Last night, I dreamed that I was on a plane, and for some reason, the plane needed to make a stop in New York. It landed in Brooklyn, inexplicably beside the backyard of a bar I once frequented, and I looked out the window and started to cry.
This weekend was a busy one. I went to First Friday at the ICA and had drinks by the waterfront. On Saturday night, I had dinner in the South End and then went to see a great production of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, starring Malcolm-Jamal Warner, at the Huntington Theater. Sunday was spent at an apple orchard, picking apples, ogling fall foliage, and eating cider donuts. It doesn’t get much better than New England in the fall. So why the subconscious attack of New York nostalgia?
I can’t even begin to guess at the kinds of things my brain goes through when I’m asleep (later in the dream, I lost a tooth, the pieces falling out of my mouth like broken shards of pottery as I tried to hide it from the people I was with), but I’d venture a guess that my subscription to The New Yorker plays at least a tiny role.
Joe got me a subscription for Christmas two years ago, back when I was still living in New York. The issues would arrive in the mailbox every week and I would dutifully read them from cover to cover, always beginning with poring over the Goings On About Town pages, looking for readings and openings and exhibits and concerts to go see. I would look forward to seeing which restaurant would be profiled in the Table for Two section. Then I would flip through and look at all the cartoons, choose which long-form features looked most appealing. I saved the fiction for last. As in most everything else I do, my reading of the magazine was methodical, linear.
As the months progressed, my relationship with the magazine became more fraught. It seemed that as soon as I would finish one issue, another was waiting in the mailbox. I started to be more choosy about which articles I would read and which I would skim or even skip altogether. You might be thinking, “Of course! This is normal! You can’t read EVERYTHING!” But for me, it felt like a tiny failure each time I skipped an article, and eventually, entire issues.
In December, I wondered if I should ask for a renewal of the subscription for Christmas. Joe assured me that his gift had been a gift “for life,” or something to that effect. Fast forward to January when I figured out that what he actually meant was the money was scheduled to auto-deduct from our joint checking account which was by that time just my checking account. Another broken promise. ANYWAY.
When I moved to Boston in February, I updated the mailing address and began receiving The New Yorker here. I know many people all over the country read the magazine and it’s a common sight on the T, but it still felt out of place in my new Boston home. I would reflexively begin with the Goings On About Town and then realize I couldn’t attend any of the events listed there. The feeling was oddly crushing, so now I open the magazine wide, right to Talk of the Town. Even then, some of the blurbs are so specific to New York that I cringe a little. I used to get the jokes, the references, feel that tiny twinge of satisfaction knowing that I was some kind of insider. I know it’s kind of smug garbage, but it’s the truth. And it’s different now.
Now, when the magazine comes, I put it on my nightstand. Not the one on “my side” of the bed, but the other side, where there’s a stack of New Yorkers. The stack on the table by “my side” of the bed is comprised of whatever books I tell myself I’m going to read before bed–usually short story or essay collections. So there’s my “bedtime reading” and then my “primary” book, which is what I carry with me in my purse and read on my commute and during lunch breaks if I have time. Lately, I’ve been feeling so neglectful of my stack of New Yorkers that I’ve reserved Fridays to take one with me and read that on my commute instead, and usually try to finish it up over the weekend. Usually, I just end up with a pile of crumpled, half-read magazines folded down the middle, but at least I’m trying. Sure, I can also read the magazine on my phone and on my computer, but I prefer to read it in the printed form–I’m old fashioned that way. It somehow feels like I haven’t really read it if I read it online.
The holidays are creeping up on us and I’m starting to get notices in the mail about my subscription running out. I’m torn. I do enjoy getting the magazine–there are some seriously great articles and stories, and it’s always nice to get something besides junk mail. It also feels like a link to New York, in some ways, as sad and nostalgic as it sometimes makes me. But it also induces a great deal of guilt and anxiety in me–will I have time to read it this week? What if I miss an article I would have really loved?
It sounds silly, but it really does cause me stress, and I know I’m not the only one to suffer from this condition. There should be some kind of support group.
So, I have to make a decision–do I want to spend the money to renew my subscription, or should I just read the free content online and use my money elsewhere (like a gym membership)? The more I think about it, the more I think I’m going to need to cancel the subscription…