Thursday, July 30, 2020

Ten Years

Truthfully, I didn’t notice until about 5pm. In the flurry of our global nonsense, I often forget what day and date it is, constantly having to remind myself as I look into the nearest calendar. When I realized, a small smile crept across my face, as if I had earned a badge, leveled up, added a bullet point to my resume. As of today, I have been in New York for 10 years.

This year is not what any of us had expected or maybe could have ever imagined. When HanOre asked me a few months ago what I would do for my ten year anniversary, I didn’t know how to answer. There are a million things I could have said, but it felt like jumping the shark, as it were, to come up with a grand plan when the state of the world was a total shambles. It made me sad to even plan something when the prospect of having it canceled seemed all too great. But, in true New York fashion, I almost didn’t even remember in whatever the small daily whirl of my life has become.

So, after 5pm, I continued working on my book for another 200 words before my brain gave out. I had a cup of herbal tea to soothe my stomach, achy from too much caffeine (I’m fine, Mom), and I went for a walk along the East River as I have done so many days these past few months. I’ve ordered Chinese food that’s on its way. And I’m sitting here, writing on my couch, thinking about the last 10 years.

Maybe I’ve written about this before, but I remember the day I moved in. We drove up from Florida and the last few hours forced my body into a virtual conniption fit: we got stuck at the Lincoln Tunnel at rush hour. I had come so close to this dream of living in New York and I was now a matter of miles away from my first apartment. Again in true New York fashion, the city would test my patience from the very beginning, offering the first of many rewards for passing its many tests, trials, and tribulations, rewards that have consistently proven worth the trouble. Finally we pulled up to my first apartment building in this giant SUV and began unloading all of my things into the lobby, slowly but surely bringing them up in the creaky, old elevator to the third floor. It was hot and humid like it was today, what I’ve since learned is a classic New York July. This was it. I was here. I was home.

I was reading Nora Ephron’s essay collection I Remember Nothing: And Other Reflections recently, and there’s a passage in her essay “Journalism: A Love Story” that leapt out at me:

I'd known since I was a child that I was going to live in New York eventually, and that everything in between would just be an intermission. I'd spent all those years imagining that it was going to be the most exciting, magical, fraught-with-possibility place I could ever live; a place where if I really wanted something, I might be able to get it; a place where I'd be surrounded by people I was dying to know; a place where I might become the only thing worth being—a journalist.

And I'd turned out to be right.

She was speaking my language. Everything she said was it. My truth, the truth. Coincidentally, the book would also come out in 2010, the year I’d move to the city. It’s almost as if she knew someone like me would find it and hear her: “Yes, I understand.”

And even in the darkest days of these international crises, I have kept writing and I have never left. Loyal to a fault, perhaps, but that’s what love is. It’s a feeling not unlike waiting for a lover to return home after a long absence, that ache of heart, that longing for what used to be, the passion that brought us together. But it will be back soon. I have learned there is nothing quite so resilient as New York City, save perhaps for the people who live in it. “She who endures with patience is the conqueror,” as my grandmother would have said. 

Recently, the writer Rachel Syme posed a Twitter prompt I really loved, asking people to offer up things they loved and missed about New York during these times of crises. Several popped into my head instantly:
Walking through Central Park to Zabar’s, sitting at their counter and having a bagel with nova and cream cheese and an iced coffee, then going grocery shopping next door, sampling prosciutto and whatever else they're featuring on a cracker.
Getting off the Q at Coney Island during the Mermaid Parade and watching the flutter of costumes go by, finding the perfect spot near the start of the route and taking pictures til the end, then heading to the beach and later sharing a half tray at L&B Spumoni Gardens with a friend.

Bloomingdale’s at 59th and Lex on a hot day.

Filthy Martinis at Cafe Cluny with NE.

A restaurant I've never tried with SJT that's been recommended by The New York Times’s Ligaya Mishan.

Listening to Chet Baker sing "I've Never Been in Love Before" at Everyman Espresso

Dancing to Kim Petras at Hardware with my boys while drinking tequila sodas.

Sitting on a bench in front of Punjabi Deli eating a bowl of mattar paneer after a concert at Mercury Lounge.

Happening upon bevy of beautiful queens performing at No Bar.


Cold borscht with glops of sour cream & thick slices of buttery challah at B&H with HanOre.

Russ & Daughters egg creams.

Accidentally drinking too much wine from clear plastic cups at Chelsea gallery openings.

Caramels in wax paper at Confectionary with LM.

Here are a few more I thought of now:

Ethiopian food at Ghenet with AR before doing something, anything really, in Park Slope, or stopping by South after a photography gig at Littlefield to say hello. Also, accidental New Jack Swing parties at Freddy’s.

Walking through Nolita/Soho on a day where I have nothing to do and perusing the stacks at McNally Jackson.

Waiting in line forever for a Nathan’s hot dog on Coney Island.

How when EH comes into the city we can always find a seat at any restaurant’s bar, even if there’s a wait.

Seeing Julia Easterlin perform...literally wherever. Girl, you know I will traverse all kinds of Brooklyn neighborhoods for you.

Days spent schlepping across multiple boroughs, navigating the subway map in my mind. My office in my giant red tote bag on my shoulder, going from working in a coffee shop to having lunch to seeing a movie or having dinner with a friend, and the sweet relief of plopping that bag down at my feet upon my arrival.

Photoshoots at decades-old family-run restaurants in Bay Ridge.

Killing time by watching the skateboarders or teens flirting with each other at Union Square or dipping into one of the international magazine bodegas between work and seeing friends.

A Mister Softee soft-serve vanilla cone with rainbow sprinkles in a cone (not the sugar ones, the other ones that are fluffy when you bite them, what are they called?)

The drip of sweat across my collarbone as I’m waiting for the train--because even though I hate it, I’d rather be sweaty here than anywhere else in the world. 

I promise to keep waiting. I've made it this far, after all.