Everybody keeps writing essays about the pleasure and pain of leaving New York and I mean, I get it, but I'm not going anywhere.
I moved the drafting table in my apartment over by the window and that's where I've been working; my apartment is tiny but its windows are big and when I write back cover copy for criminology textbooks I like to look out at the trees across the street. "You must make a pretty good living now, writing books," an acquaintance said to me, and I didn't want to be rude or depressing so I just laughed.
If I do go it'll be back to the peninsula, and alone: I have vague and hazy dreams about a little house on a lot of land, holed up with my books and guns and pitbulls, running solo marathons on the weekends and fasting in the mountains. In this fantasy I have acquired a prodigious set of backcountry, off-grid survival skills: installing solar panels, growing my own food, butchering cattle. This is, admittedly, unlikely. But just think--perhaps some romantic, ambitious project, in the quiet, lonely nights--reading all of Proust (in the original French, of course) while I wait, patient and certain, for the apocalypse to come.
I'm as guilty as anyone of waxing rhapsodic and unnecessary about this city, but what began as a desperate survival strategy (OF COURSE it's grand here OF COURSE it's grand here OF COURSE it's grand here, oh god, oh god) has turned into something less epic, less frantic, and more true. New York will never be home for me, not in the way the still green places of the peninsula are home, grey water against grey sky, gulls wheeling on the salt breeze; but home will never be large enough to hold me, and New York is the only place I have yet lived that is. Its brassy and ostentatious magic, its excess and its harshness, its filth and its glory, the hard and brutal labor of making a living, making a life here--a lot harder if you are poor, yes, but there are more than a few quite poor and somewhat poor and almost poor people here, calmly getting by and being happy sometimes, which nearly every exegesis I've read on one white person's final, mournful exodus has managed to overlook--are not for everyone, and if you do not find some love in living here there is not much reason to stay. But I would be sorry, right now, to go anywhere else.
The first few years I lived here were the hardest of my life and since then I have been very lucky. It's a luck, I am well aware, that could run out at any moment, and if it does there are not a whole lot of doors that remain open to me. I keep my fingers crossed and don't ask too many questions, work hard to not think about that sea of terror named the future. When I was really broke I would wake up crying every morning at four a.m., regular as a metronome, but I am not so broke now and more likely to sleep through the night, and decent dreams make for better days.
What I meant to get to was that there are a lot of us here, not rich, artists, making it work, because to us it is still worth it for as many reasons as there are people living here, a different reason for every person, a different ambition, a different joy. It is hard in New York but if you are poor or queer or trans or brown or female, weird, messy, cuss too much, too likely to get too drunk, crazy, causes trouble, strange clothes, way too big a cunt to be well-loved in Portland, it is fucking hard for you everywhere. All kinds of people make lives here and everywhere else, make art here, fall in love, have kids, build communities. Get in fights and work and write about themselves on the internet, forever, and then get sick of themselves talking about themselves, and then keep doing it, not that I have any experience with this personally. The shit you do when you are human. Living in New York is like living in a constant allegory for the terminal stages of capitalism but that doesn't make me love it any less. "At least it's honest here," I say to the cat, drinking a beer at my desk and looking out at the lowering dark. And then I go see my friends.