Mark Jack says farewell to New York City and prepares to reluctantly welcome the West Coast straight into his heart.
Hey, my Puddlers. The blog hiatus was supposed to start on Friday, but you are getting a bonus Mark Jack post on this Monday. This is Mark Jack's farewell to New York. I am going to miss having Mark Jack around as a friend to talk to. You've enjoyed reading his words here on the blog, but the intelligence and well-read thought that he brings in person is something different. He'll still be writing when he moves to Berkeley (I'll make him put stuff up here!) so you won't lose that part. He deserves to write and you deserve to keep reading. I'll miss my friend, but life moves on and we all deserve to figure out how to be happy.
So, without further ado, here is Mr. Mark Jack. We'll both see you on the other side. Enjoy the summer.
There Is Everything Here
“Too little too often,” I say, or perhaps, “So few so privately.” But then can any of us be sure that we are meaning anything? And does anyone here want to speak of decline or are we too afraid to pull a Gibbons—as if we could.
I have still so many things to do and yet I know that I will reach no goal and so I’ve set none, but I have gestured weakly (if not meekly) in some direction, I think, and the getting there is the question and I’ve always had a poor eye for distance.
Writing now, I’m missing terribly the city I haven’t left yet, and the city I’ve never really liked. New York is a foolish place, and though it’s pride is still intact, it’s ambition still vigorous, it is a sad realization that I’ve come to that the city only believes itself to be good at making money. I am not a businessman. I am not a careerist. I am bad with money; I do not know the value of it. So…I’m moving. I depend upon everyone to disagree with me, because New York is the city as all see the city. It is built upon and with mistaken notions and mispronounced foreignness. Kafka wrote this city. He may have so many of his stories reference specific streets and parks and buildings in Prague, but his made-up New York is vague and crushed and upright and unknowable and present and real. New York is still a place to go to, and it’s mythic past remains present, and perhaps always will, in the look of the place. It is too iconic to lose too much, but if this trend towards safety and denial and bourgeois sensibility continues, it will be a place to spiritually die. So many have come here to escape something, and I think, maybe it is that lack of cohesion which has always given New York something to be about; it is the lack of a stable idea of what it was that one wished to escape to that provided New York with countless stories and arts and lives. Where now, though?
I frequent a little basement Malaysian restaurant on Doyers street in Chinatown, which is that little elbow of a street off Pell that curves onto Bowery. This is old school Chinatown, but everything around this little basement place is expertly marketed Chinatown. I mean, Nom Wah Tea Parlor looks great and old fashioned and is, to an extent, but it’s a tourist place as well. Just walk around down there and check it out. I’m not advocating for some New York pride, nor am I against making money on some level. I want people from out of town to feel that they can come into New York and find some awesome food, or a great new pair of shoes or some shit, but in the end, who fucking cares!?! Order it from the goddamn Internet! I can’t help but feel that the danger of the city in the past—though I should be clear here and state that I do not wish for the good old days of stabbings and rape—was interesting because the danger was whether the created you would be a good you or not, interesting or not. The only creation dichotomy present in this city today is successful or not. I am not. I am moving.
Henry Miller used to walk around New York hating it, just fucking hating it. He wrote this city beautifully, even though he was a piece of shit. Every city that he went to that he had any love for was most likely a terrible place to be. Miller loved to bitch. The Colossus of Maroussi was one of his best and it is the only book of his where he reaches those gorgeous, ecstatic moments while praising a place. Normally he does this while bitching. He bitched ecstatically about New York.
Where are our New York writers now? I’ve been to a few readings. I’ve read of few young books by young authors. I’ve perused some magazines seen the stories filled with misunderstood irony and droll humor that missed the mark and was only droll. It is so much shit in my view. The literary scene in NYC, the young, playful, daring literary scene of NYC is just a bunch of strong willed, unskilled graphic design hacks. Let us reach deep into our throats and examine that our hearts are still beating, and not just coffee laden and marketable. We are not dirty enough. Or, we are not clean enough. I Don’t Know.
Most days, these days, I feel totally mediocre; I feel totally accomplished and productive if I’ve done even the most paltry things. Mostly, these days, I don’t know, IDK! Like a corporate logo, like a political party’s acronym, its symbol, like something to follow, to chant in shoddy unison, and, lastly, something to admit. Hmm. I don’t know.
So I’m moving. I’ve got my WPA Guide to NYC, so I’ll be able to make all the walks around the city still in my imagination, even in Berkeley. I’ve never cared for much built after the 30s anyway. The WPA descriptions are amazing and beautiful and still ring fundamentally true for today’s New York. Queens is still single family suburban crunched into a city. Brooklyn is still brownstone and factory outskirts with a downtown of its own. Staten Island is a weird mystery of New Jersey, sunken tugs, and laser tag. The Bronx is still smoldering in places and idyllic in others, and Manhattan is still just as overcrowded and plateau-like.
To all my friends in New York I send you my love. I will miss you all terribly. I hope that if you decide to come out to the Bay Area we can get together. I hope to continue to yell at you all from the west coast on this blog, so maybe as far as this scenario goes, nothing is changing, but it feels different, even here. I’ll describe walks in California that are only predictably beautiful. I’ll miss views like this: