Sunday, March 6, 2011

New York State of Mind

I totally believe you are either a New Yorker or you aren't.

It doesn't matter if you were born here...what matters is (to quote Billy Joel) The New York State of Mind.  It's something that occurs the moment you set foot here, whether visiting or starting university or driving through--you have it or you don't.

The first time I came here long ago, I knew.  Sure, I was on a holiday of sorts--the ex and I were to be guests on Phil Donahue--and we'd been flown out.  I knew.  I knew I'd end up here, I just wasn't sure how or when.  My ex worried his pocket would be picked when we rode the train the first time...I worried I'd not see enough people to marvel at when we did.  I still recall the woman who chatted away with me until her she left, she turned and said, "Twenty years on this train and you are the first time I've spoken to anyone."  I hope she continued chatting from then on when she traveled back and forth.

Forward to a few years ago, and the move was made.  I've never regretted a moment of any of my time in New York, in spite of low times and odd people and worries about everything from money to health.  It makes me feel whole.  I feed on the energy and occasionally still cry when I see the skyline at dusk, brilliant against a darkening sky.

Being a New Yorker isn't just knowing the train lines--hearing a tourist say they need to go somewhere, and automatically knowing where they have to transfer, which train goes where.  It's not even working here or having an apartment.  It's this thing inside, it's a pulse...a knowledge you are part of a place that is unique in it's sameness of every big city.  It's knowing how to live on a shoestring budget--of living in a walk up or a sublet or a studio apartment...and, if you are a well versed New Yorker, you've done all three--often at the same time.  It is working hard at one or two jobs at's living off cheap food, not dining out every night.  It's the appreciation of the streets and the dialects and the rivers and the bums and the people who merge with you on the train and the sidewalks.  It is the cacophony of cars and music and sirens that lull you to sleep at night.  It is the almost overwhelming brilliance of neon in Times Square when you walk out of the train station.  It is knowing that two sugars in a coffee will be heaping spoonfuls.  That the best coffee is found in a cart early in the morning, when you dash balancing the cup, your bag and an umbrella into the station, your metrocard held in your teeth.  It is telling a tourist the best way to see Lady Liberty is by riding the Staten Island Ferry.  It is knowing each neighborhood by it's scent--Chinatown with the sharp smell of spices, SoHo and 5th Ave by the smell of money. Being a New Yorker is one of two groups, really--those who live plush and those who scurry and dash and live in a whirl of life.

I'd love to have some great job where I have benefits and not have to worry about rent or if I'll eat by the end of the month.  I'd love to have a doorman apartment with an elevator and be terribly smug.  I'd love to eat what I want, not what I can afford.  With that said, I'm happier with my jobs that allow me to meet people I'd never meet otherwise.  I don't pretend I'm setting trends or that my coolness factor must be announced to all.  I'm content with my small apartments and my subletting and my occasional walk-up.  Sure, I'll miss an elevator, but, not enough to sell out for another one.

I like stopping by food carts and chatting and having the vendor put extra salad on my plate because he likes my smile.  I enjoy every train trip, every walk on the street, every person I see or talk to on those trains or those sidewalks.  I wear my rain boots bought in a shop where I bargained the price down.  I enjoy my pieces of furniture snagged from the curb or in a moving sale.  I participate in events in my city, visit museums, welcome friends and family with open arms to enjoy all of this with me.  I take pride in the fact very few people I interact with here don't believe it when I say I wasn't born here, because my vibe is New York.

I am, indeed, a New Yorker.  My body wasn't born here, my spirit was.  I suspect I'll be back and forth here for the rest of my life, relishing every second I am in the city limits.  Be it Brooklyn or Harlem or the Bronx or Manhattan or even Staten Island--I dwell in a New York State of Mind.

Come see me here--you'll love it.


JTS said...

I am so glad to see you back to blogging. I've looked for you often, and missed you. Always, always, something worth reading here!

Harriet said...

Three times I went to California to investigate the possibility of living there, and three times I returned, because no place in California is New York City. I know.

pegjet said...

You make a reader jealous.
Sights, smells, touch, sounds,'s all here.
I will visit in april.

vinny said...

I think you're loving it.