Here. And There.

Here. And There.

Here and There. As basic a binary distinction as You and Me. For my entire life, New York City has been my Here and wherever else I lived — whether New Jersey, Chicago, Denver or  Prague — was There.  New York cradled my spiritual weight — it was infused with my personal mythology, my stories, my emotions — I superimposed a map of my interior over the narrow map of the city that I knew the best and found myself in constant conversation with a past, like the shadowy remnants of an old graffiti tag, that lived on every street corner.

I returned to New York City last week unexpectedly, a wonderful last-minute gift to celebrate the 50th birthday of my best friend.  I hit the city hard — eating at every place I missed: incredible pasta and pizza and veggie dishes bursting with the tang of lemon and anchovy at Vic’s; the best middle-eastern at Shuka; tacos and guacamole and enchiladas and margaritas at Rosies; perfect bagels with smoked salmon and whitefish salad at Russ and Daughters; late night slices from John’s and a just-out-of-the-oven onion bialy from Kossar’s. I got to shop for smoked meats at Jubilat Provisions and dote on the genius of Caputo’s mozzarella. I was able to spend time with my friends and family — arguably the best possible friends and family a person has ever had. I cooked a Gran Choucroute. I was able to utterly be myself, curse with abandon and speak and act in a manner in which every nuance of myself was understood.  I walked, I meandered, I rode the subway and fought with a cab driver. And yet I felt without substance, an incorporable being, pedestrians stepping through my body as if it were mist.  I was a ghost haunting streets that had lost their meaning.

New York is no longer my Here.

I can’t explain it.  I can’t explain how my Here became There.  Somehow, my Here is now Tokyo and it just doesn’t make all that much sense:   I don’t feel comfortable.  My Japanese is terrible.  I am shy and awkward and feel constantly in-the-way.  I am utterly not understood.  Despite all of this I feel absolutely at home and all the negatives, I hope, will dissipate like a gawky teenager achieving grace in adulthood.  When I lived in Chicago, there was not one moment that I desired to be a Chicagoen. I never wanted to blend in and use the word “sack” for bag or “pop” for soda – I wore my New Yorkerhood as a badge, as something that defined me against the City Of Big Shoulders.  Here is different — I want nothing more than to become one with Tokyo, to feel its rhythms in my bones, to adjust to its manners, adopt its hand gestures and colloquialisms.  I know that I will never love another city like I loved New York.  I know that I will never know Tokyo in the way that I knew New York — down to its marrow, to the nerve centers, to the abandoned lots where old Chinese women picked wild sorrel. But, something has changed in me, something deep and what has emerged, to my great surprise, is undeniably present and completely in the Here and Now of Tokyo life. I am a traitor to my great love and never been happier.


5 Replies to “Here. And There.”

  1. You are remarkable. So glad you’re my son and share so many of my qualities (good and bad). Long ago New York ceased to be Here and became There. My There has continued to shift–Colorado, Vancouver. Now I’ve got two Theres—New Mexico and Prince Edward Island. I have never been happier.

  2. If you are low on rye bread, that onion bagel, French mustard, sweat onion and braunschwiger will be a good alternative.

  3. It is fascinating to learn this about you.
    Because I feel a similar way about Tokyo. But I reside in Chicago. I’ve visited Japan fourteen times since 2005. My comprehension and speaking of Japanese is still terrible.
    But somehow, I “get” it. I understand what is its culture. There are aspects about Japan I hope it can hang on to in the seemingly incessant commands of the western world to modify or cease.
    If you wonder why this reply is on this blog post, it is because when I discover a new blog, I go back to its beginning and commence reading forward.
    My website has a rubric of Japanese World-Wide Web sites annotated.

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