The City – New York
“New York City has finally hired women to pick up the garbage, which makes sense to me, since, as I’ve discovered, a good bit of being a woman consists of picking up garbage.” Ann Quindlen
The city was what one called it if you lived in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, New Jersey or Long Island. If you were a certain kind of girl growing up in Brooklyn, everything in the city (Manhattan) was better. I rode the subway for an hour to get my hair cut at Bergdorf Goodman. I would come home and rewash it and blow dry it the way I wanted it to look. I was sure that anything I did in the city would make me chic and cool. A hamburger in the city just tasted better to me.
I knew that if I lived in the city all my problems would be solved. I got my wish. My parents got divorced and we moved to the city. We were no longer bridge and tunnel people or the family we were before. I still had my Brooklyn accent but I was ready for my life to completely change.
I would finally be a grown up. I would kill water bugs and cockroaches without screaming for help. I would not be afraid of crazy homeless people. I would shop at Gristedes, Dean and Deluca and Zabars instead of Waldbaums or the A and P. I would walk to theatres, museums, restaurants, clubs, bars, Bloomingdales and Bendels. I would take taxis everywhere.
I actually stopped riding the subway when I lived in Manhattan. Growing up riding the efficient yet terrifying crime ridden NY subway daily has left me with a fear of subways. (Pre Mayor Guiliani who cleaned up the city). Commuting is a way of life for every New York kid. I was commuting to school from the time I was eleven years old. I saw muggings, heard gunshots, dealt with the tough kids, gropers and saw people drunk, violent or crazy on a daily basis.The bystander’s avoid eye contact indifference I have from growing up in NY is something I still work on. The street smarts I learned there help a lot when traveling in foreign countries.
But I love everything about Manhattan. I love crowded streets, vertical architecture, beautiful well dressed people, whistling obscenity yelling construction workers, downtown black uniforms, the pace, the lights, skyscrapers, pretzel carts, noise, Chinese food, coats, Sunday Times, different languages all talking simultaneously, unfriendliness, Broadway, cultural activities, galleries, museums, coffee shops, not pristine streets and the anonymity.
Living in New York City is not an easy, comfortable life. You fight the elements daily – traffic, crime, crowds, weather and indifference. You do not have the sensation that you live in a protected bubble. You are always aware of potential dangers out in the world. It is not for everyone.
You may not be able to keep the world out, but you get the entire world. You are exposed to people of every type, kind and ethnicity, who teach you about how many different ways there are to live this life. You have access to great opportunities as a result of your location. You never feel there is a place in the world where more exciting things are happening than where you are.
A place does not change your life. It is what you do with it and how you react to it which causes change. There are certain places where it is easier to find out who you really are and what your uniqueness is in the world. For me New York was such a place. I look back at it fondly because it was the place where I was so young and anything was possible.