The Empire City, The City That Never Sleeps, The Big Apple, Gotham City and the Concrete Jungle. All nicknames for the greatest city in the world, New York. They say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. And why not? New York city is tough. It moves at a pace that overwhelms and demands your very best all the time. We love our heroes, but are just as quick to boo as we are to cheat, if we don’t think we’re getting their best effort. The streets aren’t paved with gold, but not unlike a rainbow each street may lead you to a pot of that shiny coin. I’ve been in love with this city of dream makers and dream takers since I first breathed it’s air in 1979.
I was born in Brooklyn. My fondest childhood memories almost always have a New York City connection. Learning to ride a bike, watching the Mets beat the Sox in the ’86 World Series, the Bronx Zoo, laying on my back at The Museum of Natural History and wondering how they got that big blue whale in there, our version of a beach, drinking quarter water, eating real pizza from L&B, sitting on the stoop outside my grandparent’s house with my cousins in the Summer or chasing down the ice cream truck still stick out today, fresh in my mind as the day they happened. Keep in mind all of this happened before I was 7.
As I grew older, my romance with “the city” grew stronger. After we moved to New Jersey, I lamented not being able to walk, bike or take a train to my desired destination. I missed the diversity of sounds and would gladly have traded my sky full of stars for the neon and bright city street lights. Many weekends, during my adolescence, were spent in New York. Even today I remember the excitement I had when we’d start crossing the Brooklyn Bridge. It meant we were almost there.
In college, my parents would ship me real New York food, over night and packed in dry ice so that I could enjoy a little bit of home. Bagels, pizza, pastrami, cheese cake and rainbow cookies were just a few of the reoccurring deliveries. The wide eyes and big smiles of my friends as they sampled the goods still make me smirk.
Come this time next year, I will have lived in Chicago longer than I ever lived in New York. My time spent living in the Midwest is more than twice as long as my time spent living in the concrete jungle. Yet, despite that imbalance of time, I’ve never considered myself anything other than a NEW YAWKAHR. It’s become quite the excuse for why I am who I am and why I act like I do. I think fast, I move fast, I eat on the go, my patience for lines caused by people’s indecisiveness is non existent, I cross the street when there are no cars…not when the light says walk, I speak my mind even if what I say will sting and of course I believe anything is possible.
I love bringing people to New York. Even if it’s not their first time visiting, the experience is usually memorable. Because to see the Big Apple through the eyes of a real New Yorker is to see the city like it aches to be viewed…with a slice in one hand. Last year one of my best friends, a true Midwest girl, who now lives in New York City, showed me my city through her eyes. What a treat. I visited places I’d never been to, ate food I’d never enjoyed and experienced the city like an explorer. Honestly, that trip was one of my best trips back “home.”
The city and I have a love affair like I’ve never had with any person. Ironic, since the city served as a backdrop for falling in love with young lady…once upon a time, as we strolled through the village, stopping to steal a kiss in the park. Like a Woody Allen or Scorsese film, if you took away the city, the story would still be there, but it wouldn’t have been nearly as emotionally riveting.
True story, I know that it’s more of a “woman” thing to dream about your wedding day. But, I’ve always imagined getting married in the city I’ve always loved. On the famous Bow Bridge, during the fall as the leaves burst with shades of red, orange and yellow was where I always envisioned it would happen. Why the Bow Bridge? For starters it’s located near the center of Central Park…the heart beat of the city…geography-wise. The bridge has a limit for the number of people who can be on it during the service. By design, this forces you to choose only the people who matter most. In a city of millions, you’d be sharing one of the most important moments of your life with only a handful. There’s something beautiful about that juxtaposition.
Traveling the world is great. London, Paris, Rome; I know these places. I walked the cobblestone of Paris, alone the Senne, while eating a warm baguette…it is no substitute for a warm bagel and the pavement running through Central Park. The same goes for the gelato I ate in Rome while strolling amidst monuments and buildings that were born during the great Caesar’s rule. For a moment these places capture your interest. But, they never capture your heart like New York City will.
New York is the only real city-city. Whether you believe it’s the heart of the universe or not, there’s no denying that New York has an unparalleled pulse, an excitement that’s contagious.
Those were the brilliant and eloquent words of Truman Capote. He said in 2 sentences what I’ve been rambling on about for the past 8 paragraphs.
I think the only thing I’d add to Truman’s sentiment is that after you’ve experienced the greatest city in the world your perception of every other city will change…nothing will ever live up to New York City and all that it has waiting for you to see, feel, touch, taste and remember.