Los Angeles, CA
Trips to New York City often spur a tsunami of memories, both good and bad, about my life. It's easy to stumble upon an unchecked memory when you walk down the street and see a face, or storefront, or landmark which triggers your memory banks and a flood of images swirl around your brain. It's hard to pinpoint the origins of these memory dumps, but I'm getting bombarded with memories as far back as the 1970s when I was a little one and as most recent as my last trip to NYC with Nicky.
My old neighborhood is changing like most old neighborhoods often do during a massive cycle. New York is a city that is under constant construction. The new is built on top of the old, and the old is maintained as long as it can be, before someone buys the crumbling mess, and tears it down to put up a new structure. And the new structures are always taller than the original ones. Vertical. That's what is happening, and has been happening since the Guild Age -- a Vertical assault on the skies.
No wonder parts of me are all out of whack -- which is what happens when you spend most of your childhood six stories above terra forma.
I see lots of familiar faces in the old neighborhood, but I also see plenty of news ones. The ebbs and flows of the neighborhood. I wondered how many kids I grew up with stayed here, and how many got out, only to return as an adult due to some unforseen downturn in their lives -- losing a job, getting a divorce, fighting the cancer bug -- because my peers are reaching an age when many of them are struggling with the fallout of their first marriage. Some of them are on their second and breeding with another woman. Man, I haven't even settled down with a first wife, let alone considered having kids in this insane world that is getting crazier by the day...hour...minute...second.
I wandered around the city with the assumption that there's a very good chance that I return as a temporary citizen. Nicky and I have been in deep discussions about leaving the City of Angels. I want to get the fuck out before the Big Quake hits, but there's a small opportunity for us to live in NYC for a few months at the end of the year and share an apartment with a mutual friend. As much as that would hinder me as a writer (I'd lose my office), I've been wanting to live in NYC fulltime ever since I left in 2005 to become a poker writer. After that initial introduction to the nebulous poker world, I got sucked into living in Las Vegas, while roaming the circuit for most of the year. I eventually settled into a relationship and opted for LA instead of Sin City. Vegas was too tempting and too dangerous of a city for me, and besides, the darkness was unappealing to me. I often tell my friends that Vegas had gotten so dismal for me that the hills of Hollyweird seemed like paradise. It's been a few years since I made the move to the West Coast, where I holed up to write Lost Vegas. I spent almost every free waking moment in LA focused on finishing that behemoth of a manuscript. And in the last few months, I re-wrote Jack Tripper in the same space.
Man, it's going to be hard to leave the office behind because I got used to having a door of my own to close and write without distraction. Regardless of the lack of an office for me, we still might just pull the trigger on living in NYC for a few months. I can suck it up for a bit, right? It's not like I'm going to start working on a new project until January of 2012, right? And the cost is almost a wash. If I can pick up an extra assignment or article or two, I should have no problems making the transition. In some areas, NYC is cheaper than LA, but at the same time, LA has its financial advantages.
The cheap food is an interesting aspect to the city. I spent most of adult life as a starving artist and compiled a list of cheap, yet delicious eateries. When in doubt, a bagel or slice of pizza can become a meal and tide you over a couple of hours. Shit, just yesterday, I grabbed a Sicilian slice that cost $2.50 and was probably the 2.5x size of two crappy slices in LA, which cost twice the price. That tided me over in between a late breakfast and early dinner with my mother.
And yes, this was a little bit of a rough trip considering that I had to hang out a bit with my mother and do my taxes. The taxes bit sucked ass. No one likes writing checks to the Treasury to do who knows what with my hard-earned money. It took me a couple of days of prep work in LA and then a full day and a half in NYC to finish everything up. This is my least favorite time of year and I'm fucking thrilled it's over. I shipped my blood money to the federales and now they can lay off me for another year. Because that's what you're really do right? Sort of like paying the mafia "protection money" because they'll leave you alone as long as you pay up in a timely fashion. Otherwise, they will become a pain in the ass.
I spent an afternoon in the museum. I ran into Chuck Andresen at the Met. I had sent him a signed copy of Lost Vegas and he was thrilled to have one. He suggested that I see a couple of exhibits including the Emperor's Private Paradise: Treasures from the Forbidden City. I wanted to see Cezzane's Card Players...for obvious reasons. While I was there, I checked out a bunch of other exhibits. The only ones that stuck out included The Andean Tunic: 400 BCE-1800 CE and Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsmen from Italy to New York. I'm usually excited about the other special exhibits, especially photography, but I was let down by what they were showing. Art is hit or miss...and this trip was mostly definitely a miss. At least I got to see an old friend, Chuck, and wander around the museum and subsequent Central Park in an oxy-induced haze.
My brother is in-between jobs, so he had off from work last week, which meant that we could watch the March Madness games without any worries because he didn't have to get up early and head to work the next day. My bro no longer works for "The Sack" and he's moved onto better and brighter things. Lets hopes the insurance industry can handle this financial tsunami that is headed our way. With Portugal completely insolvent now and Ireland next up on the list, I can't stop wondering when the EU is going to sink and when all of the American states/cities start defaulting on their debt. That's when it's really going to get ugly in America.
Until that moment of reckoning occurs, I continued on with my journey in life, as I drifted back and forth between old and new memories of NYC. I mean, will I really be back in a few months? I can't think about that right now -- I still have Jack Tripper to publish, the 2011 WSOP to work, and Phish's summer tour to party hard on before I can consider returning....home.