There is a stillness and a beauty to water at night. The way the blackness of the water can sometimes seemlessly meet the night sky. Alternately, the water can rage, in storms or waves, providing stark contrast to its backdrop.
I am reminded of this memory from high school – One night, I was hanging out with my friend Josh in his makeshift home recording studio, making demos, and we decided to go for a ride in his beat-up, wood-panelled station wagon. It was raining heavily and eventually we made our way down to the ocean, watching the waves crash in Plymouth. We sat, we chatted, we smoked our cigarettes and listened to the recordings we’d made. To date, nothing is a better test of how a track sounds than hearing it through a car stereo. Then Josh suggested we just be quiet as he put a tape into his tape deck. He had something he wanted to play for me.
For the first time ever, I heard Tom Waits. His gravelly voice called out “The ocean doesn’t want me today, but I’ll be back tomorrow to play”. Even as sheets of rain fell in the night sky, the waves crashed forcefully, Waits’ rambling vocals brought the stillness and vastness of the water into perspective. Sometimes life has a real poetry to it and I revel in those moments when I happen upon them.
That’s really part of what I love about New York City. It has a poetry to it, a culture and landscape that seems to organically create moments which could not happen anywhere else. We live on a grid to get around easily, but as I build my NYC experiences and memories it maps itself differently in my brain. Directions from that bar that used to be there to that cool indy theater or the place with the city’s best hot chocolate form regardless of streets and avenues. I walk, and I wander and I love it. I flow through the grid like water, absorbing the properties of what I touch, slowly wearing my mark into it as sure and steady as a river.
I know the playground and court house at the corner where the Five Points once met, the halal foodcart which serves the best lamb and chicken platter I have ever had, the music shop where I can find killer bhangra compilations… The rumble of the train and the patter of someone giving the same pitch you’ve heard a dozen times “I am not asking for handout, I am just selling sandwiches from my duffel bag…” Beat by beat, line by line, it flows together, forming the verses of my city.
The map forms in my head like a poem, soulful, tinged with different meanings for most who read it, utterly fucking with the orthodoxy of syntax…
Even better, in its vastness, I might never be finished mapping it in my head as it grows and changes. And every person I meet adds to that map, and hopefully takes something away to add to their own. That, to me, is the magic of cities, this one in particular.