in Ms. Bloom’s hair—have been synonymous in haiku with ‘sakura’.
In perhaps playful contrast, then, to this spiritual analogue are depicted the vertical heights of stone, glass and avian, in keeping with the fruit-bearing species Prunum Avium (for ‘The Big Apple’ appellation), as well as the tradition that most Japanese schools and public buildings have cherry blossom trees near them.
And, just as Central Park may be seen as a vernal island, replete with such human fancies as strawberry fields, it is that analogous status which may be seen to, on Japan Day, feature that oriental custom in meterology as the ‘sakura zensen’ or cherry blossom front, which migrates from Okinawa in January and reaches invisibly in warmth Kyoto and Tokyo into March and April.
‘Neath the arbors and avians and ateliers of commerce, then, perhaps, may be barely seen this Hanami Sakura, whose brief joyful repaste, befitting a mountain flower of delicate sinew, is mirrored in the blissful eyes of a monk’s visage.