When I left New York in 1994 I tried to tell myself I was sick of the city, sick of the heat on the subway in July, sick of gum on the bottom of my flip flop. But I was rationalizing. The thing about NY is even with its inconveniences and discomforts, take a girl out for long enough and she’s likely to miss it because…well, there’s that energy.
I’m back this week with one purpose only … to help my daughter Layla, get situated in her Brooklyn apartment — blank white canvas walls full of potential. Hers. I’m here to accommodate, assist, wait for the cable man, hang the shower curtain. I’m here to make sure the girl has a broom (which she doesn’t think she needs) and a martini shaker for when her mom (that’s me) visits. I’m not performing this week, writing a song, taking a meeting. There will be no usual run around the Central Park reservoir. Wahhhh. Basically, you can call me “Oflayla” (à la Handmaid’s Tail — if you know what I mean).
And … I’m back on that subway again. No matter how hot and sweaty it can get down there, there is one thing it never is: boring. For anyone who fancies themselves as a writer the subway is fertile ground for pondering. Word to the NY newbie: never stand still; you gotta walk up and down the platform waiting for the train or you’ll miss some colorful fodder: the guy talking to himself — is he a nut or an actor on the way to an audition rehearsing his lines?
That said, a lot has changed since I ran this town. 😜The NYC my kid will assimilate with is not the one I knew.
For one, you check your inventory before you leave your apt … phone, phone charger, phone wallet, playlists downloaded, earbuds, sunglasses, water, key fob (don’t you love key “fobs”?), cuz if you forget something it’s not so easy to make a U-turn on the L-Train. (If memory serves we survived just fine without the gadgets. We got to where we wanted to go, received messages somehow and managed to listen to music! Now — everyone’s face is in their phone (including mine) which is something I notice more in NY because the NY I remember had us looking at each other as we walked down the street. That’s how we met.)
Back down under, thanks to #MeToo, chivalry is indeed dead. I guess that’s a good thing? Gender should have no bearing on whether we offer someone our seat — one’s handicap or advanced age is another story. I’d like to think I’m not senior enough to be deferred to but after schlepping 50 boxes and overstuffed suitcases from a storage unit into a walk-up across town I wouldn’t turn a seat down. Full disclosure, I’m not actually doing the heavy lifting anymore and it’s not because I’m a prima donna. My body is simply no longer ‘agreeable.’ On the upside it’s $200 towards keeping another TaskRabbit “Tasker” in carrots.
Bushwick (where Layla will be starting-a-new), is what the East Village was like before gentrification. I feel a little guilty about her renting there because she reminds me that the community that’s inhabited this neighborhood for decades will again slowly but surely be pushed out. And here we are participating in the gentrifying. I’m sorry, Bushwick. I truly am. But what is she supposed to do? Where is she supposed to live? Then again, where are they supposed to live?
Layla’s spiffy little building is sandwiched between a burnt out structure and a junk yard. They say the area is up and coming. I believe them. I just wish it up and came already. I assure you, I’m “checking my privilege” as Layla has taught me to do but I can’t help it … this is a mother talking. She assures me she’s street smart bla bla bla. I’m still a nervous wreck. When I first saw the building I broke down just like my father did when he saw my first (cockroach infested) NYC apt (the one with the holes in the walls). She hugged me and promised it would be ok. Just like I hugged my Dad.
She also held my hand when we crossed streets, led the way from the M-train to the 6 — not that I couldn’t have done it myself, but it’s nice to be led sometimes — to not have to think. And…it is reassuring to see she actually does know were she’s going!
Last night we had dinner at John’s on 12th street (where that same humungous candle is still burning in the back room), with my dear friend Alex Forbes (my first songwriting collaborator). Layla and Alex are like peas in a pod. Who could have imagined? We were Layla’s age when we met — back when the village was alive and buzzing with diversity, bicycles and promise. And THAT has never changed.
I’m envious of my kid … envious of new beginnings in this life-affirming city. I don’t want to rewind. I just have extremely fond memories of beginnings and they’re flooding back vicariously.
Last week as I s-curved across Mulholland Drive, top down/wind in my face (Don Henley song alert!), appreciating Los Angeles for all its curves and waves, knowing it’s where my village is, my zen, my professional community, I asked myself for the first time since I moved west if I could move back east. After all, that’s where my only child lives now. Yes, she’s been 3000 miles away for the past 4 years but that was college. She was coming ‘home’ at some point, right? But then she didn’t. And when she does it’s called ‘visiting.’
I could write remotely from across the country. I could start a SONA satellite office and get east coast songwriters on the same advocacy page as the west. I would not be idle.
Funny, NY always feels like home when I’m there. It never stopped. She’s like the lover that I left but was never really over. (Now there’s a song!) But then I come back to LA and that feels like home too. Another lover from a different mother. Truth is NY is better for my brain. LA is easier on my bones.
It took me a while to come out of denial (another song!) about being sick of the heat and the dirt and the gum on my shoe. But I think I might be ready for more torture.
Adam will never go for it. And I couldn’t ask him to. So … did someone say pied-à-terre? Williamsburg? Greenpoint? Except I might need another hit or two to make that happen. Maybe I should get busy on “She’s Like the Lover That I Left But Was Never Really Over.” Hmm, is that a verse or a chorus?