What it Takes to Live/Love a City
Patience. And a Plan B. The bus/trolley/subway might be running late. Signal failures, traffic, overcrowded stations, bad weather and the unfortunate human tragedy happens often.You can’t predict these things. You have to breathe, re-set, and hope you remembered a book or picked up the newspaper that day. Your boss/friend/husband/wife will understand you’re late. The same thing happened to them yesterday, or the day before.
You need music in your ears to drown out the sirens and headaches that are sure to ensue. You need to, as often as you can, remove the distraction and listen to the world around you. Hear the languages, laughter, rhythms, and tapestries being painted in sound all around you. You need to hear the feet beneath you, as sometimes you forget they are there, as you are always moving – you can go on auto-pilot. Remember your feet.
It takes a good sense of humor. An ability to laugh at yourself at the end of the day – after you’ve slipped out of a bus, had your coffee spilled by a rude tourist, burped loudly in a crowded elevator, and sneaked out for a cigarette break even though you don’t smoke. Laugh at it all, then forgive yourself. You have to. The offices, grocery stores, modes of transit, street corners and everywhere in between are seldom solitary. There’s little space. You need to make space to laugh and breathe.
You’ll need ability to shuffle behind the crowds moving slowly ahead of you. A flexible shoulder to break past the person heading your way without bumping in to them. Keep a constant gaze towards the horizon. Don’t lost track of your peripheries and from time to time, glance down. You need to know how to decipher just what that “puddle” is. You need awareness. Know who is asking you for money to go buy a can of beer and who is actually a lost human being in need of help. Any bit.
You will love the endless events and things to do. A gallery will open, a great band will play, a market will spring up and something you didn’t even know about will stop you in your tracks and you just have to go. You have to know how to balance that with nights in. You must give your body sleep and your mind some rest. Be as kind as you are curious. You have to switch off and slow down from time to time. You’ll never be able to see and do it all. Pick and choose what excites you. What is strange. What calls, beckons. Change and grow with the city. Love the places that are flagships. The places that will dutifully, hopefully never change – they are your anchors. Then, discover something new. Switch between familiar and foreign. Be in limbo. Take comfort and take risks.
It will take an understanding that humanity is all around you – in its most urgent and ugly forms. It will certainly feel fleeting or invisible at times. Know that it is constantly whirling through the streets, air, and static. It’s holding on to those moments, while standing, waiting for something, and you see an ad for your city, another city, for London, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Paris, San Francisco – anywhere – and your heart leaps. It swells with the possibility and passion of those places. And there you are, full of romance and wonder on a platform. And when you feel lost in your city, you will look at its pavement, window washers, park benches, and telephone booths – and all around them you will see memories – secret places that hold secret moments. You will see the places you left your heart scattered all about the city.
You have to know that some days, the city will try to chew you up and spit you out. And then on the days when it feels so impossibly lovely, so pulsing with kinetic energy, so alive, and free, and wild – you will think of those other days and feel perfectly happy and content. Perhaps they will be so distant from the moment when the sun tips over the crest of the skyline, those other days won’t even cross your mind. Then, perhaps, you know, you feel, you are exactly where you are meant to be. You are home.