Thursday, December 14, 2006

Another Homecoming

Arriving back in Lebanon yet again is less exciting and more deja vu each time I am on break. This time, the dullness of my hometown is compounded by the total awesomeness (and lack of a close-by replacement) of New York.

I'm afraid that I'm destined to be THAT girl who's like: "Oh my God! Well you think THAT sandwich is good?? AT SIXTH AND TWELFTH IN MANHATTAN I ONCE HAD THIS SANDWICH THAT RIVALED GOD." yackyackyackyack.... It's like when I came back from studying abroad in the south of France and everything was about the Mediterranean and apricots, except this time it's all about the East River and pizza. And oh-mi-god-lemme-tellya-bout-the-pizza-!!-pepperoni-like-you-wouldn't-believe-sister-!!.

And let's face it: I really hated New York for the first month or so I was there. HATED IT.

The crowds. The smells. The subway stabbings. The drug dealing elderly women on my stoop. The cooped-up feeling of a boyfriend-shared, one-bedroom apartment. The yelling on your corner at 2 am. The elbowing for room on Sixth Avenue. The Staten Island accent. Did I mention the crowds?

I once spent the entirety of forty blocks underground on an express train that was crawling more slowly than the local tracks with my nose pressed into one man's armpit and my ass pressed into another man's palm.

I hated New York.

But like every other sucker who moves to the city, I fell for it.

After the sun goes down and the sidewalks radiate heat from the day, a breeze blows in from the Atlantic and it's hard not to love it. By dusk, the city rushes quietly home--by bus, by car--and the din of clinking flatware against white porcelain plates plays like distant hands on ivory keys in Carnegie. Walking along 82nd, the squeaking friction between a wine glass and the terry cloth drying it is louder than your footsteps while the old man holding both these items stares at you through his thick glasses from his fourth floor apartment and you think that it's nice he doesn't live any higher than the fourth floor if he absolutely must live in a ritzy apartment on the Upper West Side and that you have maybe seen him on the subway with a camel-colored briefcase and you know there's only the one wine glass and that he has dined alone.

When the weather cools down, the leaves change color--setting the city afire in oranges and golds. And you love that even after months of becoming a jaded New Yorker, the sight of the Chrysler Building's triangulated, impossible tip first buzzing and then bursting into light like an inverted firecracker against a dark canvas sky still takes your breath away.

There's a lot wrong with New York, but the real problem is that there's too many things right with it. You can't always love it, but you can't leave it either. If you do, you can hear the chk-chk, chk-chk of the subway, the clacking of stilettos against pavement, the honking of taxis and the fizzing, crackling electricity of the city as it turns on its lights. It's too much to bear and you know you'll be back.

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