When did I fall in love with New York City? I’m not sure, really – and not because I don’t remember, but because it wasn’t a process of falling, but more just that all of a sudden I realized I was. I like that kind of love, the certainty of it. So perhaps the question is not when, but how. Because that is something I can trace.
Manhattan from Jersey City, 2008
My first business trip was to Jersey City, NJ, and there was essentially no reason for me to be there, but I wasn’t going to complain about sitting in the client’s conference room which had floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Manhattan. After a couple days of that, my coworkers and I hopped a PATH train to the city with all our luggage. They rented a posh room in Midtown, and I was meeting my cousin Teresa, who had just finished her first year of grad school and was letting me crash on her futon in Williamsburg. We were in our early twenties, still just a year out from college graduation. Not terribly long ago, but boy does life feel different now.
It was a brief trip, less than 48 hours to absorb the city, with no particular goals in mind. That first night, Teresa and I ate Greek food and drank wine and I hailed my first cab (ever – you don’t really “hail” cabs in Spokane, per se) back to Brooklyn, where we had a nightcap at a dive bar in her Puerto-Rican-slash-hipster neighborhood (which I’m sure is full hipster by now). Somewhere in there I took a harbor cruise with my coworkers, explored Central Park, said goodbye to Teresa at Port Authority as she took off for her own weekend plans. And then I was alone.
The how begins on the morning I left New York for the first time, After waking up alone in Teresa’s apartment, I packed my bags and reserved my towncar ride to La Guardia, and with a few hours to kill, walked to a nearby cafe with camera and journal in hand. There, over a chocolate croissant and too-hot drop coffee, I experienced the tiniest sliver of neighborhood life, the rhythm of the barista and his regulars in a tiny shop on a random street in Brooklyn. And that gave me the tiniest flicker of the idea that I could fit into that rhythm, someday, maybe. That day, I wrote and wrote and sipped my coffee and watched and listened, and then went thousands of miles home.
That was just the beginning, though. My love letter to New York has many more chapters, added over the years since that first trip. I think it’s time to write them down.