Henry Miller on New York City

From Henry Miller Asleep & Awake (1975)

“Ahhhhh – now I know where I am…and who I am. Back in that old shithole, New York, where I was born. A place where I knew nothing but starvation, humiliation, despair, frustration…every goddamn thing. Nothing but misery. Every bloody street I look down, I see nothing but misery, nothing but monsters. Of course, this was the New York that I knew when I was being born, or rather I didn’t know it yet. Later, when I began to explore it, why, it’s a different city, a little more horrible. It gets worse all the time. Today, I think it’s the ugliest, filthiest, shittiest city in the world. When I was a kid, there was hardly anything that we have today – no telephones, no automobiles…no nothing, really. It was rather quaint. There was color even, in the buildings. But as time went on, why, it got more horrible to me. When I think of the Brooklyn bridge, which was the only bridge then in existence…how many times I walked over that bridge on an empty stomach, back and forth, looking for a handout, never getting anything…selling newspapers at Times Square, begging on Broadway, coming home with a dime maybe. It’s no wonder that I had these goddamned recurring nightmares all my life. I don’t know how I ever survived, or why I’m still sane. In fact, I don’t know now whether I’m awake or dreaming. My whole past seems like one long dream, punctured with nightmares.”

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