Last week I went to Manhattan.
My Manhattan – as anyone who’s ever lived there for more than a decade would say, with the attitude that is somehow fitting. My Manhattan – the backdrop of my post college/early adult years. I built a career in Manhattan. I created myself in Manhattan. If you can make it there...and all that.
But going back is funny. Funny strange. It’s the same...but different. The danger has been Disnified, the edges have been softened. Everywhere you turn, looking down streets and avenues with legendary names, there are malls – shopping malls – filled with generic, lower case brand names. Can I return this? Probably not, but why did I buy it in the first place?
I remember, once upon a time, running across Times Square wearing not much more than a postage stamp – it was the Eighties...probably, Halloween...I hope – and now at that same intersection there’s an earring pagoda.
An earring pagoda.
The Walk on the Wild Side vibe is gone and has been replaced by a suburban boy band soundtrack of soft pop rap. It’s someone else’s city now. Some other twenty-something making himself up out of ramen noodles, concealer and a dream.
I wish him joy, this new twenty something. I wish him a happy life. I wish him an always safe return on a too late Saturday night. I hope he finds whatever he thinks he’s lost or is losing out on. I hope he learns to always be kind and empathetic, because that, as it turns out, is the only thing that inevitably matters.
I miss my Manhattan from time to time. It taught me much. And I love to go back...from time to time. But the times in between get longer and the current reality becomes more and more distant from the glossy, glamorous, high-contrast memories I hold dear.
Because Manhattan changes from day to day to month to year. It will never stop. But the Manhattan I know. the Manhattan I left my mark on and left its mark on me, my Manhattan will live forever in the intersections of my mind, where Fifth Avenue crosses Broadway – literally and symbolically.
When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. Clean is not enough.
– Fran Lebowitz