Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dear John Note to New York City (No. 1)

Dear New York City,

You have perhaps noticed that I have been becoming somewhat distant. Or perhaps you didn't notice at all? Yes, I know I still sleep over sometimes, but when you're not looking I have been hanging out with other cities. Yes, other cities, not just towns and hamlets. It's time you knew that I spent a week in Asheville North Carolina and -- I really don't care if you are snorting with laughter -- and I enjoyed myself very much. Size isn't everything, you know. No, I know you don't know. That's a concept that you will never understand, New York.

This is the first of several notes I am going to write you over the coming couple of months to explain to you why I just can't take our relationship any more. There are things about you which, over the course of our 28 years together, I have suffered and endured, and which at long last I have decided not to suffer any more. Yes, I know, it takes all kinds. But there really are cities on this planet that are simply nicer than you are, and I have at long last come to understand that I will never be able to change you. goes.

The first annoyance that I will bring to your attention is the following: What's with the New York men who, when you are humming to yourself on the street or simply smiling because you are happy, feel compelled either to puncture your mood by shouting, "Happy today?" or, worse, imitate you by tunelessly singing "la la la la la la"? What's with that? Like I can't hum on the street without some Goombah deciding to interrupt my ongoing musical conversation with myself with some pointless, ugly noise? I am a songwriter and I get some of my best ideas while walking, but there's nothing that kills a new melodic or lyrical idea faster than a goony comment like that.  Nothing. For me it's like a personal attack, and it happens all the time in you, New York.

What's worse (because it's more confusingly pointless) is that I do not believe these are pick up lines. Nor is this music appreciation. This kind of random street jabber is a clumsy attempt to start a conversation that could never start and has never started. It is an oafish bid to grab a bit of someone else's happy space, to put a screeching stop another person's creative flow, and to parasitically inhabit if only for a millisecond another person's hard-won peace of mind. It is a kind of pointless, mean mockery of anyone who would dare to be a little happy instead of stressed out, angry and slightly sick looking like most of your inhabitants.  And I resent it, really I do.

Have I fully tested Asheville on this point? No, I have to admit I have not. I was walking around with FF -- yes, I know you blame him for our breakup, but it has nothing to do with him -- and because I was talking with him I wasn't singing much. But I did smile a lot there and -- guess what? -- nobody mocked me, not once!  And, by the way, a lot of people were smiling at me too, for no apparent reason whatsoever except just the joy of being alive. I almost freaked out, there were so many people smiling there, sometimes not at me at all but just smiling for the hell of it. I guess because they are happy, can you imagine that? No, I bet you can't.

Look, I just want you to understand that I understand you have to be the way you are, and I don't blame you for it. I'll write you again soon and give you more concrete reasons to explain why I am leaving you. And please be aware that I'm not crazy enough to think you'll ever understand, or even care what I think of you.  But I'm doing it anyway, and you can take it or leave it. After 28 years, maybe you could try listening for once.

Now wipe that smirk off your face.

1 comment:

Liz in Ypsilanti said...

Maybe it's the northern Michigan country girl in me, but I think the world would be a better place if more people walked around singing softly to themselves (instead of plugged into other people singing at them). When I'm singing to myself, I'm incorporating the sounds around me, the voices of the birds, the sighing of the trees, the murmuring of the water...