Sunday, October 29, 2006

Big Apple Thoughts

I am in love with New York City, but not in a Carrie Bradshaw way. It does not hold memories of expensive shoes and cocktails. But it is brimming over with my experiences -- as the only place where I have ever really lived. Sure, I lived in New Jersey twice as long -- but I wasn't really LIVING, in a suburban colonial with my parents and rules and school. The neighborhood was not my friend. My friends lived elsewhere. So I never became attached to New Jersey, nor to Boston where I spent my college years. College living happened much more on campus in a small Boston suburb where days would amble into nights - heaps of girlfriends in denim and wool, too cold to go out for much more than a meal.

But New York -- New York was immediately a crush that I used to nurture from afar. Birthday weekends as a pre-teen meant Rockefeller Center, pretzels with dripping mustard and unfortunate fashions purchased at Bloomingdales. As a senior in highschool I became friends with a wealthy New York teen socialite, who introduced me to the finer things -- clubs that did not card and the cloying sweetness of wine coolers. Jeans were worn long and belted. Shirts were tight and snapped at the crotch. Cigarettes were smoked in dark corners (yes, inside), hoping nobody recognized you. Mix tapes were made to capture it all - songs from Stealing Home and Erasure.

When I moved to New York City in 1997, it was a mindless decision to follow friends and others, close enough to my parents and far enough away to feel independant. It was a luxury one bedroom that lost its allure when stuffed with three girls and only two bedrooms. Wall to wall carpeting grew stained from ash and soy sauce and Diet Coke. Murray Hill was a refuge for recent graduates, an area that lacks a firm Manhattan identity but is reachable to everything. The boys we knew lived on the Upper West Side -- where a cab cost more than we could afford and landed us in places with unfortunate names like Brother Jimmy's and The Racoon Lodge. That living situation became a combustible mix of despair and claustophobia which thrust me into a world were avenues had letters. Stuyvesant Town -- with it's cheap rent and big rooms and flea markets where a basketball court hosted tables of wares and clothes and most importantly, the killer leather skirt that never really fit but is totally vintage and perfect.

As I consider leaving Manhattan, every bus ride or subway ride overwhelms me with memories. My midtown offices, where my 28K paycheck was stretched over vodka tonics and cheap suits. Gramercy, where I finally learned that I do better living alone. Carnegie Hill, where my husband made me rethink that idea about myself. Union Square green market. Times Square cheeziness where as an MTV intern, I believed that the blinking Virgin sign was actually taunting me, outing my sexual status. The boyfriend who dragged me to ESPN Zone and became the last sports enthusiast I ever dated. Broadway -- where I still believe in dressing for the theatre and I will never recover from missing Les Miz.

En route to my first job in Manhattan, my father used the steering wheel to explain the city's geography, using the line in the middle of the rubbery orb to represent central park. It all seemed huge and overwhelming. I am now proud to know the city like the front of that steering wheel, or the back of my hand. Except the village still escapes me somehow. I don't want to leave, even though I know that my husband craves grass and my budget is no longer comprised of questionably cheap sushi and tank tops. I am torn -- I feel that the city has given me so much, but I owe more to my family now, even if that means hills to sled down, carpool and swingsets.

Oh, and square footage.

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