June 7, 2016
7:07 AM – EST
New York, New York
Yesterday when I arrived in New York City it was as if my time in Los Angeles had never happened. I instantly felt right at home. I’m staying with a friend in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan, which is quite literally the furthest north you can go before stamping your borough passport for The Bronx, the often overlooked red-headed stepsister.
I saw old Dominican men hanging out on the corner having animated conversations, children playing, and sidewalk restaurants preparing for the summer evening blitz. Not to say these qualities had been obsolete or in short supply in Los Angeles, but I just didn’t have to look as far. In fact, all I had to do was open the front door.
Still, I can’t figure out if all I’m holding onto with New York is the past - that feeling of stepping off a plane to study at Columbia University in the summer of 2005 when I was a young man with enormous dreams. It’s nearly impossible to convey the excitement that pulsed though my body. I was in the finest city in the world, studying something I was deeply passionate about, and fell in love with a girl all within the first 14 days of my arrival. Everything was so easy, eerily so.
Strolling some of the same streets and hopping on similar trains leaves me longing for those days. Maybe I miss the simplicity, maybe my youth. I might just miss caring that much about something. Each turn, every glance reveals something from my past and I am nearly crippled with a sense of longing for what once was. It follows, or rather haunts me, relentlessly from coast to coast.
Perhaps it’s most challenging back in the Bay Area where I grew up. There my memories span even further back but are now accompanied with the reality of parents getting older and an aunt whose health seems to be fading.
Maybe this is the result of moving around so much. Not setting any roots. I lived in New York for a decade, tried Los Angeles for two with frequent visits to my native Oakland, and perhaps my soul is just confused, begging for some semblance of normalcy.
Now, as I prepare to embark on a journey to the Middle East the patience of that very same soul is waning. “A rolling stone collects no moss,” as they say. I’d like to meet the man who coined that phrase. He might be the only one who knows just how I feel.
I have wonderful friends. I’m staying with one of them right now. It’s a funny feeling being in New York and not being able to get into your own apartment because someone else is hanging their hat there. Still, I’m enjoying the company of my old classmate and hope dearly she feels the same. It reminds me of our grad school days being huddled into a prop closet anxiously prepping for a Beckett scene the following morning.
She seems to understand the big life decisions ahead of me. And rather than indulge me in talking about it she chooses to focus on other higher and spiritual messages, which admittedly I am a fan of. But, sometimes you just want your friends to have a sixth sense about these things and offer an ear, or some helpful advice. Still, I guess there’s something to be said for encouraging someone through silence and to just suck it the hell up. That works sometimes too.
My good friend Danielle, a 36-year old translator originally from Trinidad, said her father once told her, “You are responsible for yourself.”