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Everyone's favorite metaphor, New York City.

I was thinking about New York City the other day.  Correction: I was thinking about the fictionalized version of New York City that exists in my head.  I've never actually been, so I don't have a real NYC to think about.

Through my entire life, I've been presented with a lot of different opinions and perspectives on New York, and I'm not sure it's fair for me to pretend to have one.  So instead of talking about the real city the way a lot of others can and do, today I thought I'd muse a bit on the fantasy.

Picture stolen shamelessly from the History Channel website.
The New York of my dreams is the city of film, the city of culture and human experience, the mythological place where you can go and immediately feel your connection to the world and realize that you, too, have a part in this great machine.  In my fantasy, New York is where I'm the protagonist of my own adventure movie.  I'll meet some wacky folks on the street and have a few humorous misunderstandings.  Then I'll meet the love of my life.  We'll share something passionate and real as we listen to music on the street and engage in True Art.  Something unexpected or possibly tragic may happen - but as I race through the streets and have one profound experience after another, I'll realize every minute of my day is a microcosmic metaphor for change in my life as a whole, and at the end I'll right all the wrongs in my path and settle down for a Happy Ever After.

The biggest fallacy of this, of course, is that you don't need New York for any of that.  Some of the most profound moments of my life happened in the suburbs.  Most of my profound interactions came and went and I didn't even notice until years later how important they were.

And that leads me to wonder what the New York of reality is.  I'm in kind of that same situation as I am with The Wire, where I'm not sure I ever actually want to go - I fear that if I have the experience, I'll be utterly disappointed.  "You mean I drove six hours to eat pizza that tastes the same as the delivery place down the street?  What a crock."

To some extent, my fantasy of New York is what led me to want to live in Baltimore, despite knowing in advance its reputation for crack, rats, and more murder than you can shake a crack-addled rat at.  It's the belief that a city can bring me closer to those interpersonal connections that made me look past those flaws and see something beautiful and human.

In many ways, it has paid off.  Living in the city does remind me that I'm not alone and that I'm part of something bigger.  But honestly?  I don't really do a whole lot of things differently with my spare time than I did when I lived in the suburbs.  I still mostly just watch movies, write, play board games, and bitch about everything while I do it.  The difference is that city life is just so much more convenient and there's better food.

My city, as I see it most days.
Don't get me wrong.  I love living in the city.  I refuse to move back to the suburbs until my house burns and I'm out of options.  All I'm saying is that the core of me - the part you get to when you strip away all the opinions and bile - is going to be the same no matter where I live.  The city didn't change that.

And that's why I wonder if the New York of my fantasy is a culturally shared hallucination.  Do all of us celebrate a mythic New York?  Do we all yearn for a reminder of our inter-connectivity and purpose even as it's pinching our noses?  I'd like to think so.  I'd like to think the New York of fiction is a metaphor we all understand on a cellular level, an image conjured by deep-coded DNA that tells us we are all one.  If that's true, then it doesn't really matter where you live, because you can appreciate that metaphor from all over the world.

For me, that metaphor becomes concrete through my writing.  The feeling I get when I work on one of my novels is the gut-swelling pride of being connected to the Beyond Me bigness of the world.  When I navigate the murky paths of a narrative, I feel like I'm on the bustling streets of the metropolis.  When I share my work, I feel like I'm sitting on a fire escape and listening to my punk band neighbors work out a new track.

I feel I'm rambling at this point.  But if there's any truth behind my musings, it means there's somebody out there right now who knows exactly what I'm talking about and who's feeling the light bulb satisfaction of having their thoughts put into words.  Believing that that person will read this (and who knows, maybe buy one or two of my books) is all the thrill I ever wanted.

So today I'll say a prayer and offer a toast for our friend, our fantasy, our favorite metaphor, New York City.

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