The more often I go, the more New York City seems to define who I am. Last fall when I went, I’d blown up to heroic proportions thanks to colossal overeating and boozing, and it was also the first time I’d been in NYC that I could walk the streets and simply not be there – or at least feel that way, the way you feel when there isn’t a single man who gives you a considering look, because you’re so ruined there’s no hope for you.
Well, this time, I could walk around and say, “I exist.” I haven’t attained godhood, but I am back in the land of the living, and the fuckable. I didn’t get laid because I didn’t try – again, staying off the booze (more for health reasons than anything else) makes bars a boring proposition, but also because I’d gotten what I really needed, just by proving I wasn’t the same wreck of a person anymore. I made myself go to a bar and drank half a beer, then left – Therapy is one of those bars where everyone goes with their friends, and if you hook up with anyone, it’s because they’re with friends who are friends of your friends. But I had to go out just once, because last time, I was too embarrassed to go, sitting in my room late at night drinking alone like some horrible character in some horrible short story by the kind of writer who “crafts luminous meditations on loss and failure,” subjects they are fascinated with because they so rarely experience them themselves.
New York also always either enhances or transforms my artistic ambitions as well. I came back from the last trip bursting with art fever, ready to tackle a Renaissance-set historical novel, and though the fever died down, at least I get a fever when I go, at least I have a vision of something wonderful I could do. The problem is coming back to Reno, where I know so few people, where I’ve tried (admittedly halfheartedly) to connect with “art life,” fighting my own pessimism and negativity as much as anything else. And without that constant infusion, without that circle of creative friends and colleagues and that perpetual exposure to the very best art, music, theater, writing…well, yeah, the fever dies. I’ve found that good and successful books all have one thing in common, and that’s an acknowledgements page(s) that read like the phone book – colleagues, friends, family, people you met along the road…I think to myself, how can anyone know that many people! I’ve come to acknowledge that the most significant stumbling block I’m now facing in my writing is that I’m really no longer suited to going it alone, that I need encouragement and support and feedback, and I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to get that happening.
But what New York really gives me is a picture of my life as it should be – going to readings and meeting people and participating in a rich cultural environment. NYC itself is out of reach, financially, unless I want to chuck the career and confortable life I have here to return, at a fairly late age for it, to the roommate and ramen lifestyle. But at least, twice a year, I’m reminded of what it is I want, however far away that may seem.