The Competence Delusion
I'm back in the City, after a nice 3 month self imposed exile at the end of the state. There is a mythos of the West which captured New Yorkers' imaginations. Niagara Falls Ontario is a gorgeous park, Niagara Falls New York is a tepid post-industrial suitable only for a Troma zombie flick. I love the Falls. They are the end of the world, in every way imaginable. And after the world ends is an Eternal Ontario. The City is the opposite, it is the Omphalos, the navel gazingest nacricissian belly of a beast. So self absorbed not even light can escape it. So I'm back in the City, a place I never wanted to be again.
The mythos of the west has an end. If Buffalo is where the west begins, the Golden Gate is where it ends. San Francisco sits at the other end of the world, a parallel coast to the Niagara River. When I first moved to SF, a friend said that no one ever jumps off the Golden Gate facing the Pacific. I guess there are no depressive people in Marin County, and honestly it is hard to be depressed somewhere that laid back, expensive, and beautiful. I thought it funny at the time that people ending their lives would be afraid of eternity, but I guess you'd have to be gambling there is no God if you're plummeting into the Bay for reasons other than a lark.
Wailing past the Gorgeous Godless Temple of Atheism (ANHM) today, the thoughts of parallel lives and the Darwinian forces that bubble up through them made me giggle. How unlike the life I had thought I'd lead was the life I live. Pushing one kid in a stroller we just purchased off a gay couple on the UWS, while dragging the other on a leash, walking with my wife who is one part deadly weapon, one part socialite, and one part triple bottom line entrepreneur, I thought of my Great Great Grandfather whose apartment was a few blocks west. I thought of how he'd play baseball, and his son, my Great Grandfather would coss the Hudson in search for a better life in Gutenberg NJ. My Grandfather died in Hudson County, but my father went west. He made it to Buffalo. Generations always heading West.
We see progress as going forward, making progress by visiting new frontiers. Go West. There's a dream of a better life on the otherside of the water. Cross the Atlantic, cross the East River, cross the Hudson, cross the Niagara, cross the country. When you get to California there's the end of the world. Where do you go from there? Mars? I sure hope so! So returning to NYC feels like going backwards. I'm back in Manhattan again, starting the 5th year of living in the City. Didn't my family leave here 100 years ago? What's next, moving back to Europe? Well I already tried that, maybe it's time to do that again. My life is more a random walk between points of interest, than a well planned and deftly acted play. Improv not theater.
I never planned any of this. I planned on being a game developer. Undergrad in math/history/classics, and play testing for every game company that would have me. I ran mailing lists for game companies, curated collections of online gaming content before the web. I made games for fun. After getting a degree in useless studies, I stumbled into my dream job, and then the bubble burst. I used my new found pedigree to take a job developing games, and made a few. You still see ads on TV for some of the properties I skunkworked. I made millions of people happy, and teemed out on every sport I could get paid to geek out on. Even at one point moved back to SF again to start a game company. Paid the bills, built some games, and cashed out. Took dance lessons, met people with parallel lives.
Just before heading back to the City, my son and I had breakfast with Cat Allergy Guy, who my SF dance teacher was trying to date years before, and would marry and who turned out to be middle school palls with my high school friends who I still spend too much time with. Thousands of miles away, our lives took us back East like Salmon seeking their birth waters to spawn. We chatted about the world we lived in, virtual, distributed, and connected. Our kids much bagels, we drink Americanos, we are living the American dream, mortages, two kids, and more money than time. Talk turns to heading back west, about Elon Musk, and my wife's dream of colonizing Mars. We plan on having dinner when we get back to town. Shake hands, the kids hug, we part ways. We go back East, to the City.
Maybe we aren't making progress. Maybe we are just flotsam on the tide. Drifting back and forth. Caught in the certain pull of an uncertain gravity.
Next Spring we are invited to stay with friends in Vienna. He's building and open source vacuum airship that will sail on the edge of space. She's learning to be retired. There's good chocolate and pastries there, and nice cafes. Or we can go back West, or just keep on going. I wonder if it is a Martian Gravity....