Edition #122: Delusions of New York Grandeur
Plus, a night with the It girls, the new quantified self, and some sensual love poems
A Note From the Editor
I was living in a version of my personal hell—Scottsdale, Arizona—when I decided I'd move to New York. I didn't plan to move here initially. I wanted to be in San Francisco to extend my lifespan on the West Coast, but my mother convinced me that after a relentless two years of moving all around the country while working in the timeshare industry, I should move to a city where I already knew people. I wasn't entirely sure whether New York was the best idea, but it became exponentially more appealing when I decided that, as a result of my move, I would date Colin Jost. I had made very few friends during my year working in Arizona, so prior to my departure, I told one older woman who worked for me about my plan. “I’m going to date Colin Jost, mark my words,” I said. “Good for you, sweetie,” she replied, “go get him.” I’m certain she didn’t know who he was, but her lack of questioning my ability to date a semi-famous stranger bolstered my self-confidence nonetheless
This mild baseline level of delusion has served me well, if only because it keeps me entertained. As a child, I thought there was a good chance I would be discovered in the aisle of Publix in my small town in central Florida. As such, I would often full-out perform TLC songs for an unsuspecting group of mothers and old men who were picking out bags of frozen corn and Eggos on their weekly grocery trips, convinced one of them was an undercover talent scout. As a grown adult — 24 years old, when I moved to the city — I was equally convinced that it was only a matter of time before I would meet and charm Saturday Night Live writer and Weekend Update host, Colin Jost.
It didn't seem so impossible. I would be in New York, he was in New York. At the time, he didn’t seem like such a major celebrity. Plus, I knew a friend who knew a friend who was once invited on vacation by him, so there were only a few degrees of separation between us. I would find out where the SNL people hung out and go there. I might even run into him on the street, I figured. If I did run into him, I thought about how I would act; interested but never effusive. Engaged, witty. I imagined people would think it cool that he decided to date a random girl from Florida.
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I cannot stress enough that it felt entirely plausible to me, dear reader, that Colin Jost might become my boyfriend solely because I moved to New York. I discussed it with my older sister. She said it might be difficult to date someone who works such crazy hours; I was not deterred. I discussed it with my two roommates in my first East Village apartment so often that, when Colin Jost began to date his now wife, Scarlett Johansson (Scarlett fucking Johansson), my roommates agreed they shouldn't mention it until I found out myself, for they knew I would be upset. I cannot tell you what powered this sincerely strong delusion. It’s not because I've gotten everything I ever wanted in life, I haven’t. But still, there are times when something in me says I could have anything, absolutely anything I’ve ever wanted so long as I want it enough.
Two and a half years later, I was tucked in a sleeping bag on the sidewalk near Rockefeller Center. It was freezing outside, the temperature hovering around 36° F, and I had just managed to fall asleep when I felt a mysterious liquid dripping on my face. I had convinced my former partner to accompany me in pursuit of a New York City dream; to be in the live studio audience of SNL. We’d arrived at the already long line at 5 PM on Friday, equipped with sleeping bags and pads from REI that we would later return. It was a long, brutal night. Around 1 AM, two garbage men were emptying the day’s trash from Magnolia Pudding. They straddled either side of the line, tossing overfilled bags of sweet-smelling garbage directly over our heads so that I awoke, toes numb, to the gentle trickle of trash juice trailing down my cheek.
Some people we met in line had done this camp out five, ten, even twenty times before. They arrived as early as 3 PM on Friday with lawn chairs and speakers. They knew the security guard at Rockefeller Center would deliver pizza to those select few who were still awake in the line at around 2 AM. They shared stories like old veterans, tales of seeing John Mulaney and Tom Hanks host after camping out for multiple nights on that very sidewalk. I admired their good attitudes but could not conjure one myself. I just kept thinking about how, a few years earlier, I was wholly convinced I might have a chance to date Colin Jost. Instead, I was curled up on the sidewalk, praying no one I knew would walk by, rotting in a bitter shell of embarrassment. My mind kept circling back to the “coolest” people I knew in New York, the ones with connections and clout, and what they might think if they saw me there sleeping on the sidewalk. I silently chastised myself for not having a connection to SNL after nearly three years in the city. If my insecurity had been whispering “you’ll never be cool enough,” at an increasingly loud volume since moving to New York, then the trash juice dripping down my face in the middle of the night, without even a guarantee of getting into the show, was the full-volume screech. And as I glanced around the line, a father-daughter duo from New Jersey in front of us and a group of 18-year-old NYU freshmen behind us, I felt the truth of it in my bones.
New York means having access to everything. To every possibility, every type of person, every restaurant and store and theatrical performance and museum. The best of the best, right there at all times for your taking. It’s the emblem of possibility — you probably won’t meet Colin Jost on the street, but you could because anything could happen here. It’s endless options, so many options that simply choosing where to have dinner on any given night might make your head spin, for when you have access to the very best of everything, it’s all too easy to question whether whatever you are having is good enough. Sure, dinner was decent, but you spent $100 and there are so many outstanding places, shouldn't it have been outstanding? When was the last time dinner here was outstanding?
New York is doing the coolest thing you’ve ever done and knowing, always, that someone in the building next door is doing something even cooler, even crazier, is inching closer to fulfilling their dreams. I remember, once, getting to see Hamilton for less than $50 because we were friends with the actor playing Hamilton that night. After the show, we got to go on stage with him, to see the cast in their street clothes, worn out and beautiful. Yet somewhere, at that very moment, a hedge fund manager was snorting cocaine off of the concaved stomach of a supermodel just after making millions in a single day, and an artist was fingerpainting with her own menstrual blood for a live audience. And while I stood, starstruck, behind Anna Wintour in line for coffee on my first day at Condé Nast, an actor from Wisconsin was preparing to make his Broadway debut, and an unpublished author was putting her finishing touches on the next great American novel.
One could argue that this is the case for everyone, everywhere, for the world always exists far beyond our small scope of it, but New York is different because of the sheer proximity of the potential. All that wild, unhinged opportunity cackles in the air with static electricity and it never lets up. Every widow of every skyscraper holds hundreds, thousands of possibilities, little lives and big ones unfolding right there behind the double-paned glass. Sometimes as I’m walking down a beautiful, tree-lined street, I glance into the windows of the passing brownstones to steal a peak at the lucky souls who live there. In New York, I can feel it all and it energizes me, sometimes, it powers me to keep going. Other times it's far too much and all I want to do is escape, to go somewhere where I don’t have to think about what I might be missing, what I am or am not, where I don’t have to see the shadow of my own potential quietly creeping up behind me at all times. Someplace where I can just be.
As I sat on my couch the other night watching the second half of The Shining, I remembered my dear friend was attending a fancy after-party for New York Fashion Week. In previous years I’d been more engaged in the events of the week, I’d even managed to attend a few events myself, but this year I had forgotten about its existence entirely. As I watched Jack Torrance limp through the snowy hedge maze in search of his son, Danny, I texted my friend to ask her how the party was going. She told me it was in an insane penthouse. “Send pics,” I texted, and in turn, I received both photos and the Streeteasy listing. As Danny slowly, and carefully retraced his steps in the maze, effectively tricking his crazed father and saving his own life, I scrolled through the listing and imagined what it might feel like to pay $200k per month for rent. Shortly thereafter, as I lay in my soft, sizeable bed in my cozy little apartment, I thought, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be right now.
Cheers, my dears, and as always thanks for reading. I’ve been bedridden all week, so I’m greatly looking forward to finally leaving my house this evening to eat Korean food in Brooklyn with some beautiful people. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!
Three Pieces of Content Worth Consuming
It’s ‘It’ Girl Night at Kaitlin Phillips’s Apartment. I’d never heard of publicist/internet it girl Kaitlin Phillips until reading this article, which came to me partly by way of a strange coincidence as I was contemplating the various niche New York scenes for today’s essay. The setting of the piece, cleverly described by New York Magazine’s Gen-Z party writer, Brock Coylar, perfectly summarizes the feeling of questioning one’s relative coolness, or general relevance, in the scheme of the city. I’m also interested in the number of genuinely angry comments on the article—is it because everyone in the article truly seems terrible, or because people hate to feel excluded, especially when those doing the excluding seem to fall into the quasi-intellectual, Cool Girl set? The world may never know.
Truly Humbled to Be the Author of This Article. I didn’t know the Atlantic ever wrote in such a quippy, New Yorker Daily Shouts tone, but here we are! A sharp piece on the tendency to express false humility in the age of the internet. This gave me a laugh and raised some valid points—i..e. stop using “humble” when you should use “proud”.
The New Quantified Self. I’ve long been critical of our collective obsession with digital tracking—number of steps, sleep tracking, digitized “productivity hacks”—but I never knew the phenomenon had a formal name. The quantified self, by definition, is “the cultural phenomenon of self-tracking with technology in pursuit of self-knowledge through numbers.” I liked this essay from Haley Nahman pondering the limits and perceived benefits of our obsession with self-tracking; particularly whether we should trust an app more than we trust our own bodies and minds.
Perhaps You Should… Purchase This Poetry Collection
I’ve held tight to the ritual of starting every day with a poem for the past year or so now. When I received this collection as a birthday gift a few weeks back, I didn’t know how much sexier my mornings would become. This collection in particular is perfect because it’s a small, pocket-sized paperback (the superior format of book) and because each poem is written side-by-side—first in Spanish, the original format, and then translated into English. As I am slowly, slowly attempting to learn Spanish, it’s wonderful to sit down each morning and read the poem aloud in Spanish first, identifying the words I know, feeling the weight of them on my tongue, and then in English. Neruda’s work is sensual, wistfully romantic, and will make you wish you have a poet for a lover. Highly recommend.
**Bonus Content** (Harry Styles Stans Go Wild)
A Quote From A Book You Should Read:
“When they asked me what I wanted to be I said I didn’t know.
"Oh, sure you know," the photographer said.
"She wants," said Jay Cee wittily, "to be everything.”
-The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
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Or, share the most thought-provoking piece from today’s edition with someone you love, then call them up to discuss, debate, and percolate. As a wise woman once said, “Great minds discuss ideas.