I lived in New York for four years and never really fell in love with it. There are parts I love, sure, like the Bethesda Fountain and the three archways under the terrace in Central Park. The Audubon Center in Prospect Park. The Green-Wood Cemetery. And there are streets I love, blocks I love, bookstores I love and coffee shops I love and used to sit in for hours, writing letters or writing stories or not writing anything, staring out the window wondering why I wasn’t writing anything.
I love parts of New York. I didn’t write my first book in New York but I wrote the first sentence of it driving from my brother’s house in Clinton Hill back to my studio in Crown Heights, almost fully packed up and stacked high with boxes and garbage bags filled with eighteen months of accumulated junk. I’ve always had too much stuff. Lately I’ve been trying to shake it off.
I was driving on Nostrand Avenue and I caught sight of a black motorcycle in my rearview mirror and I imagined what would happen if the driver, weaving in and out of traffic dangerously, crashed. I pictured him sailing over my car. I pictured him bloody and dead on the pavement.
I took out my phone. I opened up the voice memos and pressed record. I spoke the first sentence of my book. It’s still the first sentence of my book, too. I like that sentence. I’m prouder of that sentence than I am of any other sentence I’ve ever written.
I left New York a few days later. I took a lot of things with me and left a lot of things behind. But I think, most importantly, I took that sentence. I typed it into my computer. I wrote a book. The book isn’t set in New York, the book has nothing to do with New York, but it somehow is New York, it’s my New York, just the same. It’s a small piece of this city. Oh and there’s one more line—a tiny line about waking up halfway to New York. And that’s all. Maybe one day I’ll write a proper book about New York, but until then, this one will have to do.
photographs taken in Manhattan and Brooklyn with a Canon 60D and 50mm f/1.4 lens.