Yesterday I was walking down the street on my way to the Guggenheim with that glazed, "Why-Am-I-Out-In-This-Heat" look, when my eyes met the same look in the face of a woman walking in the opposite direction. Consciousness kicked in, a personal connection was established and we both realized we were staring into each other's hell. And then arrived that moment when you worry that some intrusion is ensuing, that the person is annoyed that you're staring at them. Because heat makes a person irritable, and New Yorkers are irritable by nature.
But we also know how to roll with the punches.
Soon after I first moved to NYC, seven long years ago, there was a massive, biblical rain storm. Some impossible amount of water poured down over the city in a one hour period during morning rush hour, flooding the train tunnels and the highways. It was as if a lake had appeared above the city and gravity had called it down for a rules-of-the-universe correction.
I turned on the TV to see what the hell was going on and I heard a guy, using the full weight of his New York accent, being interviewed three blocks from my apartment say, "Yeah, I'm driving up the FDR and I look out and the river is coming up over the road and before I know what's what, it's all around my car. And I jump out and manage to get up higher and I look and see my car's going into the river; it's swallowed by the river. But whatareyagonnadoaboutit?It'sNewYork."
And I thought, "Is 'whatareyagonnadoaboutit?It'sNewYork' an actual word?"
I had only lived in the city for about a month and hadn't yet been through terrorist attacks and blackouts and inexplicable train-waits and gridlock and protests and presidential visits and cab-rides and blizzards that dump two feet in a day and then disappear as if they had never been and dreams daily dying as fast as they're born and a million-million other things that I never even imagined could present themselves as a challenge to everything I thought I knew.
New York will bring home a Dylan lyric like "I was so much older then; I'm younger than that now." He lived here when he wrote it.
And so, as the woman and I passed each other, in our eyes-locked game of chicken, we simultaneously pulled out our "whatareyagonnadoabout it?It'sNewYork" smiles and melted the heat with a little warmth and moved on.