When I moved to New York in the fall of 1995, I was eager to walk every square block of the city in an attempt to soak up diversity in as many neighborhoods as I could muster. One Saturday, I worked my way uptown and realized I was in Spanish Harlem. I felt ill at ease, displaced, like I didn’t belong, a white boy out of his element—and I should have known better. At one point, as I nervously hoofed it through the streets, a guy hollered at me: “Hey!!” I slowly turned around, convinced I was about to be held at knife-point… Instead, the man, sitting on his front steps, pointed to the sidewalk and said, “You dropped your pen.”
I felt something of the same today visiting the Billboard offices eight months after being laid off. Everyone was kind enough, if overly inquisitive (can you believe at least half a dozen people had the audacity to ask, “How are you?” So rude!)… Admittedly, the fish-out-of-water feeling was purely my own.
It’s not the first time I’ve been back, but with each subsequent visit—as fresh, new (young) faces continue to supplant the canned vets—I confess I find myself more out of my element and increasingly uncomfortable. Today was just plain awkward. I couldn’t wait to fulfill my time with Kristina, visit with a few friends and get the hell out of there.
This is the last time I shall (literally) visit that chapter of the past. No longer do I belong. How odd. How conflicting. How mournful.