Homecoming

I’ve been gone a long time. And thanks to popular demand (well, the demand of three people) and the longing to write again (due largely to the Phils’ win tonight), this is back. And I apologize for the absence, loyal readers – it’s flattering to know anybody ever read this. Summer has stolen me away, largely because I’m in New York and if you’re spending too much time writing and not enough time living you’re wasting the summer and your youth (and your rent money) and, as far as I can tell (because old men always say it), you’ll end up regretting it.

So in this first post back after this long, too long, hiatus, I want to tell you all about so many wonderful things. I want to tell you about so many wonderful people who’ve made this summer-into-fall an electric, fizzing one, and so many late nights and achy mornings, so many trips to dirt infields and dive bars or pristine ballparks and beach houses or race tracks, and the many train rides to and from Philadelphia for Phils games all summer, the ones that stole me out of New York in the afternoon and deposited me back, confused and blurry and still qualifiably drunk at 2 in the morning, happy and headed to work in seven hours.

But I’ll get to all that.

I’ll get to it later, hopefully, but I want to tell you about the way that the sunset is always red and then orange and then a rush of gold over the city (perks of pollution); or the way when you look out of our windows in our new apartment you can see flashes on the Empire State Building that look like flickering stars but are actually tourists’ cameras; or the way that no street ever looks the same over two weeks; or the pure, unadulterated joy of a train arriving at the subway station the instant you come down the steps and the daily sensation on rush hour trains that you’re part of a muscle, one fully contracted at first as the train’s stuffed with people, then relaxing as the fibers loosen back onto the subway platform; or the way that a beer looks when it’s set against a backdrop of thousands of young people all buzzing because they’re together, and all buzzing because they can tell each other the same stories over and over again while creating new ones all the same; or the way that conversations are always waiting to be had (and you’re a fool to miss out on any of them, if you can manage), whether they’re with a man leaning on a cane perusing the same bodega for some Czech beer, who happens to be a scholar of early American presidents’ drinking habits, or a man who was once a psychiatrist but has since started a now-successful country band on a whim, or a group of girls who are all math teachers about what their favorite equations are (y = mx + b won by a landslide); or how, despite what everybody tells you outside the city, New Yorkers are more friendly than almost anyone I’ve ever met, as long as you (1) don’t inexplicably stop on the sidewalk; (2) don’t bumble an order at a café; (3) smile; or how, we’re all tiny fish in the big pond, but it’s a big fucking pond and we’re all happy to pool together in schools, just as long as everybody’s cool with buying a round;  or how when you find a restaurant or a bar that you want to show your friends and family you do everything in your power to get the staff to remember your name (and try not to drink so much that you forget theirs) so you’ll have a chance in hell at getting a seat when you want to go between the hours of 5:30 p.m. and 1 a.m.; or how the movement of pedestrians is so angular, so Pythagorean, due to the grid system that it must look like a bunch of swirling squares if you looked down from space; and that it actually does look like that if you look down from the Empire State Building.

I want to tell you about German beer halls where people actually wear lederhosen and dirndls and the beer clangs together in liter mugs and we almost got kicked out for starting a big, hall-wide who-can-yell-the-loudest match; or the pizza place we’re banned from because we all got called Crackers and then Jon threw his soda in the air; or the way that having a friend with a back deck on which you can drink is the same as striking a pocket of gold; or how if you go to a restaurant that’s been there for more than 3 weeks you know it’s good because if it weren’t, it would’ve been pushed out of town immediately; or how proud and emasculated at the same time it makes you when your girlfriend carries your side in bar foosball; or how there aren’t any parallels in this world that I’ve found yet to rival the way that girl looks at you when you cook dinner and it doesn’t taste like your furniture; or how every girl in New York must be issued a few sundresses when they move in to their apartments; or how they all want to talk – have I mentioned how everybody wants to talk?? Like they’re just amazed that they can live here – and will gladly talk your ear off about everything and anything as long as you buy a beer, and even if you don’t; or how about bar crawls that start with grand intentions and become two-bar bar-hops because somebody gives you a good deal on Sam Adams Utopias; or of places that can be pumped full of people on Friday nights and then empty as a freezer on Saturday night, due quite possibly to the change in wind speed; or bars where you can get 10-cent wings or dollar beers or free PBR (as long as you ask for it) or the chance to flip a coin to get every drink for free or maybe high-end cocktail lounges extending like a shelf from a Chinese restaurant andsports bars that are most likely scouted-out by prostitutes; or how you can stay out until 2 or 3 on a work night and wake up the next morning feeling the same as if you’d gone to sleep at 10, because you know – and you’re damn proud – that you didn’t miss out.

I want to tell you about baseball and the Phillies and my men’s league team (the Mudhens), now in the playoffs, and how it feels to hit with a real wood bat for the first time, how the bat feels like an extension of your body and how it, like a good woman, refuses to let you get away with any shortcuts; or how handball is almost as fun as racquetball, but it hurts a hell of a lot more, and how your average 13-year-old in Brooklyn is a hell of a lot better than your average 23-year-old Macungie, Penn. kid; or how walking across the Brooklyn Bridge isn’t really as cool as it’s made out to be, but how walking around the Village still is; or how, if you’re playing ball in Central Park, you forget you’re in a city at all; and if you’re playing ball in the Bronx, there’s a good chance your umpires won’t speak a word of English all year and the coach for the other team might get cold-cocked by his first baseman onto cement steps right next to the backstop; or how you could walk for hours because you’re always a block away from unearthing treasures like the Hell’s Angels NY headquarters, or Dave’s Quality Meats (owned by the guy who started Zoo York), or ice cream shops run by neighborhood kids, or stores where you can buy things like a book by Ray Bradbury about writing, on whose back cover he’s wearing a massive turtleneck with plumes of white hair erupting from the side of his head; or how Rachael Ray is pudgier in real life than she looks on TV (but is still pretty damn cute) and Mary-Kate Olsen isn’t, how Woody Allen is looking pretty old and Darryl Strawberry is, too, and how I usually miss celebrities because I’m looking at their dogs.

But I’ll just say…it’s good to be back.

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