8 years ago my sister suggested I find a way to publish the amusing emails I sent her about our dog Zoe. Now there is blogging! Zoe tales are about Zoe (3 1/2 lb Chihuahua), Gracie (bigger and the world's friendliest Chihuahua) and other stuff I am thinking about. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Remembering NYC

I am a California girl through and through. I cannot imagine anywhere else being home. And I say California because I love both the SF Bay area and the Los Angeles area - I'm strange that way (for you non-Californians, people generally dislike one if they like the other). I was born in LA and throughout my life, have lived many years there. And I do love it smog, traffic, narcissism and all. However, I consider the gorgeous, funky, diverse Bay Area, specifically Oakland, home.

Despite taking a multi-year detour through the Midwest and East Coast, I always felt in my heart that someday I would come home and therefore I could never allow myself to fall in love with any other place. One of the stops on my away from home tour was New York City. I tried at first to live in Manhattan. I couldn't take it. I wasn't very close to a subway line so it tended to be a pain to get around (if the 2nd street line were more than a myth I might have been more charitable). I didn't make enough money and lived far enough uptown that regular cabbing would have been too costly. It was the hottest summer in history when I was there so in addition to the stifling, muggy humid weather that I as a dry, desert, 72 and sunny, LA girl could not take, there was the extra rank scent of baked garbage wafting through the air. All little things that, on the balance, made me unwilling to live there more than the 3 months that I did.

There were pluses like taking my dogs for their daily walks at Carl Shurtz park near Gracie Mansion on the water (not lovely - it was the East River - but water nonetheless.) One of my fond memories was when Zoe threw up in protest at Rudy Giuliani's front gate. This was well before 9-11 and when Liberals were still derisive even while secretly harboring an appreciation for how much more pleasant a place Manhattan had become. I visited regularly in the late '80's and went to see bands which meant that I wandered around unsavory places very late at night and literally took my life in my hands - everyone I knew that lived there at that time had been mugged violently at least once. But I digress...

I moved to the burbs and visited Manhattan. I had a chance to get to know and know better relatives whom I didn't know well having lived 3,000 miles away most of my life. I enjoyed the fantastic restaurants, museums, shopping and more. Yes, I carped about the cost and time involved with getting there, and grumbled about my seeming inability to get my bearings there and constantly getting lost, but there were people I loved and many places I adored there so I went and my heart softened.

I bought my first home in New York - a mile from an express train that took me quickly and reasonably to Grand Central Station which allowed me visit Manhattan more easily so my heart softened some more. Also, I closed on and moved into that apartment - about 20 miles from Ground Zero - on 9-11, so in a way I felt somewhat bonded, somewhat of a New Yorker. That feeling intensified when I had the opportunity to volunteer at Ground Zero and feed rescue workers. The outpouring of compassion and comfort total strangers (that I met in other parts of the country in the months after the tragedy) would express to me upon hearing that I lived anywhere near Manhattan made me feel so proud to be a New Yorker even though in my heart I knew it was a lie.

When I left New York I was just starting to come to terms with living there. But that was it - coming to terms. And, poof, I left and it was gone - the pride, admiration and like (not love) that I had built up for New York was gone. Unlike a dear friend who will never leave New York City and return to Los Angeles (a cultural wasteland where you are forced to drive in her opinion), I can't imagine ever living there again.

I read something today, though that me realize why, although it will never be home, I do heart NY. James Rocchi, the film critic at Netflix, has a lovely essay on his blog about NYC in the context of visiting for the Tribecca Film Festival which Robert De Niro started to help heal lower Manhattan post 9-11. This paragraph crystallized it for me:

I've been to New York more than a few times in my life, but even before my first trip, I had been there a thousand times. Thanks to Woody Allen films, Jim Jarmusch films, Spike Lee films. The music of The Ramones, Public Enemy, The Velvet Underground. The novels of Lawrence Block, J.D. Sallinger, Andrew Vacchs. The photos of Diane Arbus. Spider-Man. Guys and Dolls and West Side Story and 42nd Street. The Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time Players. The New Yorker. Dorothy Parker. Andy Warhol. I don't think you can love pop culture without loving New York.

And that's the thing - when I first set foot in New York it was strange, alien and so familiar at the same time. And I do love (am obsessed with) pop culture so how could I not love New York? Plus, having lived there, my life is all the richer for it, quirks, faults, pains and all. Thanks James for reminding me to remember New York with love.


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