Friday, April 29, 2005

NYC: Goodbye

east side, west side, all around the town

Uri Caine, The Sidewalks of New York.
Luna, Going Home.
Lou Reed, NYC Man.
Harry Nilsson, I Guess the Lord Must Be in New York City.

So, it's over--my time here. In an hour or two, the computer goes down and gets packed up, the server will close its doors (hence YouSendit's pinch hitting), and then I prepare for the utter misery of moving house.

I had thought to write something lengthy about leaving New York, the end of youth, etc. etc. etc., but I just don't have the time and I think I've said everything I wanted. So here are four last songs.

"Sidewalks of New York" is a 110 year-old song; this version, performed by the pianist Uri Caine and a large group of conspirators on their 1999 album of the same name, attempts to recreate what it must have been like to sit in a saloon on Delancey Street on a Saturday evening in 1904.

I come from a family of Irish immigrants, some of whom came to New York around this period, and if fancy takes me, I can imagine that some of them, after a day spent on the docks, sat in a bar and heard something similar to this.

"Going Home" is off Luna's 1994 album Bewitched. There is one particular set of lines that, after Sept. 2001, became heartbreaking.

The Chrysler Building was talking
to the Empire State
The Twin Towers were talking
to each other
Saying all is forgiven,
I love you still,
And we're home, home
going home...

I worked in 2 World Trade Center for two years, and in its shadow for three more. Strange that such a statement, which would have seemed innocuous not too long ago, now stamps me with history, as a citizen of the irrevocable past, in the way of someone who was born in East Berlin, or Austria-Hungary.

Finally, two blessings for the city. In Lou Reed's "NYC Man," from 1996's Set the Twilight Reeling, Lou acts like being an NYC man means never saying goodbye, and hitting the road whenever you get the hint you're not wanted, but he's really a bit of a softie. His line at the end-- "New York City, I love you"--is basically what I've been trying to say in two weeks of posts.

And Harry Nilsson is tired of praying and getting no answers, so he's moving to New York to see if the Lord is hanging out there. Best of luck to him. On Personal Best, one of the best anthologies ever released. (If the Lord is in New York City, he's living in Queens or Brooklyn--trust me. He needs the space.)

Hail & farewell, NYC. I'll be back from time to time, and will always be here in spirit. As old Walt says:

"Just as you feel when you look on the river and sky, so I felt,
Just as any of you is one of a living crowd, I was one of a crowd,
Just as you are refresh'd by the gladness of the river and
the bright flow, I was refresh'd,
Just as you stand and lean on the rail, yet hurry with the
swift current, I stood yet was hurried,
Just as you look on the numberless masts of ships and the
thick-stemm'd pipes of steamboats, I look'd."

Walt Whitman, "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"

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