A Night In The City

The city is so different to me now. Or maybe this is only me. Maybe she is exactly the same, which, let’s face it. She really is.

The streets have the same names. The names on the buildings might have changed. The decorations are a little different now, but the avenues are still the avenues and the cobblestones downtown are the same as they’ve always been.

The romance is still there. At least, I think it is. I would say it has to be. The romance in New York City is colored in different ways by different people—everyone is out there, just trying to find their way and the right place to be. And I get it.
I could say that yes, I have always been both a hopeful and hopeless romantic. I can also say that I have had my walks of shame which is fine because one thing’s for sure, The City never tells —only people do.

Times Square is far from what it used to be. The long legs that worked the street are elsewhere now. The same can be said about the upgrade on 42nd Street. All the movie houses are closed down. This place looks nothing like it did when I bought my first fake I.D.

It’s been a long time since I made the late-night trips over the 59th Street Bridge. This was one of my most favorite things. I’d be in a car with the boys, about to enjoy the late night, nightlife. We were all crazy and wild and eager —all of which is the perfect mixture for the best kind of trouble.
There was a sign on the Queens side of the bridge that read “Perfection Is Not An Accident.” I saw this as fitting. Nothing is ever really an accident. Even accidents aren’t accidents. They’re just something that comes along to change our destiny.

There was so much I wanted to see and do back then. There were so many things I wanted to be.
I wanted to be good. I wanted to be known and be out there. I wanted to be right in the spotlight and to see everything, firsthand.
I was unafraid and yet, I was literally petrified of everything.
I was nervous as ever, excited, young, hopeful and ignorant, but yet, I was still resilient enough to get up and go if I had to.
My roots were still young enough to be uprooted and still survive. I could have moved anywhere and tried anything. And this was fine because youth was on my side.

I worked but not too hard. I had a job but my passion was elsewhere. I had a suit and tie, a briefcase, and a pocketful of business cards that I rarely gave out. Instead, I gave into daydreams about a life I wanted more of, but couldn’t see if the dreams were real.

There were no limits back then. At worst, all that could happen is a boss would fire me. At worst, all that could happen is I would start over someplace else, which was fine because what the hell?
It’s not like I was old, right?
It’s not like I had anything to tie me down. We were kids back then. Nothing was ever too important, and nothing was ever so intense.
There was no such thing as a mortgage. I had no idea about 401K plans nor did I care about retirement plans. Besides, that’s what old people do. And I swore I would never grow old.

I used to break away from the crowd sometimes and walk the streets of my city. I would think about the people I’d pass and the things I would see.
I wondered if I would ever dare as much as say, be someone that took the stage at an open-mic night and read some of my ideas.
I wondered about names like Carroll or O’Hara. I thought about the inspiration behind their poetry. I thought about the parks and the benches and the bums and the junkies.
I thought about the rich and the poor and the mixture of the two in places like say, The Limelight, and how the world was safe to explode in music and everyone would dance until the sun came up.

There were lustful times and hopeful times, and times when I swore, I knew there would be love out there for me (somewhere).
There was an after hours spot that I went to in SoHo. I talked to a woman that held a leash that led to a collar around a grown man’s neck. He only spoke when she gave him permission, which I’m sure is a neat trick.

There were the nights of meaningless romance that led me to nothing else but a dose of my sad reflection, hopeful, but yet wondering if I would ever find a time that I did not feel out of sorts or out of place.
Such is life when you are young.
There is so much out there to see. The roots are not as deep, and the idea to get up and move could be as simple as the wind blowing east instead of west. 
California? Maybe . . .

I have seen my city go through facelifts and changes. I watched old buildings come down and new high-rises go up.
Proud to say that I have been inside the Twin Towers. In fact, my last visit was Saturday, September 8, 2001, just three days before they went down.

I sat at the table where others sat when the bomb went off at World Trade, back in 94. I was talking to a friend of mine. He was there when this happened.
Then he curled his lip and twisted his face with an expression of doubt. He said, “But I’m not worried. That’ll never happen again.” 
Fate was a bitch with this one. It only took a few days to prove him wrong. I was working at a building on 54th Street at the time. I saw it all from the rooftop and thought to myself, “I was just there!”

I had the chance to see the show, “Rent,” on 40th Street.
To say this was impactful is an understatement. The writer died before opening night. And since then, I’ve always had this underlying fear that I might never pull off my trick and see the effects of what I’ve built.

I have this thing I’ve been working on. I can’t tell you what it is—at least, not exactly. I have this little room in my head where I go to work on it—and I tweak it. I add some color. I change the parts. I adapt and switch things around. I take notes as if I were a scientist in a lab coat somewhere, working on a top-secret thing, which I am. And this is—top secret, I mean.
Nobody knows about this place but you. Nobody knows about the nights in the city and how each little memory builds like a piece to my creation. No one knows about the secrets. No one knows about the times I spent on the rooftops, hoping and dreaming. No one knows but you.

It’s been a while since I stood next to one of the hot dog carts and gulped down a soda. I’d swallow a few hot dogs with mustard, ketchup, and sauerkraut. I haven’t had a hot pretzel in a long time either or the toasted coconuts I used to get by Columbus Circle. I’d get a bag of toasted coconuts before I walked in Central Park to think about the moment I’d have my opening night. The lights go on and the curtain comes up. And there I’d be in a thousand pieces of words, reading about the time I went out with the boys and tried to reincarnate my best James Dean at a place called Merc Bar

Wait, what am I saying?
of course you do . . .

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