Still the One
I had a short business trip to NYC this week, and never actually got into "The City" proper, having spent my evening in Queens and my day in Brooklyn. Most of what I saw of Manhattan was from the Long Island Expressway, near the entrance to the Midtown Tunnel. (While I think of it, years ago, I had a cab driver with such a pronounced accent that I couldn't understand what he was asking me. "Big Tom Tumor", I thought he was saying. "Do you want Big Tom Tumor.?" My 'aha' moment was when I realized he was asking me whether I wanted to take the Midtown Tunnel. I can't remember what I answered - probably 'do whatever you think is fastest', but my favorite approach to Manhattan is via the 59th Street Bridge.)
In any case, my view from the LIE gave me a glimpse of the skyline, and I have to say that the thrill of New York City never goes out of it for me. I looked over at Manhattan, at the Empire State Building. At my personal favorite, the Chrysler Building. I was even excited to see Citibank.
Truly, I was even excited to see Queens from the Van Wyck Expressway when I was coming in from JFK. Not to mention the off-highway trek through Brooklyn and Queens that the car service took us on from our meeting in Dumbo (an area of Brooklyn: Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass) back to JFK.
I've been in love with New York City since I first laid eyes on it when I was seventeen.
My friend Kathy Shea and I took the bus from Worcester into New York to spend our spring vacation week with her aunt Mary. Mary was a single woman, a "career gal", who worked for PanAm. We stayed on the living room couch in her apartment in Long Island City, Queens, and took the subway every morning of our stay into Manhattan, where we covered all the touristic ground we could think of: Radio City to see the Rockettes - I think the movie playing was How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying. Statue of Liberty (we climbed to the top and looked out through the blurry windows on Lady Liberty's crown). St. Patrick's Cathedral. Empire State Building. We may have done a museum somewhere in the mix. We also saw an anti-Vietnam War demonstration during which most of the marchers carried daffodils.
I can still remember the thrill I got when the bus entered Manhattan, driving down Amsterdam Avenue on its way to the Port Authority bus station. My Worcester bumpkin nose was pressed up against the window, absorbing the color and richness of Harlem.
I'd been to Boston plenty of times, and to Chicago to visit my mother's family every other summer of my life.
But New York City. This was really something.
Something alive, something tangible, something exciting. Something so raw, buoyant, pushy, exhilarating, brash, confident, absurd.
This was a place that I really wanted to be.
Other than for a year in grad school at Columbia, while I figured out that I wasn't cut out to get a PhD, I never actually lived in New York City. In retrospect, the only appeal of the PhD program to begin with was that it was in New York.
But I have always loved visiting, whether it's for business or for pleasure. And over the dozens of times I've been there over the years - a number that must easily exceed one hundred - I have never, ever lost the thrill I feel when I first get into The City. (Or even into Queens or Brooklyn.)
Boston is my home. It's where I made my life. And I love it. It's beautiful. It's livable. It's got the people I love. It's got the Red Sox.
Still...there's something so special about New York City that no other place I've been to comes close to equaling.
On 9/11, I was in Orlando on business. All I wanted to do was get home, and that meant getting a train.
On 9/12, late in the afternoon, just outside of Newark, we could see the black cloud, still ominously hanging over Manhattan.
And that unutterably terrible hole in the skyline where the Trade Center had stood.
My sister Trish met her husband in New York, and they lived in Brooklyn when they were first married. Trish, in fact, worked right near the Trade Center. On Rector Street, I think.
On 9/11, her then nearly 5 year old daughter asked Trish why she was crying.
"Something bad happened to New York," Trish told Molly, "And that used to be my town."
"Was it my town, too?" Molly asked her mother.
Yes, Molly, you may have been born in Boston, but it was your town, too.
My husband would like to retire to New York City.
I keep telling him that, when you retire, you go someplace less expensive, not more expensive to live. The truth is, while my life is here, I wouldn't mind, say, a weekend a month in New York. A long weekend, so I could catch the workweek buzz. Or a full week every season. That would be fun.
Sure, "when a man is tired of London, he's tired of life."
But for this woman, it's New York City.
After all these years, it's still the one.