When people ask me whether I like living in New York City, I can only answer in the day by day, the block by block. The city writ large is not a home. My treetop dwelling is my home and so is the northern half of Central Park and so is being with Joan. So.
To live well in New York is to find one’s rare and excellent spots: the little gardens no one knows of, the hideaways and stowaways, the stretches lying far from tourist stops and hipster startups. The landmarks most people associate with New York are not mine or my friends’; the reasons most come to New York have never been mine; the desires that most indulge do not attract or tempt me. My New York is a secret.
My New York is the day by day, the block by block, the glimpse by glimpse. Do I like Chelsea? Well, which street, which set of houses, which adjoining tree? The Upper East Side? Not around 2nd Avenue, that’s for sure. Did I see this exhibit? I saw the hydrangeas start to bloom in a garden I fear to publish. I saw my ailanthus tree in winter when the doves came and in spring as the rains began.
I suppose I am a New Yorker if by this one means that I love of my neighborhood, my sanctuary home, my retreat, my cloister, my garden. I do not know how one can flourish here unless this is also the case for you. Would I defend my city? I do not know, but I do know that I wouldn’t want to escape from my New York.
In New York, one’s home must be a secluded sanctuary, an enchanted world. Then also, as I say, the places you frequent must be nooks and enclaves where few others roam.
Last, you must get out of New York as often as possible. You must go into the woods and walk through bucolic fields, smell hay alluding to cow and summer, take forest paths opening onto dragon fly lakes. You must sit in the pasture, beneath an overhanging tree branch, and get drunk on the slowness of life: on the moments as they come to pass and pass away.