“I always say, in New York City there are 8 million people, and 7.5 million psychopaths,” said the taxi driver who transported Mr Musings and I back to Brooklyn with the plates and duvets we had bought to fit out our new apartment on Saturday afternoon. He was trying to warn us against the evils of the city: how everybody lived a material existence, how their friendships and commitments were false, how as Australians we should really only trust each other, because no one here was to be trusted.
I did what I usually do in these situations, expressing my disagreement with non-committal challenges and polite “mmmhmmm”s, until finally I cracked. “I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe I am naïve, but I think a lot of it is about who you choose to spend time with. New Yorkers have always been really nice to me.”
And it’s true; they have. I’ve written here before about how the first time I visited New York, I met an older journalist for breakfast and she offered me to the keys to her apartment so that I wouldn’t have to stay in a hostel (the Australian in me, who doesn’t like to “impose,” turned her down). How the second time I visited, a young editor heard that it was my birthday the following week, and arranged to take me out to drinks with her friends that night. How the third time I’d visited, a woman I’d arranged a dinner for once in Sydney arranged a dinner for me with her friends in Manhattan, one of whom went on to introduce me to my agent.
There is an openness here; a kindness. And while I’m conscious that kindness doesn’t always translate to a deep connection or commitment (but then, it shouldn’t have to, should it?), I appreciate it for what it is. A substance that makes the day run more smoothly, and creates serendipity.
I relocated here on Friday, after spending half my life dreaming about living in the city, and I am already seeing that kindness again. In the friend who helped me find my apartment (which happens to be owned by one of my favourite feminist authors), and took me out for a drink in her favourite Soho bar. In the two friends who have put my name forward to speak on panels, and the editor of a publication I admire who reached out to ask me to write for her. The air seems alive with possibility and opportunity.
I also see fragments of what the taxi driver warned me about: in the man who stared directly at my breasts while making Hannibal Lecter style noises; in the fawning over status and celebrity; in the people who speak with just a little too much self-confidence and bravado to be authentic.
But I feel good. And as I said to the taxi driver, a lot of it is about who you choose to spend your time with.