From Manhattan to DUMBO
In all, I was in New York City for nine days, starting out with my friend, Toni, in the West Village, moving on to my friends Jim & Stephanie in their brownstone in Park Slope for two nights, then spending a night with visiting Vancouver friends Aman & Stephanie in their room at the Hotel Chelsea in Manhattan (Rennie remained with Jim & Stephanie), while Jim & Stephanie had their niece visit, then moving back to Jim & Stephanie’s for two more nights, thereby breaking my three-night rule AGAIN, before finally spending my last three nights with Ryan & Murrye in DUMBO. In the between time, when I was not trying to park the car, I was riding the subway all over the place, meeting up with the other handful of Facebook friends I wanted to see. One night, I went out with non-Facebooking friend Sue, who is also buddies with Facebook friends Aman & Stephanie, so the four of us met for dinner and it was the first time we had all been together somewhere other than the island, where we met through our friend, Steve— the same Steve through whom I met Toni & Jared, who I also met for dinner one night at a rustic Italian place, once Jared got back to the city from an out-of-town percussion gig.
And I had breakfast one morning with my friend, Kirsten, who I met in photojournalism classes back in university and who is now working freelance exclusively for The New York Times. And I had a drink in the East Village with a friend, Samantha, who I did not know too well but who I met once on the island through Marty & Linda’s daughter, and who I could have sat drinking cocktails with all night. And I took the A train up to Washington Heights one afternoon and saw another university friend, Shalini, who manages the emergency room pharmacy at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, where she gave me a tour and we hung out for the first time in about seven years.
And everyone was so content to be there. Even Aman & Stephanie, who were visiting for the first time ever, were totally enamored of the city. Stephanie said that being there made her realize she had had a Big City Itch that needed to be scratched and I asked if that meant that she did not consider Vancouver a big city and she said that no, she did not. It doesn’t have that same stretch of neighborhoods that goes on and on and on, she said. Toronto, where she grew up, has that sprawl to an extent, she said, and it also has the diversity of most big cities that Vancouver also lacks.
“But above any other place, I would still choose Vancouver to live.”
And she used that same expression that people used when I was in Portland to say why they were so happy there: “it’s accessible.” You have some culture and interesting restaurants within easy reach but then the mountains and water are also close enough to explore regularly.
But back to New York, even Jim was enjoying himself there, which was a change from when I visited him and Stephanie a year and a half ago and they had just moved from Zurich, Switzerland, and he was not at all sure about it. Now, he is hoping to be there for five years. And Kirsten, who wakes up each morning not knowing what her schedule will be that day, and who has to leave her phone with her roommate to take a shower even, because if she misses a call from the Times, she has about two minutes to get back to them before the job gets passed on to someone else, said that she knows this is not sustainable forever but she likes it right now.
And Samantha, originally from Syracuse, said that she had been there for three years, before giving Los Angeles a good, long try for several years but it just hadn’t been for her, so she moved back to New York about six or seven years ago and has been there ever since. And although Shalini was trying to figure out how to tweak to her resumé, wondering about adding some skills to her existing degrees, she had no urge to leave the city, either. Furthermore, had discovered that she felt like she belonged there so much more than she did in Atlanta, where she was raised.
And Ryan from California and Murrye from Arkansas were a few weeks away from returning to Mexico, where we first met, this time to get married, but they did not seem interested in leaving New York anytime soon. This past April, they moved to their current loft apartment with exposed, steel beams and hardwood floors and painted brick, and said that they never expected to be able to afford the area but they are embracing it now, while the economy is allowing it to be an option. Construction was going on all around us as workers were renovating more abandoned warehouses into apartments, and Murrye was wondering what the transformation would do to the neighborhood as it became more popular. But for the moment, it still felt fairly undiscovered, with pockets of gritty, urban disarray blended gracefully into long lines of pristine, minimalist order.
I had many conversations with many people— speculation about the state of society, tales of travel, relationships, politics, dating, dogs, souls, happiness, social networking, parental expectations, careers. We talked about it all over glasses of wine and bottles of beer and cups of coffee and plates of pasta and baskets of bread and spreads of vegetables, and I wrote down as much of it as I could, scribbling notes on scraps of paper while sitting on the subway, tapping ideas into my iPhone, and typing as much of it into my laptop as I could manage at the end of each night and the beginning of each day, trying to get it out before it melted from my sauce-soaked mind.
But I am saving it for the book. So here are some pictures for you to look at, instead.