As we’re in the final preparations of our move to Charlottesville and reflecting on what this city means to us, I couldn’t help but come back to this ode I read once about New York City. Laura Steiner of the Huffington Post put it perfectly:
“To the city you’re always yearning,
New York is tackiness on the gravel of the meatpacking district, it’s cool kidz on Bedford, it’s yuppie parents in Prospect Park, it’s characters out of Woody Allen’s imagination in the Upper West Side, it’s Dominicans in Washington Heights, it’s Hasidic Jews in Borough Park, it’s Asian groceries and Polish bars, it’s Italians — the real ones and the Jersey Shore ones — it’s movie stars, fashion stars, homeless, junkies, it’s tourists, it’s commuters, it’s generations of New Yorkers.
New York is neighborhood. It’s having your deli, your coffee place, your laundromat and, if you’re lucky, your late night eatery in one block. It’s drinking coffee on your stoop.
New York is museums, it’s street art, it’s music, it’s theater. It’s being constantly nostalgic about past decades. E.B. White said it best in his book Here is New York when he wrote, “In New York you feel the vibrations of great times.” New York is Patti Smith, Henry James, Allen Ginsberg, Lou Reed, Arthur Miller, Bob Dylan, Jackson Pollock, Frank O’Hara, Hector Lavoe, Washington Irving, Andy Warhol, Billie Holiday, Jack Kerouac, The Ramones and other greatest.
New York is having everything to chose from and never having enough time to do anything. It’s being surrounded by people and feeling lonely. It’s also finding out you don’t need other people’s company, you just need the city.
New York is where the eastern European deli owner will never say a word to you despite the fact that you buy coffee from him every morning. But it’s where the eastern European deli owner will one day tell you “Hey, it’s nice to see you again” after you’ve moved out of your neighborhood and haven’t seen him in six months. After that, every coffee in the world will be tasteless to you.
New York is where you’ll probably live at least once (if not more) in an apartment where you’ll have occasional visits from mice. But New York is where you’ll learn to overlook the rodent situation because it’s never about the mice, it’s about the fact that you managed to score an apartment in a first floor walk up with windows and exposed brick in a prime location.
New York is finding comfort in the small things, like knowing your neighbor never picks up his subscription to the Sunday New York Times.
One day, New York will be the place you’re no longer in, but the place you won’t seem to be able to shake off your head.
New York is the place you’ll try to explain to everyone back home to no avail. You’ll find there aren’t enough words in your vocabulary. New York is not something you see, it’s something you feel. It’s a state of mind and hence hard to describe.
You’ll go, and reminisce about the city. People will tell you New York will always be there. But you know better. The city will withstand — as it always has — but the city you left behind, you left for good. The city won’t miss you because you were merely a spec in its being and when you go back (and you will since the city is always calling) you’ll go back to a different New York. The city never stops and already, only a few months later, you know it’s changed: that’s its nature. New York is unapologetic and doesn’t wait for anyone. It’s a city that creates and a city that happens. New York doesn’t need anything or anyone and perhaps that’s exactly why you still crave it so much, because of its idyllic unattainability.”