New York City: a love story
It’s been nearly a year since I moved to New York. You’d think my decades-long crush on this city would have abated a bit by now, wouldn’t you? You’d think I’d be used to it by now, that I’d have developed my own list of gripes and complaints (New Yorkers love to kvetch, after all). But you’d be wrong.*
I was talking with some colleagues about the New York crush, and one of them said that when she was new here, she asked someone if one ever gets tired of, say, looking uptown and seeing the Empire State Building in the distance, and the answer was “No.” And I was so relieved, because I never want to get jaded looking at that. Every now and then I surreptitiously gawk and take a picture, like a tourist.
There’s the real city that we all live our mundane lives in and the dream city, the city of imagination and longing. For the most part I live in the real city, but the dream city shows through when you least expect it to. Every time I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where it’s no big deal that I live here now, New York throws something surprising in my path: a big dragonfly cruising up Fifth Avenue among the throngs of people on the sidewalk, a man carrying one of those portable glass-sided beehives full of bees into Washington Square, an unexpected tile mosaic in the West Village. The moon sailing along over the tops of buildings on the Lower East Side (a sight that makes me think of Cosmo’s moon).
And I love riding the B or D train over the Manhattan Bridge, seeing the Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges on either side, catching little rapid glimpses of Chinatown from above. I love the moments when you look up at a building and you can almost see an older New York (there are many strata of older New Yorks) superimposed on top of today. I love the blue hour right before night falls and the warmth of lighted windows in the dusk; I love the rare occasions when I’m out first thing in the morning and the city is still waking up. I love how friendly New Yorkers are, despite all that reputation for rudeness. I love the fact that I’ll never run out of new streets to walk down or new restaurants to try.
In New York you can dress to blend in, wear twenty shades of black, and feel elegant. Or you can dress to stand out and nobody blinks. My wardrobe’s gotten sleeker and darker, but I’ve also developed an uncharacteristic attraction to bright pink and eye-popping shades of orange. I go for really long walks and not a single person says “I always see you walking.” (In New York, this would be like saying “So, I notice you breathe oxygen.” In Connecticut, I heard it from literally every person I met, always with the same undertone of disbelief and vague disapproval of my conspicuous eccentricity. Walking! Who does that? How peculiar.) In Connecticut I regularly felt like I needed to explain myself. In New York, I never do.
This year I made an ill-advised attempt to grow plants in my low-sunlight office, and only the philodendron thrived; the jade plant and the coffee plant drooped and looked sad, until I brought them back to my apartment and put them where they could get some sun. Now there are shiny new leaves on both of them. I know the feeling. Ever since I moved here: bam! Metaphorical foliage!
As a favorite poet and a fellow New Yorker said: “It might give us — what? — some flowers soon?”
* Okay, fine. Here’s some kvetching for you: I think the Fulton Street subway station is the worst; Penn Station, ditto. I have not yet discovered a gelato place to equal my beloved Capogiro back in Philadelphia. Sometimes the crowds make me wiggy; I get annoyed by oblivious tourists. (I have learned to avoid Broadway entirely on the weekends, and most of SoHo as well.) I suffer from FOMO sometimes. I’d still rather live here than pretty much anywhere else, though.