Thursday, September 15, 2011

Case Study 95: "The Big Apple"

"Chapter One. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. Eh uh, no, make that he, he romanticized it all out of proportion. Better. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin. Uh, no, let me start this over..."
-Woody Allen 

In two short weeks, I will celebrate one little circle around the sun here in New York City.

The Manhattan that I grew up with, the one I dreamed about as a child, was Woody Allen's paradise.  It was based on my parents' stories from the 70s and my own uptown dreams of romance on the steps of a museum at dusk.  Fueled by music and lighting, I imagined what I knew: ballets at Lincoln Center and family dinners before The Met.  New York was knishes at delis, bocce ball courts in restaurants and foie gras at Payard's.  I savored the painted walls of Bemelman's, the front pews at St. Patrick's, and the glamour of Fifth Avenue stone architecture lit by the evening sun through the trees of Central Park.   

As I grew older, of course, this all changed. I spent college summers catching the last train home to suburbia after spending long days trekking through labs uptown and monkey colonies downtown doing neuroscience research.  The classics turned old, and the grandeur lost its hold.  There were concerts at Rumsey Playfield, secret restaurants and movies in parks. I found art in modern galleries and photography.  I drank sangria in garden bars and martinis on rooftops, and on one hot night, I got piggy-backed through the streets in a miniskirt to see Pearl Jam.

When we change our lives, we jump into the unknown, and this time the depth of my abyss was three-fold.   The city I dreamed of, the city I knew, and the city that I realistically live in are very different things.  And so, the past year has been filled with experiences that, even with all of my expectations, I could have never imagined.   

On my first day of work, I accidentally drove through the Battery Tunnel and got lost in Brooklyn.  I continuously missed turns, subway stops and ran for trains in heels at the end the day.  When something in my life didn't feel right, I walked out the door and headed straight for the Brooklyn Bridge.  There I took in a light breeze and the understanding that if you stand right in the middle of something for just long enough, you can see all sides clearly.  
  I took myself to concerts and movies and cafes alone.  On my birthday, I sat for nearly an hour on the Bighorn Sheep bench in the Museum of Natural History at eleven o'clock in the morning.   I took the time to see my city in the eyes of a traveler, and when I started working again, those of cynic.  

I cursed at the subway and the deathly smells lingering over ten blocks on Broadway in midtown.  I danced in a graffiti-filled sweat den in the Village with a twenty-three year old filmmaker until three in the morning.  I was romanced by an academic with a vintage copy of Salinger on a grassy knoll in a Staten Island park.  I threw dinner parties in my apartment, on my rooftop and by the water.  I ran along the Hudson daily. I baked, I relaxed and I snuck into bed early more nights than I thought I would. 

"The Big Apple" is an apple and walnut cupcake topped with a brown sugar cream cheese buttercream.  It is sweet and earthy, crispy at the edges, and sturdy and strong. Just like good old New York City. 

I have met so many wonderful people in this city so far, who, whether they're still with me or not, have changed my life forever.

But the truth is, I'm still finding my place.  With my next move comes a new space, a new neighborhood and a new year to explore.  Everything is uncertain and opportunities are endless, because in New York City every turn could stop you short, or push you forward or leave you on your way.  My chapter one might be wrapping up, but our story has really just begun.

1 comment:

eriKa said...

I hate to get sappy, but this was so beautiful. I just had my two year anniversary of living in Chicago, and while I really love it, I know that all I ever truly wanted was to be in New York. Thank you for the lovely post and inspiring words (and of course, delicious photos).