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Not a Country Boy

Always been more of a city person. Odd, given that we live out in the jungle, but there we are. Growing up in the suburbs was, for me, incredibly stifling. The space was obviously nice, but the idea of suburban life never really made sense to me. It’s neither one thing, nor the other; most of the inconveniences of urban and rural living, with few of the benefits of either. A uniform land of lawns, pavement, car dealerships, takeaway restaurants, and blood-feuds with neighbors over some power-tool that you haven’t even used in 10 years. It’s the anonymity of the city that I’ve always preferred. I’ve heard it all too often, the idea that NYC - my hometown - is too fast, too mean, and the residents are rude. And I’ve always taken exception to that idea. It’s not that New Yorkers are rude. They are, indeed, in a hurry most of the time. And you don’t register to them… unless you’re in the way. City life isn’t easy. It’s crowded and noisy and busy and frequently smells of urine. When you carve out a little bit of personal space for yourself, you protect it and you expect people to respect it. Standing right in front of opening subway doors and not moving, or in the middle of the sidewalk to take a selfie is an invasion of our personal space. Potential personal space that I might be moving through… yes. But the person taking the selfie has, basically, claimed that common-use spot on the sidewalk as their own. Get - and I can’t stress this emphatically enough - the fuck - seriously, pay attention - out of the FUCKING WAY YOU FUCKING COW! See? That’s not rude. That’s common sense. And the only way to really get anyone in the city’s attention. Be in the way. That will get their attention really quick. Otherwise, you tend to be invisible. I like invisible. I like being left to myself to explore or just aimlessly wander. I like being left alone in shops where I may just be browsing. Polite attention of, “If you need any help just call,” is obviously pretty nice. But otherwise, I’m just wandering around and seeing what you sell; go over there and stop being in the way. Which most shop clerks tend to intuit in major cities. You may be some broke-ass-knucklehead who can’t afford a single thing in the entire store… you might be an heir to the TANG empire… generally you get about the same treatment. (NOTE: This holds true in most cities I’ve been to as a tall, white, western male dressed somewhat modestly who tends not to invite random conversations. Results may vary.) But far and away the thing that I’ve always loved most about the city, any city, is all the signs of life at night. Had this apartment in the West Village at one point where my desk was right up against a back window that looked out over the back gardens of the block. To risk sounding like a peeping tom or having some sort of Rear Window shit going on: I loved glancing out that window to see all the lights on across the way. People having an evening. Being at home for the night, or perhaps just getting ready to head back out into the night. It’s what I still love about walking around the city, as Nelly and I have been taking so many vacations to CDMX over the last few years. To walk around and just feel that energy. To bask in it. It is, I suspect, the thing that endures about Hoppers Nightowls. It invites curiosity about the people in the diner. What are their stories? Where are they coming from or where are they headed? What’s on their minds as they sip at their late-night coffee? “You could go in and ask them,” some of my more rural friends might suggest. But that’s how a motherfucker gets maced. Just randomly talk to a stranger at a diner in the middle of the night? Weirdo. Besides, this all tends to suit me, as I’ve always been far more of an “outside looking in” sort of a person. When I still lived in my beloved city I’d meander, any which way, for hours at night. I’d watch the activity in the bars and the restaurants, glance through apartment windows at architecture and decor. I could walk the streets without any expectations; the city, as a living, breathing, evolving thing… it doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t even notice you. I understand that diner is long gone, used to be on Greenwich Ave in NY. But the city remains. The glowing warmth of all those lights presenting the most fleeting pictures of all those lives. It’s truly glorious. And Mr. Lockwood, here, explores the idea further. Pulling back from the diner, framing it within the larger city full of stories and hopes and heartbreaks and aspirations and disappointments and food and festivity and… just… everything. Here, on the other hand… there’s trees. Lots of trees. Found a paper-wasp nest yesterday while I was pressure washing. And there’s caves. Which is why we are here in the first place. But not a day goes by I don’t miss the city. Probably time to plan another trip to CDMX.

Phil Lockwood - The Office at Night

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