My childhood dream was to live in New York City. I wanted to be an actor and a fire-woman and a lawyer and a hippy and an artist and a flapper all in the same moment. Truth is, I didn’t really care what I was, as long as I was here.
The city has always given me a sense of connection. I remember coming in on the LIRR Ronkonkoma line from Long Island and smelling newspapers and popcorn at Penn Station (every now and then I catch a whiff of that and I am 10 years old again). Every once in a while I am overcome with the nostalgia that my former life was once played out on the silver screen with New York City as the timelessly sexy metal and stone backdrop (jazz, of course, being the official soundtrack).
New York City has always been waiting for me. I will believe that always no matter where in the the world I may be. It is always hard to leave, but very easy to come back. The city itself calls to me. There are places and times that I revisit over and over again; Minetta Lane in Early Spring (where that one little bend in the road makes me feel like I am in 1920’s Paris), Poets Alley in Mid-Summer (where my lover holds my hand and I wonder how the leaves could ever be so green), Bleecker Street in Autumn (where the youth swarm the city to revive some life and style to the already teaming energy), and St. Mark’s Place (anytime of year, where I reminisce with old friends and wonder what that bohemian neighborhood would have been like if I had lived there once upon a time ago).
This city is somehow always and never the same. It is it’s own universe, changing it’s face and the attitudes of anyone who wants to be or is part of the city, even if for just a moment. New York City changed me more times than I can count, and that is before I ever even lived here. The beloved skyline is always changing…. sometimes because of progress and sometimes because of tragedy. I could never forget September 11, 2001. It is a story for (and of) our time. I remember not believing that it could be real, even a week later, driving over the Pulaski Bridge with an iron fist pressed into my stomach. I am still filled with sadness during this time of year, but always find warm hope in the light-filled memorial downtown.
That day, New York City changed everyone’s lives, it changed the world. And even with that horror in the back of my mind, I still couldn’t fight it. I turned my collar up, rolled down my sleeves, bought some mousetraps, and moved to this manmade paradise.
I spent my first 7 years shacked up in a raw, industrial 2,000 Sqft loft in the South Bronx. I made art and the best of friends and neighbors, collected way too many things (like cats and couches and holes in the walls) made at least 3 tons of tacos, and never once ever realized that I was changing; life was changing. It wasn’t until I moved to Brooklyn that I saw a very different me. Like a mountain growing over the course of millions of years, it was a gradual growth that I barely saw happening. I can’t really say exactly what happened, but somewhere along the way I grew a pair of balls that were larger than the ones that I thought I could grow (or even needed) and stopped taking so much shit from friends, family, and even people I didn’t know. It’s an amazing growth and people love me for who I was and who I have become.
This city has made me tough, but not aggressive. I am still a sweet and shy girl from Bumble-Head, Long Island who loves kittens and sad movies and nerd talk and Jay-Z collaborations. I still say good morning to strangers in my neighborhood or on the way to work in Chelsea. I still excuse myself when someone won’t get the fuck out of my way on the train and most definitely wave to kids on school buses or peering out of apartment windows (is that creepy?).
This city hardens you, but not to be jaded, just smarter, more careful, and down-right sassy as hell. You can still be a push-over, but know when to use that little knife you’ve been carrying around in your purse for the last 7 years (and it really does come in handy if you need to open a box or something).
Change is always happening. It is the inevitable force that keeps us all on our feet. Sometimes the dream will sway you, and sometimes it is just the circumstance. From time to time I dream of a big farm in Maine (with horses and zebras and chickens and a gratuitous camel), but I know that’s just the homesteader that I once was in a different former life. So, to my dear, sweet New York City that I’ve pined for since before the first time I ever smelled Newspaper and popcorn, I love you. Please keep the magic and the madness, and keep me safe and sound and somewhat lost and I will never forget you.