New York, I love you.

I moved to New York City 13 years ago. It was the first place I’d ever lived away from home and it was the only place I’d ever planned on living since I was 14 years old. With all our stuff piled into a U-Haul, my dear friend Terrell and I drove up the East Coast to Baltimore, where we stayed with our other dearest, Megan, and then headed up to The City. The truck was 9’11” high, besides the obvious correlation to a very important date, the reason I remember that is because I almost drove it into an 8’6” high (low…) bridge while navigating the streets of Harlem trying to figure out where to return it. Back at 136th street, after dragging my absurd amount of furniture up 5 flights of stairs (the elevator was broken in our building), we officially lived in New York City. It was October 1st, I turned 23 three days later and I was sure my life had started and that I would be famous in no time.

A few weeks into living there, the Northeast experienced its first cold spell of 2006 and I will never forget the gust that blew right through my thin wool pea coat, all the way into and through my bones. Growing up in Atlanta where the BLIZZARD OF ‘93 (see: 3 inches of snow) was the stuff of legends, I had never, ever known cold like that. It was stunning. Real winter was something I'd never even imagined. Snow banks taller than cars. Ice. Wet, freezing feet. I miss it... sometimes.

During my first month in New York, a woman on a crowded subway asked me if I was visiting. I was so offended. "What? No! I live here," I wanted to yell. Didn't I look like a New Yorker?? Wasn't I cool and secure enough?? It was, at that point, 5 years since September 11th and while it was something very far from my mind, it was still so very fresh in the minds of New Yorkers who’d lived through the attacks. “Too bad you’ll never know New York before it happened,” she said to me, “it’ll never be the same.” It angered and it saddened me. What did she mean? Was New York terrible now? It still seemed amazing and exciting and wonderful to me.

Two years later, I was working in a restaurant in TriBeCa, a few blocks up from Ground Zero. Every year, of the three that I worked there, we would get numerous calls from firefighters and from people who’d escaped the attack wanting to speak to anyone who answered about how Ivy’s Bistro opened its doors to everyone the day of and months after, offering food and beer to any rescue workers or people in need. It was always an intense day to work. Lots of feelings. Lots of reflection. Appreciation. Sadness. I’d never know New York before 9/11 but I did know my New York, my New York from 2006-2011. My New York was still a thrill. I was in my 20s. I was drunk. A lot. I thought I knew what I was pursuing, but I had little direction. I had a great little tribe. The dreams were real. They still are, but now they’re grown up dreams. In New York City, the dreams were pure magic. Because New York is magic.

I’ve been in Los Angeles now for almost seven years, a sentence I never EVER thought I’d write. It’s taken me this long to love this city. I loved New York at first sight, Spring Break, my freshman year of high school. But, like all relationships, my love affair with New York has changed. The last time I was there, February of this year, I found myself panicking. Literally panicking. The city was NOT the same City I’d lived in. There’s a ton of empty storefronts. The same places I went don’t exist anymore or feel different. I was tired and I felt like I had nowhere to go. It wasn’t my New York. Don’t get me wrong, I’d never claim to have been a true New Yorker, 5 years does not one make, but there I was, remarking on, “how the city would never be the same.” It would never be my New York again. But it will be a trillion other people’s.

New York is strong and sexy and not afraid to show you who’s boss. Where New York will say, “get your bag, pack it full, you’re not gonna be home for hours, it’ll probably rain, you’ll definitely get dirty and you may cry, “ LA is much more like ,”oh hey cool, you’re still here? Umm, yeah, okay cool, well, have fun I guess.” I am proud to have lived in New York. It’s the best city in the world. It’s the most resilient. Its people are the most honest and hard working and they couldn’t exist anywhere but there. ( I mean they could exist in LA if they wanted to...but there’s no convincing most of them…)

Today felt like a good day to reflect on the City where my mushy, baby, girl brain strengthened into a worldly, brassy, lady brain. I will always be grateful for my time spent living there and I will always be thankful to visit and still recognize remnants of what was once mine.

I love you, New York.


Anonymous said…
Well said and a beautiful tribute to a great city on a day it will always be in our hearts... I❤️NY
Debra Tucker said…
As someone who lived in New York from the age of 25-28, your post made me somewhat nostalgic. I believe that phrase from Frank Sinatra that if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. That mantra has sustained me in my travels outside our country when I was lost, could not read the signs or recognize the language spoken all around me. New York becomes a part of your being and I am still amazed that somehow in all my travels, it continues to be a city unlike any other.
V Bailey said…
This made me nostalgic for a place I've only visited once, pre-9/11. As a southern gal, it was worth (in my hasty assessment) experiencing once, but I had decided to not visit again. Your piece made me see NY differently, and perhaps, worth a second look.
Beautifully said.
Unknown said…
You need to never stop writing because you are insanely good at it.


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