I Have Been Digested (Culture Shock Notes: I)

Prefatory: Finally going through my notebooks from the first month in New York, I smile at that “younger self” who was so wired (and “traumatised”) by everything going on around him, that it seemed as if everything was pressing in upon his consciousness. It was. So, what I never believed would happen, has – I must have acclimatised. I have been digested! And come through the gut to a relative peace, only to wait for the next phase of the peristaltic process to begin. I’d better set down some of these impressions: annoyingly anti-chronological of me not to have done this at the time they were scribbled down (on subways, in cafes, bars, at street corners waiting for the lights to change). A clever, irritatingly-bloggy blogger would have done so, but sure, what harm.

(Thursday 26th August, 2010.) I got my immunisation forms and vaccine status cleared at the NYU Health Center. In the end, everything was ok. An ambulance went by just now, I’m sure its siren was too loud for health and safety levels. I’m noticing that one aspect of the hipster look is skinny faded black or blue jeans, check shirt (tight), black canvas sneakers with white soles and de rigeur fedora bought from the St. Mark’s Place street stalls. Glasses with black frames, of course. And, if you don’t need them, feign myopia. The nerd / nimrod / dweeb made good. Through fake vintage and real tattoos.

Got my student card from a place on La Fayette. NYU must have so many buildings. The card centre is a whole bottom floor, but perhaps the rest of the building is dedicated to other uses. I don’t know why I was so nervous before coming here – for some reason, I was just neurotic about taking a taxi from the airport. I know I threw down 60$ fare including 10$ tip and 5$ for toll charges, it wasn’t the money that made me nervous, it was just the – I don’t know, the interaction? I was going to ask the people in the queue ahead of me if they wanted to share, but I didn’t. It was nothing like arriving in Buenos Aires, no hassle. I think the challenge of NYC is the sheer amount of people, the energy, the cannibalistic push of people.

I think it could be the kind of place that could run right through you if you were having a bad day. Slim Asian woman in cut off jeans/shorts, and white linen blouse; conformity to a look, a type; flowing, long black breakable hair, a fragility, wispy; in other contexts, others use tattoos to break through, but then here, so many have them, they become the same. The tattooing of the flesh; numerology, bar codes, the Number of the Beast.

Yes, the Maori say that if you have no tattoos, the hag that guards the other world will take your eyes instead, and you will be blind in the underworld. They tattooed with a sharp stick and a kind of hammer. Scar-ification, initiation. Is this this generation’s initiation? At the hands, not of the elders, but by pierced and tatted fellows of their own generation. There’s pain, yes, but what is its meaning? Self-chosen. But, what mythology?

I feel the same eyes-bugging-out-of-my-head feeling as I had when I was in NYC for five days in May. Of course, that was after an all-night flight from BA, and I hadn’t slept, had to wait ’til 2pm before I could check into the bloody hostel in Bushwick. It feels like a tremour within the eyeball itself, as if I had taken hallucinogens, and were coming down. Jet lag needs peace, restful contexts. NYC on Jet lag is like taking speed to come down from another stimulant, or whatever artificial correctives we self-administer.

There are simply so many people here that one feels unnoticed, and thus free to become, wear the riskier outfits from one’s wardrobe. Where does “normality” begin? The borough border with Queens? But, I did sleep from 10 p.m. last night ’til 7 am, and then lay there checking my emails, facebooking, etc. Adam’s apartment is amazing: “industrial chic”, he calls it. Restful, shady, a retreat. A garden, a lapis lazuli barber’s chair in the living room.

Everywhere in this city, something is going on. It’s War and Peace / Wings of Desire / Ulysses, all at the same time. Incredible. Brooklyn has half the population of Ireland.

“I was rear-ended (pause) in my Thunderbird” a woman is saying into her mobile phone.

(Photos borrowed from here and here.)

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New York Peristalsis

My name is David McLoghlin, I am the author of "Waiting for Saint Brendan and Other Poems" (Salmon Poetry, July 2012); I am an Irish poet, writer and literary translator, who currently lives in New York, and blogs about its vicissitudes, while not writing other things, like my 2nd collection. I moved to NYC in 2010 to study at NYU's MFA Program in Creative Writing, from which I graduated in 2012, two months before my book was published. Before moving to the US, I lived in Ireland, Spain, Belgium, France, the USA, and travelled in a variety of countries (including Morocco, Czechoslovakia (when it was that country), Paraguay, Uruguay, Argentina and Norway), whilst engaged in a number of pursuits. Newyorkperistalsis.wordpress.com came about as a catch-all for impressions related to moving to NYC alone: culture shock, in essence, and all her ugly sisters.

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