06 February 2008

Anonymity and cheese-grease

It's not horribly difficult to figure out where our affinities lie when you read this blog--we don't do a tremendously good job of hiding them (not that hiding them is our intent). So, it probably comes as no surprise that this last week in the city has been tonic to our travelled souls. Scary that an agglomeration of concrete, trash, and people too cool for their own good should serve as tonic, but it does.

The week has been an ocean of sushi consumed with wanton disregard for its heavy-metal affinities, thin-crust pizza folded in half and eaten while still dripping cheese-grease, overcrowded and broken-down subways (one might wonder if the A will ever actually work like it's supposed to--were one inclined to wonder about such things), soft-boiled eggs done just like they're meant to be, text message flurries, the arcana of Super Tuesday's contests, trips to Duane Reade, and meals with friends we haven't seen for months and will not likely see for many months to come.

But more than that, this week has been a whirlwind of anonymity, of being able to walk down streets that pulse, even at two in the morning, with life, and grab a salad. And feel safe. For those of us enculturated into the individualism that defines our generation, that kind of anonymity is a balm we're likely not to get on the ship. New York offers something that many places we've seen, been to, and lived in do not: a sense of oxymoronic, anonymous community, foisted upon you simply by dint of the fact that you are surrounded by the masses of the mostly-washed. This is the sort of city in which the lives of others unfold, naked and often lubricious, in the middle of the street. This is the sort of city in which a McCain supporter and a Hillary campaigner can get into a heated altercation in the middle of a public square and be left unperturbed by the rest of us. This is the sort of city in which, because you're surrounded by the lives of others, you can feel like you're part of something. Even without being part of something. This is anonymous community.

This is New York as a cop out.

But, it would be disingenuous to claim that we don't love it here, that this doesn't feel like home, that, in the midst of friends constantly in flux, of people who walk and talk way too fast, we don't feel unabashedly like this is exactly where we belong. Because, underneath the teeming city, shaded from the lives of others, community--real communinty--does end up happening. Real groups of like-minded friends emerge, and that, almost effortlessly. After all, New Yorkers (all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding) are nice.

And this is what we leave tomorrow. To join the crazy doctors and crazy Christians (to use the New York Times' phrase) in Liberia.

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