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The Isle of New York

And, like all bitter New Yorkers, there are days I just wanna kick rocks and wave goodbye to my fair city once and for all.

Story by Teo J Babini Images by Muge Karamanci
©Muge Karamanci

©Muge Karamanci

I know you’ve heard it all before, and there is no shortage of people talking about it, but New York City has changed. Even in my little over a quarter century in this city I’ve seen the creation of SoHo, NYU take over the village, the gentrification of the Bowery and beyond into Brooklyn, countless classics closing in the wake of new bullshit businesses (RIP Tower Records and the Great Jones Diner), Giuliani sweep the streets with batons and hand cuffs, and the loss of our beloved Twins…

©Muge Karamanci

©Muge Karamanci

Many a day I find myself nostalgic for those wilder days, missing that edge and character only a gritty city of broken dreams could possess. Even miss the history I wasn’t around for, from the foundation to time capsules saved in books and relived in films and TV shows. At times, I struggle to find my place in this metropolis I call home.

©Muge Karamanci

©Muge Karamanci

And, like all bitter New Yorkers, there are days I just wanna kick rocks and wave goodbye to my fair city once and for all. Quit the rat race for the peace of mind offered in some bucolic utopia somewhere, skylines disappearing under the cover of trees and that real rustic green that you only find when the air is crispy fresh, free from Chinatown garbage scent in summer. Space.

©Muge Karamanci

©Muge Karamanci

Or even less of a hop, and just find some city less saturated, that I could dig my hungry Manhattan mitts into and carve out my own history for generations ahead to be jealous of. Start a movement I could afford to live, or open a business that doesn’t end in financial suicide, swallowed up by the competition of Wall Street Disneyland.

©Muge Karamanci

©Muge Karamanci

All these thoughts bear down on me, especially in those wet winter days where the cold sneaks into my heart through leaky layers and coats. No kinda snow shoes can stop you from slipping on the metal lips of sidewalks into some puddle of a life you work eighty hours a week for, living in a closet and still second guess ordering delivery ‘cause the money don’t come from nothin’ but sweat down broken back.

©Muge Karamanci

©Muge Karamanci

Still, there are the moments you remember what it’s all about, the faces have changed, but it’s dark at night anyhow and the blur of that perfect chaos brings the picture in clear. Imagine running into friends in a city of millions at one AM on Tuesday far from anywhere you ever expect to see them. Or stumbling into some half-empty Malaysian fish joint, and finding out they got the best fish tacos you’ve ever had and the owner generously likes Jameson as much as you do. All nonsense aside, you could do literally anything here at any moment without even meaning or wanting to, a conduit to all worlds and universes, cultures and languages.

©Muge Karamanci

©Muge Karamanci

At the end of the day, when I do leave I miss it. I miss the walking meditation of the simplest activities here. The neighborhood freaks you feel like you know although the old ways teach you to avoid eye contact. The lights and the energy. But most of all, what anchors me to this shallow land of empty glass towers is seeing it as you come in from elsewhere. Reminds me of that monologue in the beginning of Woody Allen’s Manhattan. Nothing makes my heart beat like the sight of my city when I know I’m comin’ home.

“To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin.”

©Muge Karamanci

©Muge Karamanci

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