Friday, September 4, 2009

from west to east

"What are the consequences of California? I have been thinking about this question because I am still young and rootless enough to feel that I might, in the future, move back there.

Having lived in California and on the East Coast for long stretches of time, it is viable (as well as romantic) to use these places as metaphors. California is ease, beauty, home and a certain surrendering of ambitions. The East is difficulty, stimulation, work and independence. The former seems more immediately appealing than the latter but then, in practice, it’s often not.

The West has better books and food and more space. The natural landscape can be sublime where the East is never sublime (it’s a matter of scale). One actually feels more deeply in California, and thinks less. Thinking is an indoor activity. It’s an East Coast thing.

Generalizations can be helpful and truthful in these matters. The important question appears to be: where do I feel most natural? Most unassailed? In spiritual terms, imaginative terms and digestive terms. And this is something that still seems to switch back and forth."

-Molly Young

as a born and raised california girl, I definitely feel as if I wear the scarlet C on my forehead quite prominently as I go traipsing about the city streets of new york. it's not terribly hard to discern my alien presence on the east coast as I indiscriminately smile at people on the subway while turning the page of my 7 x 7 magazine as I absentmindedly readjust my pink flip flops. as much as I enjoy the unique energy and insurmountable culture shock, 6 months apparently does not a new yorker make. just because neglecting to compost here is acceptable (and possibly encouraged) does not mean that there is not a law in my hometown that can get you arrested if you don't keep a pile of rotting food in your kitchen to 'save the environment'.

I have noticed that though I seem to have recaptured an elusive beatitude that went by way of a series of unfortunate events in san francisco, I'm not as of yet satisfied with my productivity here. new york is a entity of millions of hustlers, rat racing and beating deadlines and cut-throat swashbuckling their way to the top of the totem pole. there always seems to be someone better that you have to anticipate monkeywrenching your failsafe plan, or at the least, someone faster or with an extensive rolodex of who-you-knows. my laissez faire california coasting sensibility is regrettably intact and at times detrimental to keeping pace with everything. here, my "super stressed, so I'll get around to it tomorrow" is another man's "I pulled an all nighter and had it done by this morning".

it's a cliche new york-ism to complain of feeling a rock bottom lonely in an endless sea of this bustling metropolitan mecca. that cliche is one that I'm willing to defend as being (at times) indisputably true. from my outsider's view, I see the rough beauty and appreciate the extremity that new york lifestyle lends. if california is temperate sunshine, boundless ephemeral fairy tales, and a universal destination for young people to retire, new york is physically and proverbially as far opposite as you can get. here, you leave your mark, or you don't. it's a confederation of movers and a hegemony of shakers. you put out or you get out.

when I announced my coast swapping plan, my friend jeff confessed his concern about new york making kind, gentle people hard and bitter, and while I took it into account, I didn't necessarily agree. maybe I just haven't been here long enough. right now, it's teaching me independence and responsibility, benevolently providing endless writing material, and consciously molding me into who I want to be.

thanks to molly, for getting me thinking.

San Francisco's fine,
You sure get lots of sun.
San Francisco is fine.
You sure get lots of sun.
But I'm used to four seasons,
California's got but one.

-Bob Dylan

2 comments:

Anthony Sheedy said...

So, you're like a combination of Bad Boy and Death Row; a one woman inner struggle for coastal supremacy. It's California Love Vs. Mo Money, Mo Problems....or, usually Less Money, Mo Problems. But, eventually, both sides will be metaphorically shot to death and you will rise from the ashes and the gun powder as a beautiful, singular phoenix, beyond any east and west cliches. Perhaps, you will be a Texan. It's hard to tell.

sarahsarahsarah said...

i think the difference between east coast and west coast, specifically in terms of SF vs NY is in SF you actually have the time to sit and ruminate on all of the culture and food and amazing things you're exposed to. in new york, you're either too poor, too busy, or too depressed to do any of it and yet somehow it's still pleasing because you're "there" and it feels necessary.

but also, don't let it change everything about you. i still say y'all. i still haven't colored my hair. i refuse to adhere to the rule that you must wear skinny jeans with an asymmetrical hair cut. and i will also never hail a cab for a stop that's anything less than 7 blocks.