New York is a town without time, but it has a date. I moved to the city after the attacks. These are the things that made me a New Yorker.
I lived in a studio built illegally on the roof of garbage truck repair depot by one of Brooklyn’s most notorious Hasid slumlords, woken weekdays by the smell of exhaust leaking through our floor.
I listened to hundreds of hours of music while riding subways. I overshot my home stop less than half-a-dozen times because I was drunk, and once because I was flirting with a thick-legged blonde dressed in gingham who was on the way home from her shift at a barbecue joint. I got her number but never called.
I worked in Times Square, photoshopping handbags for a catalog company, masking models’ hair from a $200 leather handbag to make a brown bag look pink, or leather like canvas. I took my smoke breaks on a perilous concrete perch that faced an inner courtyard of four buildings, flicking my butts twenty stories down.
I blindsided Nick Denton over instant message one evening, asking him why there wasn’t a videogame-themed counterpart to Gizmodo. He said he preferred email. By chance, I took over Gizmodo a couple of months later, eventually wrote thousands of blog posts, had a minor nervous breakdown, and learned how to write. Choire Sicha, Noah Shachtman, and Brendan Koerner picked me up by the scruff of my neck and told me how to do it.
I went down on a girl in the back of a moving cab, later to finish the evening on her fire escape in Harlem, where I ejaculated across the side of the building.
I discovered I needed glasses, the frames of which became thicker and darker each year.
I lived in four different apartments, each better than the last, until I made the mistake of moving in with roommates.
I had an irrational, ignorant crush on a witty young German girl with a Jewish name, who later starfucked a Jewish writer with a German name.
Having decided to try an open relationship with my soon-to-be-ex, I pressed myself against a punk girl after we’d shared far too much whisky, then spent the next two months listening to The National while walking through Park Slope crying after she’d blown me off.
I had a short affair with a Chinese acrobat who had formerly been a lawyer, until one evening I ended up at a birthday party with a man who revealed himself to be her other partner in such a way that it thrummed every insecurity I had. I looked him in the eye, picked up his whisky and drank it in one shot, set it down in front of him, and said “Happy Birthday.” I then went home and cried.
I watched the iPod go from an affectation for moneyed hipsters to something that every other person on the street owned. I watched the iPhone go from something that would cause people to gather around me in bars to play with to something that every other person on the street owned. I make a living writing articles for an audience that calls me an Apple fanboy.
I made a modest amount of money telling old media companies how they should approach the web, then a similar amount of money hanging around while they didn’t do it.
I spent days at a time sitting at home alone, getting high or drunk, playing videogames, watching television, ordering delivery falafel, and wasting time on the internet.
I shared some ketamine with a lesbian who proceeded to get up from my bed, vomit into my sink, and then pass out. I scooped the thick vomit from my sink to my toilet with my bare hands. Hours later, after I passed out, I woke to find her playing with my genitals. She told me the next morning that she’d “had a nice time.”
I told several girls that I’d “had a nice time.”
I could never seem to score cocaine even though everyone around me was clearly high all the time. Except for when I’d first moved to town and the lone black patron of our corner DUMBO bar would occasionally give me bumps in the bathroom, which led one night to a five minute after hours locked-door dance party to “Hey Ya”. It was the first and only time I can recall dancing in NYC.
I was hit by a full bottle of Coca-Cola thrown at me while biking through some Bed-Stuy projects from what I estimate to be at least 20 yards.
I learned to love the city through the eyes of Gay Talese.
I wrote nothing of any lasting importance, but I wrote several jokes that I found funny enough to read over and over.
I brewed beer, tended my own garden, and repaired craft electronics for the first time in my life, despite having spent most of my childhood on a farm.
I cultivated a love for loud sneakers and bright colors, only to realize that I was basically dressing like 12-year-old Dominican girls.
I was invited to many parties. Most of the time I did not attend. When I did, I would usually find a corner with an open window and smoke, holding court as people would come around and bum cigarettes off me. It was the only way I ever learned to enjoy parties, but I liked it quite a bit.
I never really learned the names of any streets that weren’t letters or numbers, or at least never learned where they were. It wasn’t until the year I left that I could reliably guess where a named neighborhood in Manhattan might be; Brooklyn was 50/50; the other boroughs might as well have been Vermont. (A state which I believe is next to Connecticut.)
When I returned to Kansas City for my ten-year high school reunion, I was a luminary because I lived in New York. I wore a black tuxedo shirt and ripped jeans and lapped up the attention.
I had a one-night stand with a girl from OKCupid who brought me over Theraflu because I had a slight cold. As I came she pulled me into her breasts and said “Shh, it’s okay.” And I kind of liked that.
I went hiking the Hudson valley a couple of times without using a car. On the way back from a solo trip where I’d nearly stepped on a rattlesnake, a man on the subway asked me if I were Swedish. It was then that I realized that I looked like a Swedish mountaineer, complete with knee socks, high boots, and a plaid shirt.
I started my own “web publishing company”-a web site-and drove it into the ground due to some really dumb business decisions. I produced some of the best content I have ever done, of course, which now lives online forever if I keep paying the $90 hosting bill each quarter.
I once had sex with a hairy woman who was incongruously proud of her ability to jam my penis deep into her vagina with a constant, threatening force. I stopped dating her when she corrected my use of “prideful” when she preferred “proud”.
I never grew tired of crossing a bridge at night in the back of a cab, watching the lights and the ships.
I cried when I first came back to the city after I moved away, but didn’t cry when I left.
Joel Johnson prefers “prideful” to “proud.”