Later today, I’ll be leaving New York City. After spending the last three days here, the city has changed so much that it’s nearly unrecognizable to long-time natives like myself. While eating an egg sandwich in bed yesterday morning after a booze-filled romp with the luxurious daughter of a Prime Minister from a former USSR nation, I kept lamenting to her on what a strange and luxurious world I was now in. When did everything start being about the money? Where did the heart of this city go, and was it gone forever? Where were the fun people I danced with two nights ago? Why was there arugula on my egg sandwich? Mostly, I wondered: What happened to the New York I remembered?
Over steak frites at Balthazar, I expressed my frustration to my dining companions: Cage, a cagey heroin dealer to the stars, Glenn O’Brien’s cousin Tyjuan, Ernest Baker, a friendly pile of old towels that we thought was Cat Marnell and a extradited Senegalese warlord that I befriended in a dice game after he tried to cut my finger off when I tried to pay in Bitcoin. They assured me, the only constant in this city was change itself. Is that truth? Could it be that the city that made me who I am over the last 72 hours couldn’t ever love me the way I grew to love it?
I’m leaving tonight at 5 p.m. Flying to Chicago, a cheese-stuffed, bacon-wrapped monolith where I’ll attempt to ply my trade as a writer. Seeing as I’m doing my new city a favor by living in New York then moving, I’ll be sure to loudly compare the two cities in every possible way, even when it doesn’t make sense to do so. I owe it to the bathroom in Baby’s All Right I threw up in. I owe it to that long line I waited in down in Chinatown that I thought was for a secret show but just ended up being a fruit market. I owe it to the guy on the Soho House roof deck who asked me if I had the time. I owe it to my New York.
Ernest Wilkins is a writer who’s leaving New York. Mostly because his flight leaves at 5.
…it’s not like millennials invented privilege policing. But what is new is the way privilege has become weaponized. It shows up in the phrase “check your privilege,” which began as a way of indicating how a person’s background might leave him blind to the oppression experienced by others. Now what was once a legitimate tool for self-examination is an insufferably smug platform for self-righteousness.
It will be some time before you hear from me again. I’m bound today for a cabin in Appalachia, well away from the din and fury of the city. There I will undertake the greatest task of my life. It is there that I hope to write that mythic piece of content, the Great American Listicle.