Nostalgia & the City

What is it about the first snowfall of the year that is so crushingly beautiful?

Maybe it’s the childlike awe that makes you want to snap a picture, only to realize that there’s no way your phone can really capture the moment of falling snow.

Or maybe it’s because within seconds of a sudden chill in the air, lost memories come rushing back into your heart– reminding you of snow days with your friends and sugar cookies, and your Mama making sure you’re warm enough.

And in that same moment you are reminded of loved ones that have passed…and how time is passing you by as well.

It could be that you are nostalgic for a New York you never knew.  The New York of Edith Wharton or maybe E.B. White– who wrote about a magical place you ache for, but are not sure if you have ever really known.

And so help me if the first snow lands in December.  The holiday lights already trigger warm feelings of Christmas-time from when you were little, and it’s like Jethro Tull described,
“the first snow on Brooklyn paints a Christmas card upon the pavement.”

It is certainly safe to say that the mood of New York is responsive to the changing colors of the weather.  It makes you want to go sit and read old books and look through vintage sweaters and drink a latte at a café.

I went out and bought Christmas cards.  They feel just like the first snow.

Rainy Day Memories

I’m remembering a lovely summer night.

It was a warm July evening, and we were having date night.  We were en route to one of my favorite places in Battery Park City, where we can sit by the river and look at the Statue of Liberty.

With noticeable storm clouds in sight, the pace of our steps multiplied.  We’d taken a quick break; this area of the great island of Manhattan is the perfect place to sit on a bench and admire the Hudson River.  That being said, we had a ways to go before we arrived at the restaurant, and neither of us considered bringing umbrellas.  It was one of those hot summer storms that sneak up on you if you aren’t looking for it.

Although fast-paced, our walk was exceptionally pleasant.  The reflection of the dark grey clouds meeting the dazzling lights of Jersey City on the waves of the Hudson was the perfect backdrop to our romantic summer night.  Had we not wanted to beat the rain, it would’ve been easy to get lost in the rhythmic percussion of the rocky river water.

Just as it began to drizzle, we arrived at our dinner spot: Merchant’s River House.  Located just a quick walk down from Brookfield Place, you’ll find the quaint little American Bistro that overlooks the Statue of Liberty.  A friend had introduced me to the place years ago, and I’ve always managed to come back.  It was perfect for date night.

Walking in, the lights are dim, there is a candle on every table, and you can hear Get What You Give by the New Radicals playing softly over the speakers.  We are seated at a two person table by a window where we can see the Statue of Liberty clearly in the distance.  I order a glass of wine, he orders a beer.  We start deliberating on what’s for dinner.

All at once the bottom drops from the rain clouds, and the pouring rain begins to cloud what was once a crystal clear view.  What was Lady Liberty is unseen, and for now the rain is nice.  I’ve always loved the sound.  Hopefully it would quickly pass and if possible,  just after my second glass of wine, I remember thinking.

Another glass and a half and the rain was coming to a stop.  The bill was taken care of, our bellies were full; it was time to head home to Brooklyn.  As we left the restaurant, we noticed that the stretch of the sidewalk that lined the Hudson had cleared of it’s usual bustling crowd.  Everything was damp, and the city’s reflection was intensified in all the right places. I’ve always loved how rough the water becomes in the river right after a storm passes through.

Date night had been a success.

New York versus Los Angeles

There comes a time when even the most devoted New Yorker needs an escape.  These escape calls usually have triggers- one of them being seemingly endless winters with yet another blizzard on the way.  This hopeless New York lover was sick of heavy coats, snow, crowds, and public transportation.   An impromtu trip to Los Angeles sounded perfect.

March in LA can be hit or miss for warm weather, but leaving New York the day after a blizzard meant that no matter what kind of weather they were having, it would still be much nicer than the freezing, snowy conditions of the Northeast.  In addition, I was avoiding having to deal with ice and dirty gray leftover blizzard snow.  The SoCal weather ended up sunny and around 75-80 degrees for the entire trip.

The first part of my trip was spent doing some remote work; however, remote work by a pool in the Hills is a lot nicer than being cooped up in an office.  Most of my time was spent hiking in Griffith Park, chilling on Venice Beach, eating tacos, and laying by the pool.  I felt insouciant.  No obsessing over politics or work, plus I got a tan.

There was a point that I truly thought about not returning to the City.  Palm trees, sunshine, taking cars instead of the subway… it all seemed so leisurely.   To think of coming back to gray, dreary, snowy New York was sombering.  For the first time in many years, I was fantasizing about another city- and feeling a little guilty.  It’s a similar feeling of having a lull in your long term relationship, and then a hot, fun, new guy taking advantage of your vulnerability.  It’s those times that you make impulse decisions that you inevitably regret.

That’s why delayed gratification is the definition of maturity.  Feelings are fleeting- and whether it’s in relationships with people or cities, you can usually overcome a lull by reminding yourself why you were so in love in the first place, which is exactly what I did with New York.

Sure, LA has a lot to offer.  But New York is home to me, mostly because I love the way people live and think here.  Yes, it can be uncomfortable, crowded, and the weather is less than desirable a lot of the time, but New Yorkers are in it together.  It’s our shared space.  And as soon as the cab pulled up to my apartment in Brooklyn, I remembered that I am definitely in the right place.  This is not to say that LA is never in the cards, because it certainly is- but not just yet.

For now, I think I’ll keep New York. Spring is just around the corner- and the same thing happens every year.  Just when you think you’ve had enough, and the City is colder than ever, she starts warming up to you again…and there’s nothing like long walks through Central Park, day trips to the Rockaways, and romantic rooftop cocktails to renew any relationship.

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The Complexity of New York Favors the Clever

“By comparison with other less hectic days, the City is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience — if they did they would live elsewhere.”
— E. B. White, Here Is New York

People who move to New York are (or should be) ready for incessant challenges.  If New York is the Olympics, adaptability is the sport- and the ones who make it win the gold medal. The City is relentlessly trying to beat you at everything, and the clever find a way to to escape defeat. The not-so-clever usually cry everyday until they go back to where they came from… back to where life is easy, and cities are kind to their citizens.

Living in New York will make you fight for all things normal.  Need groceries?  Hope you practiced not having to make two trips to the car in your past life, because now you’re about to carry your groceries down to a packed subway and then for half a mile home. You used to heat your car up before leaving for work in the winter?  Now you’re going to be walking to and from work in 17 degree weather against wind and snow (uphill both ways :)).  These are true struggles at first– but you get yourself a collapsable cart for your groceries, and a really warm coat for the winter.  These are the easy ones.

Then you have the challenges that break the faint of heart.  One day you’ll have a huge presentation at work.  You’re up, you’re excited, you’re early… and then the L train stops at Bedford– requiring everyone to get off for no apparent reason, no other train in sight, resulting in the MOST anxiety.  This could ruin everything; even if you make it to the presentation you’ve already lost your composure.  Then, you finally get close to work, and as you stop to check your phone, someone decides to water their flowers from a window right over your head, soaking your hair and ruining your make-up… (this actually happened to me).

This is the time you decide whether the City has beat you before 9am, or just given you an opportunity to outwit her.  The ones who win the gold get over their delayed train, fix their make-up, come up with a new hairstyle & witty explanation– and deliver the presentation.  If you don’t present, the City has won, and you have been and will feel defeated.  The more losses you have, the more likely you are to just give up.

The people who make it here are dreamers who love overcoming adversity, even if they don’t know that about themselves.  Generally, they do not seek comfort or even stability.  To them, comfort and stability are chains to a routine resulting in a mediocre life and a killer of dreams.

Perhaps the greatest way to overcome any obstacle, no matter where you live, is with a sense of humor.  After all, stories of adversity are the most entertaining.  People who tell them have the most interesting lives.  Nothing here is easy- learning the subway system, making friends, feeding yourself, getting to work… it’s all a struggle.  But if you can adjust, you will emerge on the other side a stronger, smarter, and more interesting person– surrounded by the most clever and fascinating people on the planet.

Adapting to the cold 🙂

The Chaos of a New Yorker’s Commute

“By comparison with other less hectic days, the city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience- if they did they would live elsewhere.”

E.B. White

In the great city of New York, just your commute can be a feat in itself.  By the time I get to work, I have walked at least a mile, waited in a crowded subway station, rode 35 minutes on a crowded train, climbed up and down countless crowded subway stairs, made a bodega stop, and fought traffic (both car and foot) on my way to my office one avenue over from Times Square.  The loud and hectic commute is a calming, exciting, and scary experience; Calming if you can get a seat on the train (it may be the most relaxing part of your day), exciting because the energy of the greatest city in the world is upon you, and scary because your really never know what or who you may come into contact with as you are traveling.

One way many New Yorkers tune out the chaos is by having their own personal soundtrack for their commute.  Most of the time, you will see commuters with their headphones on, distracted from the rest of the world.  I have certain songs I listen to while walking to the train, on the train– and then there’s the ones you put on if you need motivation to pick up your pace and tackle the streets.  Taking on the streets of Manhattan on any given day is definitely not for the faint of heart.  If you are not a “defensive” walker- you might just get hit or ran over by a person, car, or bike.  I have been hit by many people and even a bike once.  But once you get it, once you are comfortable with the commute, it becomes somewhat of a game of agility.  I even count the amount of people that I actively pass on my way to work, starting from when I leave my apartment in Brooklyn.  I got up to 150 one day last week.

The beautiful part of the commute is the culture of it- of which there is no shortage.  Every color, race, religion, and nationality is apart of your commute.  If you take your headphones off, you may hear 50 different languages before 9 am. Even though everyone is coming from different places, we now all occupy the same spaces.  Same trains, sidewalks, bodegas- it is very inspiring how it all works.  This fast and inspiring pace sets the tone for your energy- and I’ve never had more energy in my life.  I’ve also never been more inspired to be successful and creative.  This has been very good for my career.

New York City is the most competitive and energetic city in the world and you have to be able to keep up.  So far I think I’m doing a good job, and in large part I have the challenge of my chaotic commute to thank.


From NC to NYC.. Becoming a New York Woman

Everyone knows that where you are from in large part makes you the person you are.  The person you become is a result of where you choose to take your life.  Being from a small town in North Carolina, I was brought up exactly how one might suspect.  I was good manners and how to be a lady.  Coming from a family of good, hardworking, respectable people meant I had a solid foundation towards a nice future.

As I mentioned in my first post, I had wanted to move to New York from the time I was a child.  This dream stemmed from a family vacation with my friend Heather.  Her family took me with them to New York when I was eleven years old, and from that moment I never saw the world the same.  My town was so small, and as much as I loved it there, I had been exposed to something so much bigger and I was forever obsessed.  It was so glamorous and larger than life.  I didn’t know why, but I wanted to be a part of it.  I remember seeing the women wearing sneakers with their suits, carrying their heels in their handbags, and thinking, “I want to be like those women.”

From that point on, I wanted to be in a city, so I chose to move to Charlotte Charlotte.  I spent eight years in Charlotte, four in school and four working there after I graduated.  I certainly needed Charlotte as a buffer for the most culturally diverse city on the planet.  Prior to Charlotte I had very little exposure to other environments and backgrounds. My time spent there prepared me insurmountably for my move here.  Without that buffer I do not know if I would have adjusted as well as I have.

I find my personal evolution quite interesting, which is a major part of why I started this blog.  My foundation was built on morals and manners- so no matter what changes I go through, that part of me stays the same.  I always try my very hardest to do the right thing and be polite.  My time in Charlotte educated me on different types of people and how to relate and adapt.   I have already noticed some changes.  I’m more assertive and opinionated for sure, but I still practice good manners and wear my heart on my sleeve.

And, don’t ever think it is silly to believe in your dreams, because they do come true.  I know this because I am now a New York woman who wears sneakers on her walk to work and carries her heels in her handbag- and I can’t help but smile when I see a little girl watching me as I pass by.
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The New York Woman

The New York woman is like no other woman on earth.  She is aloof but assertive, effortless but sophisticated.  Everything about the New York woman can be contradictory. She will wear no make-up, except bright red lipstick.  No matter how she feels that day, she is always amazing.

After careful observation of these unique women for the past year, I’ve come up with a list of things that you can do if you want to emulate the classic New York woman:

  1. Wear a black leather jacket at any time of the year.
  2. Just wear black everything. Black is a New Yorker’s color of choice, followed by gray and navy.  Always sophisticated and chic.
  3. Stand on the side of the road instead of the curb while waiting to cross the street. Make sure to look slightly impatient.
  4. If you only have $30 and it’s a Sunday, spend it on brunch with your girlfriends.  You’ll figure it out the rest of the week later.
  5. Eat lots of pizza by the slice but from a spot far from your apartment so that you walk off the calories.
  6. Wear very little makeup. Your best friends are tinted moisturizer, mascara, and red lipstick. The last thing the New York woman wants you to think is that she tried too hard.
  7. Talk shit about New York but then get very defensive if someone who doesn’t live in New York does.
  8. Sit on your stoop while you sip coffee or smoke and people watch.
  9. Seem completely aloof to passerby’s.  Make it easier by wearing oversized black sunglasses.
  10. If you have something to discuss with a friend, do so over a walk through Prospect or Central Park.
  11. Put off having a baby for as long as possible.  If you need encouragement in this just think about the women carrying those strollers up and down the subway stairs.
  12. Be super picky when choosing a significant other because there are always a few million more.
  13. Sit in a cafe and have a coffee by yourself and read the New York Times.
  14. Take interest in politics and be very opinionated.
  15. Go sample sale shopping in Soho when you have the blues.
  16. Know how to hail a cab and give directions by cross streets.
  17. Understand the subway and the city so that you don’t have to check the map for directions.
  18. Wear sneakers with everything. On a Saturday afternoon the New York woman loves to wear black leggings, an over-sized sweater, a long wool coat, and a pair of sneakers. Complete the look with a top-knot, and as mentioned before- nothing on your face but tinted moisturizer, red lipstick, and a little mascara if you need it.
  19. Know current events and be able to talk about them intelligently.  Go to pub bars and strike up conversations with the regulars.
  20. Do everything unapologetically. Be calculated, fierce, & adaptable.. and don’t settle for less.  That is how you ended up in New York City, after all.iloveny