Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Love New Yor-or-ork

My love affair with New York has been long, and like any long-term relationship, full of ups and downs. But right now, I feel like we're on our second honeymoon, The City and I. It all began when I was little, the first time my parents brought me to their company’s annual meeting in Manhattan. We stayed at the Marriott Marquis, right in Times Square. With all of New York City at our feet, nothing compared to the crazy spaceship-like all glass superspeed elevators, like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. But I also remember Rockefeller Center, the Christmas tree and decorations, ice skating. I remember FAO Schwartz, ribbon candy from Fannie Mae, an exotic pizza place called Sbarro's.

The affair continued in my teen years when I set off with two friends for a day trip to New York. We took Septa to Trenton and NJ Transit into the big city. We went to the top of the Empire State Building, to Macy’s, to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. We posed in front of the bull on Wall Street, a hand on each of the bull's butt cheeks.

And then I was ready to commit, to take the relationship to the next level--I moved it. Three years I spent living in the Bronx, exploring all five boroughs, and when college was over and I moved to California, I left feeling I had unfinished business, sure I would be back. We were on a break, but not breaking up I told myself.

But after a year on the West Coast, I had changed. I told New York it was me, not it. I settled in Philly, tried to keep up an affair with NYC, going to visit what seemed like every month for years. But like any long distance relationship, the distance took its toll. Time between visits grew larger and larger. I felt I didn't even know New York anymore.

Then this summer, I felt a taste of that old infatuation again. After a long weekend in August, attending the U.S. Open, staying in my friend's gorgeous West Village apartment (the same friend who planted his hand on the bull's butt cheek fifteen years ago) I wanted more. Suddenly New York had the old draw, the hypnotic appeal that lured me there in the first place. I just wanted to be in it.

A brief visit in November was just a tease. Only time to drive by Louis Vuitton, Tiffany's, Bergdorf's--places I've never visited, but in my new rosy view of the city added to its appeal. More, I needed more! So we returned last weekend. Visited some of my favorite places--the New York Botanical Gardens, where we saw the miniature New York, made of botanical materials for the Train Show (pictured above). We ate on Arthur Ave, at Ann and Tony's, one of my favorite Italian restaurants, and walked Fordham's campus, providing me some visceral memories of what it was like to be 18, 19, 20, 21 in New York City.

And then we ventured to an unknown part of New York, somewhere I'd always wanted to go--Coney Island.

What's happening in Coney Island on a Sunday morning in December? Not much. A handful of people walking on the beach and boardwalk. An icy wind blowing from the sea, stinging my skin through my pants. Sea shells mixed with broken glass and cigarette butts on the sand. Horseshoe crabs. Growling Rottweilers guarding amusement parks behind barbed wire. Boarded up windows. A sign that says "Shoot the Freak Paint Ball - Live Human Targets." A tree decorated with plastic bags. Customers in the original Nathan's Hot Dogs at 9:30 am.

I was surprised that it was a beach. I didn't know the Atlantic Ocean came right up to New York City like that. Do people lie on the beach there? Swim in the water? Surf? I don’t know. But I left with even greater love for New York. Because where else can you find Coney Island? What other city has so many places, so dear to me, and also an endless variety of new places to see and explore?

Me and New York. We're totally back together.


Mr. Ackerman said...

New York City! I am always amazed by New York. On one level it seems so big and mysterious, dangerous and wild. And then I think New York ain't nothin special - I must suffer from city envy. New York is the center of the Free Market Capital World.

My own love affair with NYC has been blossoming too. I think due to the fact that I haven't had a bad experience in the Big Apple in quite some time.

The week I spent at Columbia University was the longest stint for the city and I. As soon as my classes at Columbia let out, I hit the pavement. Walking up and down the avenues, from 114th street to Times Square to the Village even down to Ground Zero.

Then last year, I ran the NYC marathon. Wow! The people of New York cheered for me. I felt like a big time celebrity. I even teared up at the beginning as I ran across the Veranzano Bridge with Sinatra's New York, New York serenading the runners.

I wish I could get paid for just walking around big cities. There is nothing I like more than just wandering off - into the great unknown, hoping not too much trouble. My favorite cities to wander through are Mexico City, New York, and San Francisco. Most definitely in that order.

Thanks for your post Julie. I hope we can wander around New York together again real soon.

sulu-design said...

First off, how cute is that comment above? And when the heck were you and Carl looking so dapper by the river?
You know that my NYC love runs deep, and that I'll always feel like a New Yorker no matter where I live. The city is clearly is a part of who you are, too. I love that I got to know New York right along with you.
I do really hope that we get to hang out in the city again soon. And I'm jealous that you ate in the Bronx (although my go-to spot would have been Mike's Deli in the Arthur Ave. market - I can't resist the prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches there).
Miss you.

Julie Owsik Ackerman said...

Cousin's wedding--for anyone else wondering when we were looking so dapper, as if that's a rarity.

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