but we don’t want any best creatures

{when you get to the part about the semi-harmless drunk vagrant with a megaphone, this is the corner where he’s standing}

one of the things i am working on, as a human, is to be less peevish. the particular municipality that i have chosen as my setting for personhood has some notable UX flaws (speaking only for myself). some of these flaws exacerbate peeves. one of them is that you are just crammed right the hell next to lots of other human beings. in my more pastoral existence 1981-2008, the only times i really stood super close to other human beings were embraces of various friendly and marital dimensions. the average closeness of strangers on a 10x+/week basis isn’t as bad as knowing anything about their deodorant or oral hygiene choices (although sometimes perfume is a problem). but here in new york city, compared to other places of mine, there are just more people more near to me than i would call ideal.

this is one of the many small assaults to the bourgeois self that contemporary megalopolitan living throws off incessantly. it is a tax that some people ultimately don’t care to pay, opting for taxis or westchester or high-rises or towncars or places that cost various tokens of wealth or exclusivity to access. other places that are not new york assess and collect taxes of all different kinds. san francisco is just as expensive and the muni is useless, i gather. columbus, ohio has a budweiser plant, downwind of which it smells like mother nature lit her hair on fire. chicago has gun crime and winter and little unwalkable zeno’s paradoxes of distance between neighborhoods and train stops. small towns can smother plurality. the southwest suburbs of cleveland have a fleabitten apathy, at least for me. (these places are all wonderful, too: san francisco has burritos and golden gate park and innumerable earthly delights. columbus has punk music and a hockey team and … i’m sure there are other nice things. small towns have peace and togetherness and big yards. chicago is the hearth of the world and i’ll never not miss being there. and home is home).

back to new york city and peevishness: for my first few years here, i often found other people’s behavior patterns, consumption communities, haircuts annoying, sometimes at a fruit-fly level, othertimes in a way that gobbled up a lot more of my emotional bandwidth than i could accept. many solutions have availed–noise-cancelling headphones, blunted and blunting music, inside time, MLBtv, taking a deep enough breath to let my brain remember that life in this garden is a license to feel joy. part of it was learning to understand my own feelings, even the not-super-admirable ones about why are those fucking drunk yuppies talking so loud hate hate hate. i am pretty pleased with my progress, although i definitely whiff every once in a while. one of the aftermarket mods i’ve made to my life, outside of my skull, is to avoid things that i have a hard time not minding.

the intense proximity of my species-mates here isn’t just a question of navigating a cattle-pen sidewalk or having to gently push people out of my way on the subway or fred astaire my way around puddles of bum pee and other exotic fluids–there are also sounds and lights, more than anyone really could ever want or need, vying for your attention, some required by local zoning laws to be punishingly bright. the crowdedness of nyc has a linguistic aspect.

as a reflexive reader and hearer of the english language, it sometimes isn’t the sheer noise or sharpness or conceptual unpleasantness of the non-palpable that gets me, it’s the mere existence of it–and before i learned variously to understand myself, to learn to deal, and to buy good headphones and listen to dub reggae a lot, that mere existence of stimuli drove me a bit batty. the sheer sensory punishment of NYC did a pick-and-roll with my (also working on this) vibrant sense of class animosity and resentment. acts as routine (and unavoidable) as walking down a street in manhattan or yuppie brooklyn became tough mudders that i was not able to complete without getting my mental uniform just totally covered in shit.

in fact, a very small contributing factor (price, proximity to the subway+tacos, and wanderlust are all much more to blame) in my choice of neighborhood (sunset park) was that at least 2/3rds of my neighbors don’t speak english and aren’t white yuppies. rest assured that i am aware of my demographic hypocrisy etc etc. i won’t say much here about the class resentment thing, because that’s a thing i’m still turning over under a telescope in my brain–instead i just want to talk about the basic cultural/language barriers i live next to.

now, these barriers are porous, for me. lots of people speak english here. i am never really inconvenienced (here or anywhere) by being monolingual. but for some obscure reason i take comfort in the fact that most of the conversations i hear on the sidewalk, at the store, on the subway platform, are mostly just sounds, except for the odd spanish word that i pick out. i am curious about the cultures i live next to, but i haven’t had a chance to learn very much of the attendant languages, which is actually quite sad but not the kind of thing i’m going to regret on my dying day. i will never be fujianese or puerto rican or ecuadorean, at least not sufficiently so to unlock insider access to sunset park. so i sort of bob on the surface here. it’s a fine if slightly grubby neighborhood. i still like that it’s not park slope or williamsburg or the village or the upper west side. in part because i can’t afford the joiner’s fees in those places, i pride myself on my contempt of their fatuities (getting a little underground man vibe here–and also realizing that new york’s irritations have an economic aspect).

this post was meant to get around to my enjoyment that 1) the fujianese lady at the laundry place called me “amigo” when i dropped off laundry earlier 2) the semi-harmless drunk vagrant dude who haunts my closest intersection seems to have found a functioning megaphone and is yelling about tacos outside. i don’t know how to get there, just yet, in terms of just the actual writing, and also my brain hygiene in terms of privilege, compassion, universal personhood, etc. i want sunset park to have a business that sells prepackaged salads and emo soap, and i also want it to stay cheap. i am self-interested in my citizenship of the neighborhood, and i have a desire to be a community member, but also like 75% of the person-hours i spend here i am asleep or indoors brain-interfacing with the internet, so: my point is, as pretty much always this year: i and everyone else have a daily caloric need of community and quality meatspace emotional plate appearances. i am maybe not hitting my own RDAs on that front, for lots of fun reasons. but until then: these tacos, which i guarantee will make me and everyone else they meet way less peevish.

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