I ♥ NY

magnolia-bakeryAbout six months before I moved to New York City, I came to visit. It was, as I recall, cold and clear the day I found myself at Magnolia Bakery. As is wont to happen here, a young guy waiting on line with me struck up a conversation. He was getting his Masters in journalism from Columbia University and, upon learning of my impending move to the Big Apple, he insisted on taking me across the street to a charming West Village bookstore.

here-is-new-york“Here,” he said, “anyone moving to New York City has to have this book.” He bought me a copy of E.B. White’s heartbreakingly beautiful 1949 essay, Here is New York. “It’s required reading. I hope you like it as much as I do.” I thanked him, we ate our cupcakes, and went our separate ways.

“Hold on,” you’re probably thinking, “a guy you met waiting to buy a cupcake bought you a book about New York just because you told him you were moving there?” Yes. Yes, he did. And the thing is, things like that happen all the time in New York City.

New York can slam your heart into the sidewalk and, in the blink of an eye, make you fall in love with her all over again. Once I climbed into a cab and began crying. I’d only been in New York a couple of months and everything was going wrong. I was exhausted and lonely. A guardian angel disguised as a cab driver drove me home, telling me to keep my chin up: “After all,” he said, “we’re in New York, and anything can happen.”

1-NYNYscarf-225Some people say that New York is a nice place to visit, but they wouldn’t want to live here. Those people generally haven’t spent much time in the Apple. Despite their reputation for brusqueness, New Yorkers are some of the friendliest, most outgoing people you’ll ever meet. If you’re standing on a street corner looking perplexedly at a map, someone will always stop and ask you where you’re headed. Then they’ll gladly give you directions and, more than likely, a restaurant recommendation.

New York is a food-lover’s paradise; entire worlds are contained in her myriad neighborhoods. Chinatown and Little Italy, for example, are unlikely neighbors, spilling over into one another downtown. This happy juxtaposition of cultures means that you can enjoy a bacchanal of Tsingtao beer and crab-and-pork dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai, then turn the corner and end your evening with cheesecake at Forlini’s.

katzdeli(wiki)-lg-87676894Perhaps you want a late-night pastrami sandwich from the Lower East Side stalwart Katz’s Deli. Or maybe you would rather have rib-sticking soul food up in Harlem at Amy Ruth’s. Then again, no summer is complete without a Nathan’s hot dog at Coney Island, followed by dinner at Primorski with the Russians in Brighton Beach. Of course, if you’d like to stay in, you can get anything delivered. Anything.

The world’s best food, art, music, theatre, dance and baseball are all right here in the Big Apple. Thanks to the subway, there is literally electricity pulsing through the streets 24 hours a day. And if Central Park in Autumn doesn’t make your heart stand still, you probably didn’t have a pulse to begin with.

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The city at last perfectly illustrates both the universal dilemma and the general solution, this riddle in steel and stone is at once the perfect target and the perfect demonstration of nonviolence, of racial brotherhood, this lofty target scraping the skies and meeting the destroying planes halfway, home of all people and all nations, capital of everything…this city, this mischievous and marvelous monument which not to look upon would be like death. –E.B. White, “Here is New York”, 1949

Nothing, not even the “destroying planes” chillingly foretold by E.B. White, can diminish the dynamism, generosity, and hope that define our beloved New York City. I love New York, today and every day.

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71 thoughts on “I ♥ NY

  1. Ah, great post, I lived in the city for a year and I wish I had seen the same side that you have. When you’re shy, you just learn how to better avoid people. Head down on the subway. Avoid eye contact while walking. Don’t dare to start up a conversation. I’m trying to come up with everyone I know by name that I met in the city and I’m stuck at number 3.

    But again, great post.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. You know, I can tell you from my own experience that the first year in NYC was really hard! And I had plenty of lonely moments, too. Like E.B. White said, New York bestows the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy. Thanks again for stopping by.

  2. Nice work hilarious! Love it – a good way for me to still get a dose of my friend hil even though I am (oh my GOD – how did I get here)…in the midwest!! Hehehe. xo Aimee

  3. I really enjoyed that post, and must get that book. As a nearly legal resident alien of 6.5 years in NYC I can confirm almost all of what you have said in the above.

  4. My fellow New Yorker and lover of this beautiful beast. What a great read! Thank YOU! Especially today. I just told a bunch of students yesterday that one of my greatest passions is NYC. It is one of the greatest places in the world and has spoiled me for everywhere else. I agree about the “hazing” process that this town gives you, AND it makes a place for you if you want it to. My introduction to NYC was being put in front of “Manhattan.” (thank God it wasn’t Mean Streets) and to this day it is the thread of how I live here. I will pick up E.B White’s book.

    I’m so glad you are on this island of LIFE with me! xoJP

    • Jen, thanks for such a beautiful note. I wanted to, in my small way, pay tribute to this city I love on this difficult anniversary. I totally hear you about NYC making a place for you if you want one. E.B. White wrote that “No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.” How true, eh? xo

  5. Very nice post — On EB White’s reference to “planes,” it’s possible he was making a reference (an oblique one) to the incident in 1945 in which an American B-25 crashed into the Empire State Building in heavy fog (around the 80th floor). Fourteen people were killed. It was not a terrorist attack — just an accident.

  6. I am a displaced NYer, (I grew up there & have been gone for 9 years) I was truly moved by your words. Which makes me miss it all the greater. New York is a very misunderstood place but you have clarified some of the bashing points, I appreciate that immensely. I will now direct people to your story before they consider moving to NY. For some eclectic Italian, try Ecco-la, 1660 3rd Ave, it’s great and cheap!
    Thank You.
    Steven

  7. Lovely! Saw a picture of your post on the WordPress homepage. I posted a link to it on my Facebook page. Listening to “Autumn in New York” now. So fun. Perfect post for a day such as this: Sept. 11th. Thanks, Gloris (Illinois)

  8. Probaly the person who said “It’s a great place to visit, but wouldn’t want to live there,” is someone like me. Your essay makes it sound beautiful and I’m sure it is beautiful. I have never visited, but then, I am a country girl. My sky scrapers are the Arizona mountains with its sculpture of shadows and rocks. My town is the scattering of small towns linked by a single highway. My lights are the thousands of stars studding the sky and the smearing white of the milky way across a black velvet ceiling. Our sounds are the bugle of an elk, the gentle moo of a herd of cows, the echo of a woodpecker across a quiet forest, and the symphony of coyotes in the distance. Maybe someday I’ll have a cupcake at Magnolia’s bakery, stare wide eye’d at the crowds of people and listen to the steady stream of taxi’s, buses, and construction. Someday.

    • What a beautiful glimpse into your world–thank you so much for writing. I grew up in Alaska, so I have tremendous appreciation for the beauty of the unfettered wilderness. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment!

  9. Beautiful post, Hils – not just for today either! I agree with every word. Those who choose to live there have a mettle that is uniquely tough and compassionate, as shown by your cab driver story. I lost count of the number of times I was extended a helping hand or encouraging word from a total stranger, most of whom I never saw again after that, like your cupcake guy. But those strung-together moments got me through my years there, and make me look forward to returning.

    I remember coming out to visit, and how upon returning Seattle, all I could do was gaze eastward and plan my move, which happened six months later. I was smitten, and followed my love to the city.

    I will never love another town like I love NYC and New Yorkers. I miss it every day (especially Joe’s Shanghai!) and it simply IS the greatest city in the world!!

  10. Excellent post…NY is one of the best cities in the World not because of it’s history/location…but because it’s full of life, and has soooooo much to do! Being a life-long NY’er I agree w/ everything you said! πŸ˜€

    BTW, great pics to accompany an awesome story.

  11. i wish i still lived there 😦
    i moved to pennsylvania this year
    i use to live in manhattan, soho DX

    thanks to the economy im in the woods in pa

  12. Great Post!
    I also fell in love with NY when I visited there last year for the first time on a business trip. I certainly do see myself living there….just dunno when yet !

  13. I just recently read my first E.B. White short story, Goodbye to 48th St, and I loved it. It not only reminded me of amazing feeling of home that New York can bestow, but also spoke to my own feeling that it is a place that can not last forever. I am in excited to devour more of his writing, and I thank you for allowing me to reminisce about that magic that can only happen in NYC.

    • I am going to seek out “Goodbye to 48th St.” I adore E.B. White’s writing style and appreciate the tip! NYC is the best–I’m glad you were able to re-live a little bit of the magic here!

  14. I LOVE this blog! I am so thrilled that I happened upon it this afternoon. I have had a love affair with NYC for many, many years, and I hope to finally settle in the Big Apple sometime next year. I have only read your latest post (9/11) and I’m hooked. I’m originally from CT, but live in TN. I’m just starting a blog about living in TN from a northeastern perspective. Visit me at http://thetennesseeyankee.wordpress.com.

    Cheers, Rebecca

    • Thank you so much. You’re so right–NYC was made for fresh starts. I feel like every day here is a clean slate. I’m sure that’s true of other places but it feels especially true here! Thanks for writing and commenting.

  15. As a (somewhat frequent) visitor of NYC who always vows to move to the city the next chance I get, I couldn’t agree with your post more. I love the city for everything you’ve just said πŸ™‚

  16. NY took me by surprise when I visited with my sister earlier this year. When friends asked me what my favorite things were…expecting me to say “The Statue of Liberty” or some other NY icon, they didn’t really get it when I said: the lady who gave me a Brownie because I hadn’t had breakfast at the Old Garage Flea Markets or the weird day at the Turkish Steam Baths, or the Subway and its conversations and mosaics! Can’t wait to visit again someday; it really is unique!

  17. Wonderful post! New York is such a beautiful city. I’ve been here more than 5 years so far and I honestly think I could live here for the rest of my life.

    You’re totally right about the restaurant recommendations. πŸ˜‰

  18. Enjoyed reading this! I visited this great high-energy city in December of 2008 and again in May of 2009. Just couldn’t seem to get enough of it. Now I’m thinking maybe I should aim for an “autumn in New York” visit. I just forwarded your post to my traveling buddies so that they could also walk down Memory Lane to La Mela, the cool restaurant on a side stree in China Town, Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, the MOMA, the NYC Public Library, Bryant Park, Magnolia’s, and so forth. Gee whiz. Think I’ll go online and check for plane rates.

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