Saturday, December 10, 2011

I love (the idea of) New York

Every couple weeks a friend of mine tells me we should move to New York. Whenever we get overwhelmed, lonely, lost or bored, the idea of relocating to the Big Apple comes up in a conversation and I understand this sentiment. There must be a place where we all can be happy, entertained, refreshed, fulfilled and loved. In American movies and tv shows New York was the place where people who were all looking for something where finally able to find their place. The problem with Gainesville is that it can grow  old on you. It's a college setting with a very active young bar and music scene. It tends to be cliquish  with the hipster lifestyle becoming more and more prominent. The problem with Gainesville is that it never grows up as you grow older. While we do have a range of cultural of entertainment offerings, the variety is just not there. It's easy to feel older when everybody around you is at most 21; it's easy to feel disconnected when you're no longer in school. And while there are other options the one thing that most people seem to do every night is drink. We look at our friends who live in New York and the active, fun, busy lifestyles they have and think we want to be them. The nightlife, the culture, the entertainment can keep anybody busy and inspired. The galleries, the museums, the restaurants- it really feels like a lot of my friends go out to some of this places many times a week and made it part of their lifestyle. Fun inspiring place that never sleeps.

I have never felt so lonely and so alone before my New York visit (I've been there four times). It's an odd feeling- millions of people and yet you don't connect to anyone there, their lives will go on whether you're there or not. In the movie "Collateral" one of the characters mentions that you could be dead for hours on a subway  and nobody would notice. Like I was cut and pasted from a different story.
Millions of people rushing somewhere leaves you with a cold feeling and I come from Warsaw, which is a big city. But New York was bigger. Felt stranger. More foreign.

I have never felt my disability as strongly as I do in New York. Parts of Manhattan, establishments, even sidewalks were wheelchair inaccessible. The many restaurants and clubs, the magic of the Big Apple was beyond my reach. I couldn't even stroll down street in the eastern side. While I understand what New York is to a lot of people, I will never get to experience it because of my wheelchair. Even the mass transit stations are only accessible to wheelchairs every few stops, blocks apart. I couldn't get lost and fall in love in NYC if I wanted to. And that's a darn shame, too. I think a lot of those big city movies and shows shaped my perception of America. Something I always wanted to experience while I lived in Poland. My mom brings that up when she talks about the reasons why I decided to stay in the States. But she's wrong. I don't get that in Gainesville.

I think of New York as goal, a dream, a state of mind. I could never live there, but I understand why my friend would. I think that's why I abandoned plans to pass the New York Bar. It is more a mythical city for me than an actual place. There's the exciting and then there's practical. I'm not like most people. We love talking about it, because it's different, it's fresh and exciting. I hope my friend will one day get her NY dream. I sometimes think  for her it's also only a concept. Her job is here and she hates winters. But she can make it there. I don't think I can.

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