So we are back here in New York for the next weeks. I think most New Yorkers really have no idea where this country called Estonia is, and if they do, few have an understanding of why one of their native-born sons would freely choose to live there, rather in New York.
This is actually an outgrowth of New York's attitude towards all places other than New York. Boston is hamlet of bitter Red Sox fans who put a little bit more 'ä' in their accent than the New Yorkers do, but skip the 'r' at a similar rate. Philadelphia is a poor cousin. Washington is false and sterile. And what is there really beyond that? Fly over country.
On the other side there's LA (too smoggy), San Francisco (too idealistic) and Seattle (too rainy). New York is "the only place in the world where you can get a slice of decent pizza at 3 am" -- why would anyone ever want to leave?
Of course, New Yorkers do travel. They feel more at home in Europe than anywhere else, particularly in London, where the cold aloofness of the British matches their own internal disgust with humanity. Stepping over people in the subway will do that to you. Eastern Europe or Scandinavian Europe -- to which ever sub-category Estonia belongs, is seen as an outrageous place to get drunk and laid by New York cads. It's a weekend destination, not a place to live in the proper sense.
But what does it feel like for me being just two months out of it and stepping back in? Well there's some things I already miss about Estonia. The first is meals that match the actual size of my stomach. I miss the feeling of digesting a normal amount of food and feeling content, instead of trying to consume the meals served me here and then lying on my back in a 'food coma' to digest them.
I miss walking. I want so badly to walk someplace, but there is no place for me to walk to. The places that sell all the things I need must be reached by car. Those who would bicycle are lying to themselves. I am, for lack of better words, fixed to certain areas and movement is just the process of exchanging a train seat for an office seat or a place on a line in a deli or a seat in front of a computer.
And finally - and this is the most odd - I miss being surrounded by people speaking Estonian. For the past two months English has been my internal monologue. It's been so easy to think. But here it's like there are dozens of voices competing for attention in my consciousness. I register every word of every person that passes me, and it's actually kind of disconcerting. Oh, to be on an Estonian bus, listening to two guys mutter incomprehensibly between each other!
One thing that's great about New York is the sense of humor. In the office yesterday I felt perfectly justified in playing "Ice Ice Baby" and "Pump Up the Jam" on my laptop. But in Estonia I would feel a bit like a weirdo. People in Estonia have their own self-referential sense of humor, but it is not mine, and I understand this.
I think one feeling that haunts me is that I should somehow be ecstatic to be back in New York, gobbling down pizzas, drinking martinis, watching art house films, seeing indie rock bands, kissing the rats in the subway. But in all honestly, I feel sort of a limited attachment to this place. It's just a place like many of the others I have been to. I am here for work and to visit my family. I am happy with that part. The rest is just scenery.