Big APPLE. APPLE! APPLE! APPLE!

Posted by jdg | Friday, March 03, 2006 |

This is Juniper's second trip to New York. We hushed her through a half dozen harrowing black cab rides while she screamed in our arms last April, when she was barely two months old. My parents never brought me to New York. My father came once, in 1970, to visit his older brother who was living at the YMCA and attending photography school, hoping to become the next Garry Winogrand. One night during my dad's stay, the guy staying in the next room got stabbed to death by another guy. Shaken, my dad decided to leave New York and get on the next bus to Kalamazoo, but not before my uncle convinced him to drop a wad of cash he'd earned fixing cars on a leather jacket with fringe tassels, which were apparently all the rage among the wannabe bohemian types in Greenwich Village. When he got back to Kalamazoo, all his beer-drinkin' body-shop roustabout buddies made fun of him for the leather fringe, so he cut them all off. These two events had a profound effect on my father, who even today when I called him to let him know we'd arrived safely, said:

"New York. Bah! You'll never get me back to that place. It's all stabbings and tassels."

I first visited in March, 2002, taking the train in from New Haven while Wood attended some punk rock lawyer conference at Yale where everyone was sitting around talking about giving basic human rights to Chimpanzees, orang-utangs, gorillas, and probably baboons. I walked around Manhattan for about ten hours without eating a thing or spending a dime. It felt strangely like the first time I watched Casablanca, in college, with so many piecemeal lines that I'd heard in a hundred thousand unrelated contexts suddenly coming together to add meaning to a narrative. So too New York became an actual place after all those years, something more that the streetscapes exposed on film or the postcard landmarks that everyone who inhabits the earth encounters over the course of their lives.

I did the same thing when I furst got to Dublin when I was nineteen. I walked and walked and walked for three days, trying to figure out where I was, trying to forget that it would be many months before I would see Wood again. I met two girls from Manhattan studying at Trinity, who kept saying that Dublin was such a "cute little town." To me, it was the biggest place I'd ever lived, but I guess you look at the world differently when you grow up watching thousands of faces pass by you every day and none of them the same.

So my daughter may one day know better, but I will always be the kind of guy who walks around here with a lump in my throat, unable to shake the burden of tourism.