Purple Magazine
— The New York issue #39 S/S 2023

Will New York Return To Its Glory Days?






No matter how expensive, how gentrified, how decadent, how past-it the city is always declared to be, people keep coming to live here. No one from South Dakota, but people from just about everywhere else. (Ontario, Latvia, whatever.) What other city has spawned a genre of essays about leaving it — songs of the defeated — resigned to an easier life in more forgiving precincts, where life is less punishing and therefore less real? Perhaps under the mistaken impression that the city couldn’t get along without them.

“You never wanted to be decent and live like a human being,” a man says to his fiancé in His Girl Friday, as he realizes she won’t come with him to live with his mother in Albany but will stick to New York City and the newspaper business (and her ex, Cary Grant). Who would want to live like a human being when you could live like a New Yorker — loose, tight, wired, broke, desperate, often ecstatic, never bored, always in touch with your exes?

Living in New York is being awash in a sea of exes. You’re either famous for being friends with all your exes or famous for never speaking to your exes ever again. People don’t mourn the closures of restaurants — they mourn restaurants their exes frequent, parties they can no longer attend without looking over their shoulder, lest some girl throws a drink at them. (And girls do still throw drinks here, quaint as that may seem.) Then there’s all the people who are constantly trying to set you up with their ex. For the record, that’s a trap. But a trap worth falling into…

There were speculations that the pandemic would return New York to its glory days. It would empty out the shopfronts and the lofts and make the city as cheap as it was in, say, the 1970s. (In what other city are higher crime rates and poorer sanitation an object of nostalgia?) As it turned out, after a temporary dip, the rents went up, and, along with them, another old friend from the 1970s returned: inflation. It all stands to reinvigorate a proud New York tradition: complaining about how much everything costs and bragging about how you got out of paying. They just named it the most expensive city in the world … whatever.

New York is a restaurant town, a barfly’s paradise, a constant pageant of parties — largely all the same party, attended by everybody except those who have shut them- selves inside to write their novels or screenplays about the nights they wasted at the pageant. There are so many gyms in the city now — palaces of pain for those who think the city’s regular dose isn’t enough. The pure of heart prefer cinemas. Hollywood may put out most of America’s films, but it’s New York audiences that pass judgment on them and keep the good ones alive through constant revivals. All the best showbiz talent starts here; Los Angeles is simply where you go to sell out. Washington is where you go for the delusion that you’ll make a difference. Chicago has niceness and worse weather. Boston has meanness with worse weather. Philadelphia — are you kidding? New York is the capital of the world. That’s why 9/11 happened here.

The city is big enough for everybody’s secrets, not that anybody in this town can keep one. I used to wear a bracelet that said, “TRUST NO ONE,” and it’s the best advice I ever got. Everyone in New York has a lot of ad- vice for everyone else. Usually it’s “don’t do what I did.” The people who give this advice the most frequently have the nicest looking lives. There’s a piece of advice in that; mostly, don’t believe what you hear.

Spend a year here, and you’ll make some enemies. Stick around for a decade or so, and they’ll be the ones you’re happy to see at the party. You might even make it rich. That whole scenario of “being young in New York” feels like an era that passed. (“You stayed out too late, blew all your money, slept it off, and missed your train. Tough luck, kiddo — another one leaves in an hour.”) Every young person I meet seems richer than me. Honestly, I don’t mind. It’s the poor people coming up behind you that you have to watch out for. They’ll steal your job!

You can tell a lot about a person by the friends they have — but especially in New York. Who can’t make friends in New York? You have to be a real loser! Which is funny because everyone in New York is always complaining about being surrounded by losers. You never hear anyone offline complaining about gatekeeping. (It’s why, as a friend told me once, you can’t hang out with the B people. They’ll bring the C people.)

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say is: most US magazines, and almost all the best ones, are made in New York, which is why the city will always control the narrative. The narrative is: tragedy, black comedy, rise and fall, the burnout, the comeback, the love story. All your friends will get rich or famous, and then they’ll all get cancelled, or, worse, they’ll have kids, and they’ll never be fun again — it won’t matter. You’ll be able to talk about what happened to them for as long as you live. What happens to people here is more interesting than what happens to people all over the world. Maybe it’s because New York is the most glorious place to fall in love — but also the most treacherous because there are so many people here to fall in love with. Thus love is the sole permissible justification to leave town.


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The New York issue #39 S/S 2023

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