new york city, 05/11–14/22
I’m back to living in New York again. Twenty-three years I’ve been trying to achieve escape velocity, the half-heartedness of my efforts halving, and halving, and halving into a Zeno’s paradox of inertia, the way living things do, with age. It’s good this time, really. I’ve lucked into a quieter apartment, with a garden, a rent setup that makes teaching a less precarious proposition, and proximity to good friends, dancing, and drums.
The whole country still feels like it’s holding its breath, anyway. Maybe it’s better to just sit still and wait until it’s clear what’s the safe way to jump.
The other day our bandleader sent a few of us on a gig to open Bryant Park’s lawn for the summer, celebrating a 30th anniversary. A questionable milestone. The “business improvement district” or “neighborhood association” or whichever group of Karens declared that it was 30 years ago that the park was relieved of its blight—“it wasn’t someplace you’d ever want to go,” explained a white lady—hence the perfectly manicured turf nobody had been allowed on, the ribbon-cutting, the topiary number 30.
The mayor, who was supposed to give an address, dropped out at the last minute. He was replaced by Joel Grey. As far as I’m concerned, Joel Grey can continue to act as mayor. I imagine he’d have a more sensible, compassionate plan for helping homeless people, even if his character in Cabaret was a sans souci Nazi turncoat while the flames licked around the Kit Kat Club. You expect Broadway stars to spin stories about some world they’re not committed to for the long-term.
Outside, it is winter. But in here, it is so hot, every night we have the battle to keep the girls from taking off all their clothing!
So! Life is disappointing? Forget it. In here, life is beautiful. The girls are beautiful. Even the orchestra is beautiful.
New York is not culturally part of the United States. In here, queer is beautiful. Black is beautiful. It’s legal for women to go topless. I am fortunate to be playing with one of the loosely-affiliated brass massives in the city, Hungry March Band; it is beautiful.
A drummer friend and I stuffed breakfast in our faces as we strapped on our kneepads and huddled in one of the midtown corporate-tax-break walkthroughs, this one claimed as a performance space by a venerable arts organization. The spring wind howled through the tunnel. It is always windy these days. It wasn’t, when I moved to the city. It’s so noticeable that even my Uzbeki taxi driver the other day nodded and attributed it to climate change. (Taxi drivers are a mixed bag, politically. But I meet more and more of them who are from Uzbekistan.)
It’s a fire risk, my bandmate commented, as the wind tossed her steely curls. I watched an entire apartment building burn to the ground because of it. One the same age as mine. I watched it as it started from one apartment, climb that whole line of apartments, and then make its way around the U of the building.
Where was the fire department? I asked, troubled.