20 August 2009

Winds of Change


Last night I sat down with Sister Virginia and began to help her study for a test she has to pass in order to achieve a job as a nurse practitioner -- I think of it as the Bar Exam for Insanely Specialized Nurses (henceforth, BEISN [though if you quote me on that, no one else will know what in the heck'n'shoot you're talking about]). I enjoy doing this with my sister, bizarrely enough. It feels like a familiar game, probably owing to my continuous necessity for memorizing lines, and I'm always eager to figure out new ways of encouraging her to order her thoughts and make details really memorable. My approach uses a lot of techniques I've picked up in memorizing scripts but, more significantly, utilizes one big acting idea behind all script memorization. That is: specificity is important because every word and structural element holds a clue to your story and has a reason behind its use. In other words, memorize meaning as well as facts. It's the only way to lock in those lines.

But I digress (probably because it feels like it's been a long time since I was writing here about an actual script, and I've been reading so many plays lately). This current bout of studiousness is in preamble to my sister possibly moving out of the city for work. She has a good thing going with Johns Hopkins, and passing this test would be the solidifying factor in that trial run. I'm very happy for this possibility, for a number of reasons. It would be good work for her, she'd be closer to my parents and NoVa, and I have learned to love Baltimore a bit. I'm very unhappy for this possibility for one reason. That is, it means my sister will, after some seven years in New York, no longer live in the same city as me. I love my sister, and will miss her.

Perhaps not for long, though. Coming up on my ten-year anniversary of having moved to the beeg ceety, I consider more and more the possibilities of picking my show up and moving it somewhere else. I used to fight this idea, but lately it has seemed surprisingly exciting to me; "exciting" being the last thing it seemed when I was a mere youth. I've lived my entire adult life around New York City, and have a lot to learn about living elsewhere. Plus it seems to me that more and more the kind of work I enjoy doing is better suited to a different environment. I'm not sure what, just yet, but figuring that out is part of the potential fun of it.

Man, but I love New York. Things I love about it, in no particular order:
  • It's so messed up. Seriously: It is. There's plenty of facade of it being this gleaming pinnacle of mankind's ambitions, but every time I see a movie like You've Got Mail, I have to laugh. Give me The French Connection, give me The Warriors. That's still underneath it all in New York, no matter how much veneer Hollywood uses.

  • New York is honest. To a fault. I'm not saying there isn't an absurd amount of lying that goes on, and on a second-by-second basis. I mean, it's the financial capital -- of course there's a ton of lying. But if you're walking down the street, and someone doesn't like the look of you, you don't know it from a plaster grin. You know it from an honest expression, and me, I love that.

  • It is a petri dish of culture. At the same time a world-famous production of Hamlet is closing its run at Lincoln Center, a tiny show that only a handful of people saw is closing -- and we'll never know which will prove more significant. Music flows through here like a river wider than the East, and artists happily, slowly kill themselves to work out just what they're trying to say. Everyone has an opinion, and everyone is moved by something they come in contact with. You never, ever have to search for a cultural experience. Every day, all around, it's happening.

  • New York is a city of individuals. I doubt that there's a better place for people watching, anywhere. Sure, it has types, and conformity, and all that (you've got to identify yourself with some tribe) but from one block to the next is a shuffled deck of personalities and ways of expressing that. Sometimes, too, I think of it as a city of superheroes, with secret identities, because who knows what the suit does with his nights, or the hipster does with her family. Love it. Love. It.

  • Food. Twenty-four hours, from all over the world. Dig it.

  • It's difficult to not be doing something here. I mean, you've really got to work at it. Sometimes I feel like I was reincarnated from a shark, because one of the worst sensations I know is to stop moving. Ask anyone who's vacationed with me: I'm a pain. I like having somewhere to be, something to get done, and when you take that away from me I eventually begin to have problems with very basic activities (such as: breathing). New York is good for keeping one purposeful, and on his or her toes.

  • Circus. New York has it. Does your town?

  • New York is about as historical as the U.S. of A. gets. "What about Jamestown, Williamsburg (we have one, too) and Plymouth Rock?", I hear you cry. Dudes (oh my dudes), I grew up near a lot of such history, and it's poppycock. Sure, significant stuff happened there, and maybe an earthen mound or two remains, but more recently what happened there is that it has been rehashed, developed into more tourism than history. In New York, in spite of all the development, you get to turn a corner and find extant historical architecture. We live in and amongst it, and that's what history is really for.

  • People talk to each other here. This last one is a little difficult to explain to anyone who hasn't experienced it for themselves. New York sometimes gets referred to as "the biggest little town," and it's largely because of this phenomenon. Here, it is not considered rude to start up a conversation with a stranger. Here, you are likely to get advice from someone you don't know on the subway, because they have overheard your conversation. Different places have this, I realize, but there's something about this particular strange, unspoken, common identity shared by approximately 8,143,000 people that makes me very, very happy.
Of course, I could very easily make a "cons" list as well. After all, it's August in New York -- it would be very easy. But I think everyone knows the cons, to one degree or another. And anyway, the point is that someday . . . maybe sooner than we think . . . I won't live here anymore. People I meet thereafter may not understand why I moved at all, because I'll keep talking about missing the city. If and when I leave, it will be for good reasons, but it won't change any of the above.

Change is the only inevitability, it's been said, and I believe it. Still, some things in my life to date have proven especially resistant to change, and such things are usually related to love. And I love this town.

2 comments:

Greg said...

Your NYC Love list hits all the right notes. Hope you're enjoying the cooler temperatures!

Jeff Wills said...

DEFINITELY am, Greg, and hope you are too! Some like New York in June, but I prefer September/October...