They Can’t Take That Away From Me

1558465_10152687343022755_4171630263640324445_nIn my first few hours in Manhattan, I wondered if this would be the trip where I learned that I’d aged out of New York. After a frustrating three hour Super Shuttle experience from JFK, when I finally checked into The Jane in the Meatpacking district, I felt like New York City’s oldest, most out of the loop visitor.

I had actually hopped out of the Super Shuttle with the second to last customer whose hotel drop off was a trendy hotel on 16th and 9th avenue. Chelsea was my old neighborhood so I definitely felt safe walking at night from there to my hotel. As I maneuvered from Chelsea through the Meatpacking district, I passed a world of 20 and 30 something’s, enjoying their Saturday night in the city, dining al fresco at expensive restaurants, spilling out of loud, expensive night clubs, walking around in expensive, impractical footwear.

After a quick check in and shower, I was out on the streets, looking for a place to eat something easy and inexpensive. I walked down Hudson to Christopher, then up 7th Avenue. Eric called me as I was grabbing a slice of pizza at an old pizzeria I sometimes visited back when I lived in the neighborhood. A little lonely and missing Eric and the dogs, I talked to him while I ate my slice, watching the cool, young people walk up and down 7th Avenue, to and from their youthful adventures. After I ate, I walked up to 15th, past my old apartment and then up 8th Avenue to 22nd before I turned around and headed back to the hotel. Back in the room, I watched a little tv and had a somewhat restless sleep.

I awoke at 8:00 a.m., unadjusted to the time change, but my first thought was, let’s get going, make the most of your time here. I put on my shirt and shorts and tennis shoes and hit the streets, stopping to get a cafe Americano from the hotel’s Cafe Gitane.

When I was a New Yorker, my favorite time to roam the city was Sunday morning, before the crowds woke up and I felt the city was all mine. I walked up to Chelsea Market and bought a Grilled Cheddar and Ham Biscuit from Amy’s Breads. As I sat there enjoying this old favorite, sipping my coffee, too, I felt a restoration begin, maybe New York was still mine.

After my meal, I walked over to the High Line, new since I lived there but not new for the locals. I walked along the path, taking pictures, enjoying the momentary quietness of a favorite tourist destination. It started to sprinkle and it was just the right amount of rain for me to enjoy walking in it. After the High Line, I walked southward down the Westside Highway paths, looking out onto the water and New Jersey and beyond. The sun came out and continued shining as I walked back to my hotel through Soho and the West Village.

And that morning, as I took my shower, preparing to leave the hotel, to move uptown to the hotel where Eric and I would be staying for his work, I was giddy from my long, adventurous walk, revisiting the old, discovering the new.

I covered a lot of ground in my 5 days in New York. I had my Metro Card, too, but mostly I explored the Upper East Side, Roosevelt Island, Midtown, Lower East Side, Little Italy, Wall Street, Chinatown, Upper West Side, Hell’s Kitchen, Time Square, Chelsea, Greenwich Village and Central Park by foot. Every time a New York friend commented that I still walked like a New Yorker, I blushed and beamed. They can’t take that away from me.

New York is something different for me than what it once was. I am not a cute young hayseed in cutoff shorts and tight white t-shirt and flip flops anymore. Eyes don’t fall on me and linger with the same frequency as when I walked around Chelsea and the Village back in my glory days. I actually can’t even wear flip flops anymore. For the duration of my trip, I tsked my way through Manhattan thinking, you children need to take better care of your arches!

So, I wore my sensible Adidas and I soldiered along, with a spring in my step and a song in my heart. And that song was They Can’t Take That Away From Me. Time and again, I would find myself humming or quietly singing it as I walked the streets. A Gershwin tune, made more famous by Frank Sinatra, it was an apt companion. Because here I am, aging faster than I want, fatter than I wish, remembering to take my blood pressure medicine every day, but I could still behold the beauty that is New York at a fast clip because I had my strong legs and feet to carry me. And New York is no longer mine, not really, but even separated by physical distance, my memories will always remain.

And maybe someday, I won’t even have my strong legs and fast clip. Maybe someday, I won’t even have the opportunity to get on a plane and fly to New York and take a three hour Super Shuttle into the city. Maybe someday, all I’ll have is my Instagram pictures and my Manhattan skyline dishtowels from Fishs Eddy. But, hey, it’s nice to know that even if all I one day have of New York is my memories, it’s still mine. She’s still mine. They can’t take that away from me.

Life Is Strange

safe_image.phpEric and I went to see the new film, Love is Strange, yesterday.  Directed by Ira Sachs, it features John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a gay couple of a certain age living in New York City.  Perhaps you’ve seen the trailer or caught an interview or already viewed the film yourself.  This isn’t really a review of the film, but I will probably give away a few spoilers about the movie, so if you’re super spoiler sensitive, do not read further.  I will say that I’m not going to write about anything you wouldn’t have already learned by watching the actors being interviewed on The View or The Today Show.

The film opens on the day John Lithgow’s Ben and Alfred Molina’s George are getting married in an intimate ceremony, after 39 years as a couple.  What happens next is that George loses his job and the couple is forced to live apart, with friends or relatives, one in Manhattan, the other in Brooklyn.  This separation is the premise of the film.  Okay, that’s the end of the spoilers.  The movie moved both Eric and me at several points throughout the 90-some minutes.  At one point, I was reduced to an audible, blubbering gasp.  

After the movie, Eric and I walked to a restaurant (Islands) nearby.  We sat at the bar, ordered mai-tai’s and talked about the movie.  We had been back in Los Angeles less than 24 hours and it was bittersweet to revisit New York with a story about aging and financial concerns and health and love and enduring love.  I kept saying how much I hated the movie, how I wanted to love it, but that I hated it.  Yes, I was quite moved by some scenes, but well, I just could not believe that these two would be forced to live separate lives after 39 years together.  “It’s just unrealistic,” I kept repeating.  Eric agreed, perhaps mostly because I was so adamant.  

And then we went home to our little home,  the dogs came out to greet and welcome us.  In New York, lying in our hotel bed, we conjectured, as we always do, what living in New York would be like.  How expensive it would be, how Ricky would be too confrontational on the sidewalks, how smart Millie would look prancing down 5th Avenue in tweed coat during the winter.  I don’t really see us moving there, our life is here, our home is here, but it’s fun to imagine another life, in a city we both love.

As we were going to bed last night, I still could not let the movie go.  George and Ben would not have let themselves split up like that.  They would have sold the stuff they’d collected in their 39 years together and found a sensible studio on the Upper East Side for $2000 or a one bedroom in Bay Ridge for $1600 or even rented a room in Williamsburg for $1000.  Any of these scenarios would have been better than the one they opted for, the one that the writers Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias opted for.  If they did that, there would be no movie, you say?  Last night, as I fumed, tossing and turning, even going so far as to hop out of bed and check Manhattan and Brooklyn rental opportunities on Craig’s List, I wished that, indeed, there was no movie, that Love is Strange was a 5 minute short where Ben and George get married and Marisa Tomei gives her wedding speech and everyone drinks red wine and eats lasagna and Harriet Harris’ homemade cookies and that’s it.  Roll credits.

I was still mad at Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias this morning when I woke up.  How could this have happened to poor Ben and George?!?  I even read the New York Times review, hoping that A.O. Scott had been as hung up on the implausibility as I was, instead I found a love letter to everyone involved, a New York Times Critics’ Pick.  

And then during my morning swim, I, of course, continued to ponder Love is Strange, the scenes I loved, the scenes I hated, the characters, the ending, New York.  I imagined myself having a conversation with Ira (first name basis, at this point) where I told him that if someone hates your film with this much passion, you must be doing something right.  I imagined him being hurt by my words, but then later, chuckling to himself, muttering, “That guy’s got a point.”

And then somewhere before my last lap, I realized why I hated Love is Strange so much.  It wasn’t the implausibility that burrowed into me, in fact, it was the opposite.  I watched my biggest fears: becoming homeless, rudderless, partner-less, play out on screen and it was just too much for me to wrap my head around.  It was just, all of it, too much.

In all the time I kept thinking, how can I save Ben and George, I was really thinking, how can I save Ray and Eric? What can I do to ensure a peaceful 30 or 40 (or 50?) more years? The answer is, of course, there are no insurances. We live our lives, try to make good decisions and hope for a little luck.

But from Love is Strange and Ira and Mauricio, John and Alfred, I am reminded of the importance of enjoying the music and the art and most important, the ones that you love, because all of this, like a lazy stroll in a leafy park, or celebratory meal with friends, or a sunset on the Manhattan skyline, is fleeting.