Dear New York,
It’s been quite some time since we had a date, just the two of us.
Tonight was the perfect night for a joyful reunion. The weather was milder than it’s been all year. Spring-like air tickled my ears and lightened my step.
Our time together tonight made me realize that you trained me in the art of solo travel. Countless times in the early 2000s, it was Christy and New York, no exciting plans necessary. What better introduction to relying on myself in a big city, to the art of people watching, to the hobby of wandering for the sake of exploration and observation, than New York City?
How grateful I am to have lived less than as hour from you as I grew up, to learn early on to act like I knew where I was going at all times. You have all the diversity, food, culture, and night life anyone could ever dream of. Thank you for providing that blueprint.
You said to me, Here. Roam my streets and indulge your curiosity. Take in my museums, parks, cathedrals. Stroll my waterfronts, climb my towers. Each time, you will see something new, something inspiring. May you always seek out the unfamiliar and the exhilarating , and as you go far to tour foreign lands, you can always come back to me. I will be your solace and your muse, your travel destination in the comfort of home.
Tonight, oh the joy of tonight! As I began the trek toward Grand Central for my eventual train home, I recalled countless days and nights enjoying your company, particularly in the East Village.
I found myself overcome with exhilaration, nostalgia and inspiration, perfectly happy to choose my old habit of walking 15-20 blocks over immediately hopping on the nearest subway. As I walked through Noho and headed north, I couldn’t help but pass so many memories. Landmark Sunshine Cinema on East Houston. Katz’s Deli, with its iconic neon sign. Along Second Avenue, there was the Boiler Room, where I played pool terribly and flirted shamelessly. Pommes Frites, the Belgian fry spot near St. Mark’s Place and one of my top destinations to take visitors in NYC.
The whimsical, irreplaceable mosaics everywhere you look in the East Village: one of my favorite sights in the city. These pieces of art are pure delight. I see them and smile with love and appreciation. I want to grab everyone within reach on the sidewalk and say Just look at this! One man created each of these mosaics, solely to express his creativity and share his love of the city with us. They are SO BEAUTIFUL. (I imagine this scene would work better in a film than it would in real life.)
A treasure unto itself, Village East Cinema is an urban landmark that I hope will be there forever. It was built in the 1920’s in the Moorish Revival style as a home for live Yiddish theater. From Village East’s website: “Its sprawling, ornate main auditorium features stadium and balcony seating as well as an oversized screen, and the theater remains one of New York City’s best places to see a film.” One heartbroken day in July 2004, I searched online for theaters within a 60 mile radius that were still playing Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Village East was the one option I had. I took myself out on a date with you, to see my favorite movie for the third time and enjoy all you have to offer on a summer evening. Immediately, the theater enchanted me. Not only was I seeing Eternal Sunshine again, but I got to see it in this fancy historic building! I couldn’t have been more tickled or felt more privileged.
A quick detour onto St. Mark’s Place confirmed that a wonderful Afghan restaurant, Khyber Pass, was thankfully still in business. I headed back toward 2nd and bought a perfect-for-early-spring green pashmina from the shop on the corner. Two years ago, Andy haggled the salesman down from $10 to $5 when we bought the golden yellow scarf I have worn several times a week since, and last night I paid the same price.
I turned west onto 14th Street and realized I had the perfect accompaniment of Van Morrison’s Crazy Love running through my head, and it’s true: I was falling in love with you all over again. Feeling rejuvenated as I haven’t in months, I passed the NYU dorms and paused to savor another favorite hang-out of my twenties, Union Square Park. The scene: scores of people hanging out on the steps, boys playing hacky sack, someone tracing his friend on the pavement in chalk, a message under my feet reading Something is starting. How perfect.
As I descended the steps into Union Square Station, I heard what sounded like a marching band causing an irresistible commotion. The sound pulled me in and I discovered that it was a ‘Beat n Brass Band’, called Drumadics. They played their horns and saxophones and drums with such joy and abandon; I smiled an unstoppable smile as I watched them perform. I loved the energy of their sound, and how big the crowd was surrounding them. It’s that kind of vitality and spectacle that I miss so much when I’m away from New York City.
I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect end to my night with you, the city of my heart.New York, you have not disappointed me after all these years. After taking everything you taught me and flitting from place to place year after year, you remain the first love that retains its sweetness.
Thank you for letting me discover my independence. Thank you for planting the seeds of the traveler I would later become.