Everybody here wants to know what New York is like. New York has a mythicism that only gets stronger the farther away you get from it. I felt it growing up in Connecticut and you feel it, maybe, no matter where you are. Even the name of it holds something heavy, something important. People go to New York to do things, to accomplish things, to live a specific sort of life they’ve been crafting since they were eight, in their bedrooms with a Broadway poster on their wall and the soundtrack to Carousel on a constant loop on their dad’s old record player.
I went to New York looking for something specific and realized quickly there are two sorts of people who live there. Only two: the people who will live there forever, the people who want to live there forever, the people for whom New York holds so much more than the fairy tale of their childhood. For them it has paid out, it has fulfilled its promise, it has delivered. And then there are the people who want to leave. The people who can’t cut it, maybe, or the people who just realize their dreams of the city were convoluted and irrational. People like me, who expected New York to solve the questions I hadn’t even put to words yet.
There’s always been this issue I’ve had, of place verses expectation verses reality. The idea that you can’t travel outside yourself, you can’t hope to move so far away as to invent yourself into something new and impressive. You’re always the same person except what you see when you look outside your window has changed.
I was told there was a beautiful view, she says. She’s come to see my flat. I have two and a half months left in Edinburgh.
It’s nighttime. I have the windows closed against the draft of winter.
I want to tell her—forget at the view. It’s just another window, it’s just another street, it’s just another city.
But I pull the curtains aside. She presses her nose against the glass.
It’s hard to see, she says.
I was told a couple days ago: you can never really see anything properly until you leave it. Until it’s behind you. I want to say this to the woman looking out my window but I somehow don’t think it would be appropriate. I just describe it to her. What it looks like in the daytime. Cobblestone streets. An old church. A row of businesses (coffee shop, barber, Indian restaurant, sex shop).
When she leaves I shut the curtains again.
photographs taken with a Minolta X-700
in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens and the American Museum of Natural History