I ♥ NY

I was working on a different blog post when my mind began to drift to my upcoming work trip to NYC. Coincidentally Simon & Garfunkel’s The Only Living Boy in New York came on from my Discover Weekly Spotify playlist. How does Spotify do it? Maybe I don’t want to know, but it got me thinking of my adventures in the city I called home for over 14 years. 14 years! I had never lived in one place longer than four years before moving there, and I felt it was only right to pay homage to the city that helped me to grow up.

Like many, I fell in love with the city from television and movies. When Bette Midler’s character in Beaches banged on her radiator and yelled, “send up the heat!” I was sold. I wanted that tiny, overpriced apartment with no heat, maybe a mouse or two and the struggle. Guess what? I got it! A few times.

The romantic draw of New York is palpable. It draws you in and can just as quickly spit you right out when you least expect it. That’s only part of why it’s so exciting. I equate it to that beautiful and amazing romantic partner that when it’s good, it’s so good and when it’s terrible, you might need a restraining order. It’s a relationship with highs higher than the moon and lows as low as a 95-degree summertime breeze on Canal Street. Isn’t that how all great love stories should be?

I moved to NYC in June 2002. Nine months after 9/11. My first time visiting was two weeks before moving when I flew up to apply for a job as a hair assistant. I had never seen the towers in person. I can never know what it was like for those who were there on that day. Or how the energy shifted. I came with reverence for what had happened, but also with that youthful hope that the world my oyster.

Funny enough, I never lived in Manhattan. I ended up in Brooklyn the entire time I lived there and in Williamsburg for fourteen of those years. Brooklyn wasn’t the place as it is now and it was not cool to cab drivers at all. I dated a guy briefly upon arriving in the city whose sole purpose in my life was to show me the proper way to get a cab to take you to Brooklyn from Manhattan. Valuable information in 2002.

  1. Get in the cab, say nothing until you are inside.

  2. Give the driver one direction at a time. Example; “We are going over the Williamsburg Bridge.” If the driver wants further instruction, say, “it’s close to the exit.”

  3. Once over the bridge, “take the second exit, then a right at the light.”

These cryptic directions continued until you were in front of your door. I always felt I was somehow holding them hostage, giving them snippets of information as if I had something important to show them. But this was the only way to get home back then. Some of them pretended to break down, run out of gas, and kick me out. Now you can’t wait for a light to change without a yellow cab slowing down in front of you.

My annual roll down a hill at Governor’s Island. I highly recommend it.

My annual roll down a hill at Governor’s Island. I highly recommend it.

Some of my best memories are of going out in my twenties. Back in Tampa, I would go out dancing all the time and assumed I had hit the jackpot in that regard in NYC. I quickly learned about Cabaret laws which prohibited a business from allowing dancing unless they had a special permit. Let’s discuss how this law was implemented in 1926 during prohibition and only overturned in 2017. Yeah, exactly. I had been at places that were shut down while we were all dancing (RIP Royal Oak). It was the NYC version of Footloose minus the religious spin on it.

My favorite night was Sundays at Shout, where I could legally dance to my heart’s content. I got to know the Dj’s, Steve and Pedro, who were so kind to bestow upon me multiple drink tickets, and a place to stash my coat during the winter months.

I would drink Tom Collin’s with that terrible sweet and sour mix, and dance until the wee hours. Around 3 am, I would head to the deli across the street to get an ETA on when the muffins would be ready. The guy working that particular shift would see me come in and shake his head yes or tell me how many minutes I needed to wait. That would give me time to have another drink and dance a bit more. With my warm double chocolate chip muffin and Vitamin Water in hand, I would head to the Union Square station. Cabs were a luxury and as described above, almost impossible to procure.

The L train was and is a hot mess, and at 5 in the morning 17 years ago, this was no exception. I am not sure if this happened every day, but on these early Monday mornings, they would pressure wash the platform. I would sit on the stairs, waiting for the train, eating my muffin as it melted all over my hands and mouth. I have zero photographic evidence of this, and I’m so glad I don’t. These tiny moments don’t exist when you have a phone in front of your face. You have to take the impression with your eyes, your mind, and remember the tiny details. The rats running on the tracks, mist from the pressure washer going into the air and not knowing when the train would show up. It eventually would, and as graceful as I could be, I would stand up, adjust my mini skirt, wipe off any remaining chocolate that might be all over my mouth and get onto the train.

I am grateful to New York for opening my eyes and mind to new cultures and people. It gave me a backbone and the ability to stand up for myself. New York City will hold you to a standard that no other place or person ever will. It’s not always a good thing, but sometimes a good kick in the rear is what you need, at least I did. Motivation to move, to go towards that goal. You cannot be lazy or idle, and because of this, it is one of the most significant places for inspiration and magic. It is being surrounded by those craving the best, that can translate into what could be possible.

The love of NYC never went away for me. Even a decade in I would stop, look around and say thank you, remembering the dream that began as a kid. The relationship shifted though and became the, I love you, but I am not in love with you kind. So harsh. So I left on a high note, and while I do go back for work every three months, it’s no longer the place I call home. I joke that I’m going to see my ex-husband to get my alimony check. In some ways, I am, and I’m ok with that. I earned it.

“What do you want? Well, go and get it.”-NYC to me a thousand times.

A Few of My NYC Faves

From top left to right: BK sunsets: The gay section of Jacob Riis Beach: The Met: Rooftop view from my old apartment

Bottom left to right: Roller skating in Dumbo: My sister and I at the High Line: Lady Liberty: My friends and I forever etched onto Metropolitan Ave

Nikki Flaming