A funny thing happened on my way to a business meeting.
I fell in love with New York City.
I’ve long held her in high regard for her street cred as a “real” city, her grittiness, her style. While I might hold a grudge against her for her taste in baseball teams, there’s an elegance to her that has nothing to do with Park Avenue and everything to do with her recovery from 9-11 and pizza by the slice at any hour of the day.
But with that said, New York always intimidated me.
I’m stylish by DC standards, but in New York, my clothes feel commonplace. Likewise, I’m creative and artistic in our nation’s capital, but in New York, I feel stilted and unimaginative.
That all changed on this trip, beginning with a simple subway ride.
I’ve only ever been on the New York subway with natives to hold my hand. I don’t know why I was so scared to use this system solo considering I’ve mastered public transportation in foreign cities where I don’t speak the language. But once I had my ticket in hand and some sense of assurance that I was on a train moving in the right direction, it was a piece of cake. I didn’t even mind the crazy man who sat next to me, grabbed my forearm in a friendly sort of way, and exclaimed, “take care now! It was great to see you today!” Part of me is disappointed in myself for all the long and expensive taxi rides I endured in the past out of fear of New York’s public transit.
My destination was the Upper West Side apartment belonging to my friend Margaret, who as the evening progressed, proved herself to be the mayor of her neighborhood. She knew someone everywhere we went and even managed to make a new friend. Before the night was over, the ease with which she navigated her corner of the city turned this sprawling metropolis into a small European town.
And I’m a sucker for small European towns.
I spent the time between meetings today daydreaming about when I can take Margaret up on her offer to use her apartment anytime I want. (I almost went home with her spare keys to facilitate my inevitable return.) I’m aching for a walk in Central Park on a crisp autumn day. I yearn for the solitude a city of 8 million residents can provide. I want to find a good people watching spot and sit for hours, maybe developing some characters for the novel stuck in my head. I want to master the subway and go back to Margaret’s yoga studio.
But mostly I crave a late night slice of pizza.