God Bless you Mr. Rockefeller (Or, How I learned to Love the Grid)

February 18, 2009 § 1 Comment

by Anthony Pilgrim


“It comes down to reality-and its fine with me cause I’ve let it slide,
I don’t have any reasons; I’ve left them all behind-
I’m in a New York state of mind.”

-Billy Joel

If you live in Boston, or just have a affinity for it, you most likely hate New York City with nearly no rhyme or reason. That was my case not three months ago, when I was front row at Local H proudly holding my Celtics jacket like a war banner and chanting along with Scott Lucas “…and fuck New York too!!!” Why was I so spiteful towards the Big Apple? I couldn’t have told you back then. The Red Sox hold no real place in my heart other than their familiarity and my visits to the enemy city itself had been limited to a trip to Ellis Island in third grade. But the venom existed somewhere natural for me, and after my escapade this weekend I understand why. It’s because no matter what happens, no matter what Mayor Menino plans or Bloomburg blows up, no matter what weird scene ever rises out of our mother city, New York will always be the center of it all, and Boston will be an exit along the way.

My reasons for going to New York were pure R&R. I was invited by an associate of mine named Mr. James (www.hollywoodeasttv.com) to come on a mostly compensated trip to New York’s Comic Con, a meeting of movie makers, comic writers, programmers, fans, perverts, and countless numbers of cos-play girls who beg the question “Are you 18?” But that’s another story. The con was organized, expensive, and only an interest for true media junkies like Mr. James and myself. THIS story is one of the city itself.

When you get to New York, if you take the 5:30 A.M bus from South Station, the first thing that becomes clear is that the city seems to immune to any type or talk of recession that seems to be choking the rest of the country. Everything is open and every space is rented, which is truly impressive seeing as every inch of the city is covered with business. The saturation is complete and total, with no wasted space for free loaders or nature. Stores pile on top of apartments that hold up other stores, and a genuine fear of Reagan-era capitalism truly hits you when you see your first KFC/Taco Bell/Dunkin Donuts/ A&W/Pizza Hut/Baskin Robins. And that will be the corner where the Lucky Star drops you off, a straight line on The Grid that will lead you to the heart of the monster.

I like to think of myself as a man of little fear when it comes to cities. I can take the cracked streets, screaming tenants, and homicidal traffic just fine. But my small Irish heart had no room to handle the sight of Time Square. It’s a living breathing electric God with one thousand eyes, surround sound ears, [editors note: LOOK!!! Anthony used an Oxford comma!] and unnatural urge to tell you EVERYTHING that is to be known in-between seconds. One moment it shows you a giant M&M looking down at you with a perfect row of smiling teeth, then you see Liza Minelli snorting cocaine through a $100 dollar bill in a advert for Celebrity Rehab. It’s an experience that you’ll have alone, seeing as by the time you bring it to the attention of any friends the LCD has blinked again into a dripping Corona bottle and an artificial sun advertising either a car or Coca Cola, you really can’t tell because you’ll go blind if you look long enough to figure it out. All along news briefs from the Times scroll by on black electric scripts. Colored emergency red, they tell you that the economy is crashing everywhere else in the world, which is hard to believe after you realize that you’ve just lost half your paycheck to the city within the first twenty minutes of your visit. My advice is to at all times wear thick all encompassing aviators while in the vicinity of Time Square; otherwise, be ready to deal with what keeps this country on top of the world all at once. Also never go into the Toys ‘R Us after 10:30 – this I tell you as a man concerned for his fellow human beings.

But it’s not all electric gods, pimps, and pushers. You can brave those and make your way to parts of the city that have true Hollywood majesty. None these scenes are so well done as Rockefeller Center. There you can escape the vendors and noise for a moment and enjoy the sight of lovers skating in early February. But even here you can’t escape how truly massive the city is, with the G.M building standing straight into the stratosphere behind the rink. It’s here where you can collect your thoughts, and you’ll probably come to the same conclusion that Mr. James and I did: New York City was built and designed with the intention of surviving Armageddon. Mr. Rockefeller, being the clever man he was, invested his money and legacy into this city, knowing that even John’s Revelations didn’t have the foresight to take a structure as massive as The Grid down with the rest of the world. That’s another scary thing about The Apple, it really shakes your idea that everything in the world must cease. You can see your life ending and your city collapsing after some untold amount of time, but this is beyond that. This is where mankind made its statement to anything else that might be watching and said “No. We won’t be going away anytime soon.” It’s cold, artificial, inspiring, and possibly the most human thing I’ve ever witnessed.

Before I go overboard, I can’t say that our capital doesn’t have something over The Grid. True New York is the heart of the country, but only because every living and nonliving thing that resides within it, without exception, exists to take your money. Every organism is a parasite, with no real symbiosis occurring. You go, they suck you dry, and you leave with a grab bag full of postcards and new credit cards. If you don’t believe me, then know that there is a homeless union now. So in this way you’ll need to go with a friend with a strong constitution. Mr. James and I mostly covered each others backs, pushing each other forward when we were stopped by any number of clever vendors or pushers. At one point we where taken to a back alley comedy club where drinks where $9 a piece with a two drink minimum and a true [C-WORD!] of a waitress sat us at a table held up by sugar packets and nice thoughts. After two watered down kamikazes (yes, I guess it is possible to water down a drink made of Triple Secs and Vodka) Mr. James and myself left a ten-dollar bill with and a cloud of dust behind us.

This brings me to the other fault of New York City. Its toughness level is highly out spoken. Whether they’ve just been dealing with paper bone tourists for too long or Travis Brittle never existed outside of celluloid, don’t be fooled by what you’ve been told. Our city by the harbor holds just as bad villains as they do, and possibly worse. New Yorkers can walk tall and spit venom with the best of them, but deep down there is something docile in their natural state of mind. This most likely comes from being part of something far too much bigger than yourself for much to long. To actually live in this Metropolis is to be truly broken.

My trip in total lasted 53 hours. In that time I spent $300, lost 7 pounds, and fell in love with The Grid. I’m exhausted even now by it, after being back in the Bay state for three days. This is because the body adapts to quickly in that extreme of a scape. Your lungs learn to breath electricity, your eyes become adept in smoke and adverse to sunlight, and your feet miss the feeling of concrete and fiberglass. I’d say it’s a nice place to visit even though I wouldn’t want to live there, but that misses the point. If you want to be part of everything that is and ever will be, then get out of where you are now and get to the party. But be warned, no matter how good you are, you can never be the best in New York City. You surrender yourself to a greater cause there and become one of the many, many blinking lights on The Grid.

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