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One Week In

Letter From A Transplant

One week in, New York has rubbed me with equal parts exhilaration and paranoia. I soothe the latter with the notion I’ll never run short of batteries on the train and contain the former with the idea I’m just another guy, another strange guy, taking up a bit of sidewalk.

June in Brooklyn brings both the hint of winter and 87% humidity. Humidity percentages haven’t been my concern, coming from San Francisco. If you don’t mind the summer cold there and remember to dress in layers, you can shift your concentration to not saying the wrong thing. Here, people seem more expressive; friendly even. I’ve adjusted to psychological layers, stripping down to integrate and discover and buttoning up to contain the chilled synapse overload vibrating my brain.

My phone vibrates, too – I’m now a cell guy. Owned one for years, but only used it from my car in California to say “I’m here, let’s go.” Now it’s a source of familiarity, its comforting buzz against my thigh a reminder that somebody out there knows me. My guess is people here take similar solace in their cell phones- an individual experience among the masses and way of showing you’re not some crazed loner, but one of the connected. A self-contained experience simultaneously conveying approachability.

I used to think I could never get a job anywhere else, but the Fall Café down my block in Carroll Gardens has convinced me otherwise, and they are looking for a night-shift guy. The kid behind the counter is a workingman’s Jack Black who concentrates like a demon on his Chili Pepper’s mix but manages to space the tomatoes on my toasted bagel. Minimum wage does indeed have a face. I don’t think I’ll be taking the post.

It’s been less than two weeks and already I’m looking to the future and where I might settle. My Brooklyn sublet has been shelter from the burn of Manhattan, but living in the thick of it still has its appeal. That I chose this borough largely based on Beastie Boys lyrics is only mild exaggeration. Provincial inspiration allowing for rhymes like “I’m a city-slicker, I ain’t no townie / right now I wish I had another hash brownie” pack a lot more wallop than any residual Summer of Love bullshit San Francisco might be clinging to. It’s Jackie Gleason vs. Robin Williams; the F-Train vs. BART. Like walking down the street with the guy you’d pick in a fight.

Some things aren’t so great – looking in the Times sports section for a previous evening’s Giants score and seeing the note “night game,” as though that’s a fair excuse. They should at least add the honest disclaimer “nobody cares.” I’ve always been in the “ahead” time zone, having to live with east coasters knowing first how the Sopranos finale wraps, but going to bed with all sports finals safely tucked away.

I jog most mornings down by the water and Brooklyn Heights Promenade, taking in Manhattan’s slightly humbled skyline. That was when I decided to move, a few Septembers back, watching the obscene chaos on my 27-inch Trinitron, three thousand miles away. It really was a beautiful day, save that one ugly incident. Seeing the well-dressed many run for cover against the unreal backdrop of death and September’s warm glow, I thought “what a great city – I want to live there some day.”

So here I am at 37 – my mom packing two sandwiches for my Jet Blue flight over, so impressive that the airline is reconsidering its “no meals” policy. Taking up a bit of sidewalk space but keeping it moving. Trying not to let the air sit so heavily. Another strange guy, in the footsteps of many.

2003 Rick Monaco All Rights

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