Proud to be a part of the latest issue of Actually People, edited by the excellent Katherine & Sarah Fontaine. Here's my article.
I must admit that as a former resident of California and a current resident of Brooklyn, New York, I was (and continue to be) nervous (in a very specific nostalgia-oriented way) about writing a column under the heading “Reclaiming Happiness”. This particular nervousness arises in a variety of settings, including Corporate Interviews Where You Wear “Button Up Shirts”, Phone Calls With People In Different Time Zones Who Are Not On The Same “Wavelength” Simply Because It Is Still Light There And It Is Not Still Light Here, “Meeting Up For Drinks” With People You Have Crushes On But Can’t Touch Their Hand Gently Because You Are “In A Relationship”, and Being In A Taxi Cab In A “Foreign” City And Not Knowing If You’ll Get “Screwed” On The Fare. These things are nerve racking because they make you admit things to yourself. They make you admit that you are maybe not the person you thought you were/you are maybe not living the life you thought you were living/you have a deep ache inside of your soul for general reasons/ you may need to make a “Life Change”. I was nervous to write Reclaiming Happiness because I would need to delve into the act of measuring my happiness, to perhaps admit that I had lost much of it along the way, that happiness was not a thing that one could be but that one could have, could lose, and would at points need to reclaim.
In doing this I would need to admit things like There Are No Trees In Brooklyn. (I would need to mention, in my defense, that there is one tree, which I have trained to grow through my bedroom window in order to photosynthesize alongside it/be able to breathe at all.) I would need to go ahead and admit that There Are No Real Thrift Stores Here Because They Are All “Vintage” Instead. I would need to say that There Are Rats That Mate On The Subway Tracks and that Waves Don’t Crash But Cars Do and that Crickets Cannot Be Heard and Stars Cannot Be Seen. I would then need to go farther and admit that Everyone Smokes Cigarettes Here and I Kind Of Like The Smell, and then even farther by admitting that I Have An Alcoholic Beverage Mostly Every Night Even On Mondays Even On Sundays. I’d push on to say that The Subway Smells Bad and Sometimes Brooklyn Makes You Feel Like You Need More Tattoos and The Stairwell Smells Bad and Sometimes Brooklyn Makes You Feel Like You Don’t Exist and The Bodegas Smell Bad and Sometimes Brooklyn Makes You Feel Like The Trash On The Side of The Street That Doesn’t Get Cleaned Up and In The Summer Everyone Smells Bad and Sometimes Brooklyn Makes You Feel Like Everyone Is Three Thousand Miles Away. These things are hard to say out loud, Actually People, and I resent the fact that I am saying them at all, but the first step to Reclaiming Happiness is admitting you have a problem, and so here I am, admitting the shit out of this shit.
I guess it’s time for the Reclaiming Part. During the Reclaiming Part I should disclose the things I am doing in order to Make This Work, the things I am doing in order to Get Happiness Back, the things I am doing to Love Life. The problem is that the Reclaiming Part might appear to be boring to the average Actually People reader, because of the very average locations and ways in which it occurs, which are streets, tunnels, walkways, restaurants, and parks. These open public domains are where the most Happiness Inducing things occur, things that make one Believe in "Living" Again, things that make one "Fall In Love" With New York Again, things that make one Stop "Holding One’s Breath" Again. Things like Old Man Who Looks Like Your Grandfather Playing Accordion (give him a dollar every time), The Perfect Cappucino (Abrazo), Breakfast at The Counter (Sunday paper), Fire Escapes (life escapes), Thunderstorm in SoHo (wet bandana), Best Conversations You’ve Ever Had With Strangers (they’ve read that book, too), Wood Paneled Walls (70’s), Pork Belly (with sauce), Rose And Oyster Combinations (happy hour), Emotional Moments In The Public Library (the ceilings!), First Snow (magic), That Place On Manhattan Avenue With The Piano Player (Hey Jude), Lipstick (blaze apricot), walking in the rain (June), walking in the heat (forever), walking in the snow (magic), walking in the haze (depression), walking in the now (always), walking in the new (now). The thing about Brooklyn is that you never know when you are reclaiming yourself, but slowly, always, while walking, you are.
You are gathering happiness as if it had wings, you are in the middle of a constant parade, you are basically made of confetti, you are hip and you are young and you are walking. You are walking and gathering and amassing your happiness, you are walking and reclaiming and living, you are desperate and you are young and you want things so badly that it hurts your actual physical body even the organs even the joints. You are holding the biggest net you have the biggest mouth you have a whale mouth you have baleen and you are catching all the krill of happiness you are lighting every match of happiness you are finding every wing of happiness and flapping it, treading on it, smashing it between your teeth, until it is dirty or you’ve lost it or it’s gone, when it’s time to admit that you are without it again, you must find it, that it needs to be reclaimed.