Deer Tick’s Ian O’Neill: I Love/Hate New York (My Page)
Two years ago, I left New York City for Providence, R.I., pissed off at the self-serving lifestyle this city seemed to breed. The bohemian obsession of living in ghettos, chasing authenticity and enjoying the abuse that the natives have been born into was wearing thin. The ambition and competition didn’t seem to serve any civic or human duty.
When I first came to New York, I was afforded the luxury of a lonely lifestyle. This city gave me the streets to walk and the anonymity to think. Plenty of tragedies, divorces and deaths occurred back home. I had the perspective to handle them. I’d fucked up relationships, so what would make my mother different for ending her unhappy marriage?
We envy our friends and enemies, wishing to be more like them in spite of ourselves and spending our young lives searching for what we’d like to be. The more difficult reality is to simply come to terms with who you are. There are pitfalls in human behavior, and accepting that your evil isn’t any different than anyone else’s is an important perspective.
In New York, we live in very close proximity to one another. We are surrounded by strangers—often times competing on some level, whether it be to get on the train first or to get that particular gallery show first. Living in this rat race has given me context: we are compassionate community members and violent animals ready to help and steal.
But is the rat race worth the time that it steals from us? The opportunistic nature that our greedy city can perpetuate can be a futile game. People often travel to bigger cities in hoping to “find themselves.” Usually, that just means to “become someone they’re not.”
Like most young assholes, I considered myself to be of a separate demographic—in an elite class far more special than the elite itself. Not realizing I was part of Brooklyn’s self-loathing and self-obsessed youth, I was critical of everyone around me. Naturally, any creative community will be a selfish one and the romantic allure ran out when the rent was due.
I think it was Marilyn Manson who wrote: “You can’t smell your own shit on your knees.” Adverse to change and obsessed with the pseudo-substance of the past, the rapid transformation of New York was uncomfortable to me. I dreamed of being here at another time. Full of shit, ambitious and restless, I decided to split for an opportunity that landed me in Providence.
I’ve traveled incessantly and spotted the globe, leaving vague traces of what I think I am for those who’ve listened. Each city fell short of the spirit of New York. And while we trample on the past and stumble into the future, we may actually find something valuable in that disrespect.
New York seems to drape ugliness and loneliness over its residents, like a curse or a toll. But few other cities have the wonder and mystery that fill New York’s people and their streets. A dark history looms large here. There is a sense of violence and glamour that rises from the concrete. I missed that part of my life. Providence was comfortable but I almost lost myself there. I’m moving back to New York because the restlessness that I grew to hate was why I moved there to begin with.
There’s a distinct similarity between the attitude of New York and the attitude of the people that inhabit it. There’s a human quality in the greed here, demanding its people to be loyal. The Empire State’s desire for power and glory is that of the artists and politicians as well. Everything is at stake in New York.
The possibilities of New York are what redeem its unapologetic personality. Through a winding maze of circumstance, people can realize their hopes.
However, the process is an ugly and lonely one.
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