Andrew Sullivan will concede that moving while blogging a presidential campaign wasn’t the best planning. But he couldn’t believe how disruptive it was to come here from D.C.—for his husband, an actor, to get closer to good work and for Sullivan to be closer to his job at the Daily Beast. In a cranky October blog post called “New York Shitty,” he catalogued the indignities: problems with cell reception and plumbing and getting a sofa delivered, not to mention having to deal with all those other New Yorkers—“just to walk a few blocks requires barging your way through a mêlée of noise and rudeness and madness.” His New York readers found the rant a delicious comedy, though perhaps not in the way Sullivan had intended. Then Sandy hit, which unplugged his house and the Beast office. A friend with a spare key happened to walk by when Sullivan was locked out one morning, and suddenly the place felt magical again.
One of your readers pointed out that people usually move here in their twenties, and so the city helps form them. Is 49 just too late for you to adapt easily to New York? Or does that idea annoy you?
It annoys me because it’s probably true. What surprised me is that I thought I knew New York. I mean, I’ve probably spent more time here than in any other U.S. city apart from D.C. But it was always a playground to enjoy for a few days and then go home and rest up. Now it’s my life. At first, my misanthropy kicked in pretty badly, given the sheer density of the population here.
I loved the guy who wrote in to your blog saying that you have to change your expectations when you live here—its not a customer-service experience like most suburbanized cities are. There’s something nearly theological about that idea—God’s will is the inchoate Manhattan you must just let happen.
Manhattan has nothing to do with God. It is, in some ways, a spectacular rejection of Christian values—specifically in its worship of money, fame, and success—but mainly money. I really don’t want to submit to that. But what I am learning to submit to is letting the city teach me how to live in it, rather than trying to wrestle New York City into my rural-suburban mind-set.
Why did you choose the West Village?
If we decide to stay, we’re certainly open to looking for a cheaper joint in Brooklyn. I hear they have a lot of beards there, which is a plus.
It seems you’ve learned this city can be a big village of people who can help each other out.
There is general grotesque rudeness but specific prolific kindness in this metropolis. It takes time to find the latter. The former hits you in the face as soon as you emerge from Penn Station.
What’s your favorite thing about New York now?
The parish of Saint Francis Xavier in Chelsea. I immediately felt at home there. The church is alive and well—among the people of God, if not, alas, the Vatican.