Something just occurred to me. Keeping the entries on this site in epistle format creates one very serious limitation. If I'm directing my letters outward it makes it very difficult to address my greatest preoccupation: myself. Sure, I've managed ways around that mess but why should I have to? Suddenly, I feel unfettered. How do you feel? Ripped off? Sounds about right to me. Let's roll.
OK. Here's a true story. I took a cab yesterday (this is already gripping, i realize) and the cab driver, whose company was based in brooklyn, had no idea how to get around the borough. He didn't know where simple, well-known streets were. Seventh Avenue, for example, completely eluded him. Additionally, he spoke almost no English, and understood even less.
In fact, as much as I tried to direct him with basic sentences like "you just missed our exit" or "you can't drive through that church" he just came up blank. The only English words he understood, as far as I could tell, were "LEFT", "RIGHT", "STRAIGHT", and "GO". (please note that "STOP" was not included in this list. neither was "WHIPLASH".) The trip became a crazy game, with me figuring out how to best time my directional commands. "LEFT" had to come just at the right moment or we'd either miss our turn or drive into two men carrying a large sheet of plate glass. That's how precise the system was.
As far as I could tell, the only qualification he had as a cab driver was his ability to maneuver a motor vehicle. Even that job might have proven difficult had he not labeled his gas and brake pedals "VAMOS!" and "AY YI YI!" respectively.
This is not a cautionary tale, however. I am actually using this story to illustrate why I finally moved to NYC in the first place. I postponed my move several times, mostly out of a kind of nervousness regarding the unknown or imagined complexity of this city. My parents fed my anxiety, too, warning me of muggings, b-boys, grizzlies, fascist movements, and baby-tossing gypsies. I saved and fretted for almost two years before finally packing up and landing in NYC in the hot, stank summer of 1995. It wasn't a calculated plan that finally assuaged the calamnity in my brain. In fact, when I arrived I had no job (or job prospects) and no apartment to call my own. I also had a girlfriend who would be arriving in a couple of weeks, just in time for us to break up. So it wasn't as if I strategized my way to safety.
What finally made all the tumblers click into place was a really simple thought that everyone contemplating this move, or any move to an unfamiliar environment, should consider. People arrive fresh in America, and in New York especially, every single day. Many of them have a couple English words at their disposal, not much money, and sometimes no family to speak of. And, miraculously, they usually don't die; not all of them, at least. In fact, many of them thrive. They ride the subways (somehow). They drive cabs (poorly). They open stores with no names (something i never understood because naming a store is usually the best part). They become mayor (never). And they manage. They learn the things they need to learn, and that may include little things like "apples should not cost $14 each" (they should cost $3 each) or larger things like "paper, rock, and even scissors always lose to the guy with a gun and a crack addiction, so please hand over your wallet." Most importantly, they don't let themselves get discouraged or paralyzed by second-guessing. I suppose second-guessing isn't really a big hang-up when you just arrived here from a country where you were caned soundly for sneezing in public.
I thought about those people, wide-eyed and scared shitless but nonetheless hauling themselves over here every single day in every way. I thought about people like my inept cab driver who didn't even let his ignorance of basic geography and native language impede his decision to become a taxi driver. And I thought about how often I needed circumstances to align themselves perfectly before I ever made a single move, and realized I was doing it all wrong. I was cursed by an over-active, distractingly analytic mind. And I wanted to be here, in New York, with the crazy battery salesmen and bodega clerks and cab drivers and everyone else who thought it would be more fun to cannonball off the board than take the ladder into the deep end, pausing at each rung. (yes, it's an awful metaphor but remember i was much younger then, and reading all the wrong books.) So I grabbed some belongings and bought a ticket for a southbound train. I arrived in New York City the very next day, where I was stabbed and murdered the moment I stepped off the train. And I've never looked back.