Last night Adam and I reminisced about summer nights in the city. We have a shared favorite memory that started at happy hour in the East Village followed by a crowded subway ride, then an outdoor movie in the park – a blanket squeezed in among strangers – which led us to a loft party in Williamsburg and finally a cab ride back to my old apartment on the Upper East Side. It was the kind of night that began with almost no plans at all and was swept along by the current of New York City in the summertime. A night that seems as impossible now as it seemed possible then.
A few of you have asked me to describe New York right now and if I had to sum it up – it would be that the spark has sort of gone out this summer. That feeling of spontaneity (the best kind of uncertainty) has gone missing. The spark has been replaced instead with a slow burning tension. A shared understanding that we’re all but powerless over the fate of this city.
Teenagers sit on stoops looking restless, itching to get into trouble just to have some say in the story of their summer. A cashier at the grocery store laments to me that he used to work in theater and misses the creativity.. but is thankful to have a job. The park is full of women and their babies in the morning, many of whom look unsure about their newly appointed title of stay at home mom. They wear workout clothes while their heels presumably collect dust at home.
Cops stand guard alongside barricades outside our neighborhood precinct and in front of the Washington Square Park Arch. Protecting themselves and their monuments while a convenience store 20 blocks away is robbed at gunpoint. An older woman in our neighborhood compares it to the New York of the 1970s. She says she’s seen it all. Tells us to be careful.
Moving trucks line the streets as fair weather city dwellers go in search of fairer weather. Without the usual swarm of summer tourists those of us that are left spread out like we own the place – because well, we do. The streets are ours alone to rule or to ruin.
The truth is that no one has ever known what’s next for New York but that hasn’t stopped the evolution. And so, we go on. The protests and the progress. The work that needs to be done and the feelings that need to be wrestled with. The thick August heat and our relentless hope keeping the embers of this city hot until it can spark up again.