Tale of Two Cities

I nearly asked my still strange boss if he was freakin’ nuts as he handed me 400 dollars in 20s for the last few nights work. Did he realize that I was walking uptown?

“Next week I’m going to need a check,” I insisted.

I could barley close my wallet to take my metrocard out, and the dangerous looking loiterers took notice. While waiting for the subway elbow to elbow, a guy next to be audibly haulked up some phlegm in my direction. I shot him a stare that said promised to teach him lessons in the limits of human pain. Even though he was twice my size, he apologized and lodged himself loose from the crowd to spit. I had successfully intimidated someone without even opening my mouth. I was becoming a New Yorker.

I have been here less than a week, working late nights slinging beer to yuppies in Hell’s Kitchen and sleeping in a Hostel in Harlem. I didn’t know a soul, and was nursing a Yuengling (America’s first brewery) feeling sorry for myself, when some locals broke with stereotype and invited me up to the table and bought be another round. Within the group of half a dozen or so strangers there was a magazine publisher, two actors, and several execs from the enterprise.

It had been only a couple days since my would-be roommate decided to head home. It’s not for everybody. Unless you consider graffiti art, garbage as scenery, and are adept at pushing your way through masses of the unconcerned to make it to work on time, you should save money and buy a round-trip ticket. My buddy asked me what I could possibly like about such a disgusting place. I guess that it is everything that the rogue valley isn’t: smoggy, diverse, and dangerous. Skyscrapers replace giant sequoias, retched bag ladies replace affluent beggars, and you can get a bite to eat after ten.

Eventually I figured out why guys kept buying me drinks in Chelsea, why the empenadas were so cheap in Bushwick and how a designer watch could cost five dollars. Eventually tourists in Ashland figure out why people in the park are so mellow, and why properties in Medford are so inexpensive and why they are paying 5 percent tax on top of their ten dollar panini. Eventually we all figure out why places are the way they are, and why people are drawn there. The same place, for two people, can be magical or maniacal. Tranquil or tranquilized. Even though I love the city, I don’t think I can go more than another six months without some park time (Central Park does not qualify as a real park).


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