(stolen from here, a blog that no longer exists)
There is a rhythm to walking in cities, and craving this rhythm is one reason why I sometimes crave being in cities. There is a rhythm to being in a long-distance relationship, too, but it’s an enforced one that I never crave.
Manhattan on a rainy Saturday afternoon. The bus into the city: college kids going to city clubs, reverse weekenders. I read food magazines and stare out the window, and soon enough, just when I’m starting to feel car sick, we round the turn over the Hudson, that gray view I’ve seen hundreds of times that always brings up that mix of anxiety, boredom, and exhaustion I associate with my years in the city. Then we’re inside and through and under the Hudson, and before I can even think of bombs and cracks in the tunnel and rushing water we’re there: the bowels of Port Authority, gathering up bags and climbing up the stairs and not making eye contact.
And then: the motion of the crowd pushes me onto Eighth Avenue, and I am striding through the streets on long legs, dodging obstacles, ducking around people, hustling to make the lights. I have my system: it should take one minute to walk one street. Maintaining a rhythm is essential to continued light-making. Tourists, strollers, giant umbrellas, all must be dispensed with swiftly in order to keep the rhythm. Twelve blocks and three avenues to go, walk walk walk. I like to push myself, I like efficiency. I like walking alone in the city, my bag tucked neatly under my arm. It is a train-like rhythm, chugging along.
Along the way I pass my personal landmarks: the junk souvenir shop where I got my passport picture taken after September 11, 2001 so I could flee the city; the apartments of two of my clients and someone I used to do private cooking for; an old Burritoville location (RIP); the corner where I once ran into my high school nemesis and she told me that we were the only ones from our high school to leave the state; Esca, where my old office once had a holiday party; and Lexus of Manhattan, former employer (before she fled town) of the client I had to sue because she stole $800 of food and containers from me, way back when I was nice and believed people (for four weeks!) when they said they would “pay next week.” A pretty blah neighborhood, with pretty blah memories to match. Walk walk walk.
Then I’m there, or at least I think I am: I’ve never been the this venue, but the kids with asymmetrical haircuts sitting outside are my unerring landmark. I call you and you walk me inside, into the warm, dark, cavernous room filled with “check one two three” and swirling lights being tested out and a few hipsters meandering around aimlessly, looking like they need a shower.
I will go backstage and get a bottle of water, say my hellos then watch soundcheck. You’ll show me your new soundboard and all the fancy computerized things it can do, and Brent the monitor engineer will ask if that’s me out there from his world on the side of the stage, and I’ll talk into the microphone at the sound board and say yeah, listening to my thin voice bounce off the walls. After soundcheck we’ll go get dinner then ice cream, and we’ll hold hands under the table at dinner while we wait for the check, looking into each others’ sad eyes.
Then, that’s it.
I know it’s silly to go to the city just to have dinner with you, but I’ve seen the show before and I have to cook tomorrow, so you will walk me back to Port Authority and I will get on the bus. I think about taking the 11:30 bus and watching a bit of the show—I love standing next to you, watching your brain work and training my ear so that I am expecting you to turn the snare down slightly when it starts sounding tinny, putting on earphones for my favorite songs and turning the volume up and down with the one knob on the sound board I know how to use: “headphone volume.” But getting home super late is no fun, so I let go of your hand and climb onto the bus.
I’ll cook tomorrow and the next day, then my mom will come visit for 4 days, then I’ll cook again, and make truffles, and prepare for the Thanksgiving onslaught, then Thanksgiving cooking at Bloodroot, then you’ll be home again. You’ll say it will only be two weeks, but it’s two and a half, and we’ll laugh about how you always underestimate.
That’s how the rhythm goes, and it’s important to stay with it—plan these little day trips when we can, night trips when possible. We can’t have a dog because of it, and house projects are always on hold because of it, but we aren’t selling our souls for our jobs, and we make it work. Tonight on the bus I willl be almost unbearably sad, but tomorrow I will wake up and go to the kitchen, and IM you and call you and videoconference with you, and the rhythm will just go on.