If this were possible, if you possessed some infernal apparatus that could somehow X-ray the vital stats of someone’s present—minus the backstory, mind—if it could spirograph the hypotrochoids of someone’s life in pink and blue ballpoint neatly onto graph paper, if such a thing materialized, well, Smokey and Sally’s chart would read Yuppie Arrivistes, for sure.
Let’s look at the facts, shall we? They live in a vast, exposed-brick-and-sanded-parquet apartment in the lower East Village. They open Sunday mornings with champagne mimosas and goat-cheese omelettes. They’re documentary film-makers who shop at the Union Square Greenmarket. The sprightly rose nosegay that serves as the centerpiece of their wooden breakfast table comes from a young and pretty “flower artisan” that sells her tussie-mussies at Brooklyn street fairs. They go to jazz concerts on Y rooftops. The reading material in the bathroom includes Wired magazine and The Adventures of Sindbad, by fin-de-siècle Hungarian sensualist Gyula Krúdy.
Listen here, my friend. Your machine would be dead wrong. In lacking a Context Button, it erroneates on paper what in 3-D takes a whole different shape. If you rewind back and add that essential fourth dimension, time, the nebulous contours of a story far more quintessential to New York than the hipster or yuppie narrative will appear, velvety as a brass rubbing. It’s the story of millions, and it begins in a small town in the middle of the country, winding its way—by instinct, smell, luck or fate—to the big city.