“New York will not be won. No one can own New York: test this city, and it will slap you down hard. The city does not belong to you, the joy of New York is that you might make it so that you belong to her. “ – Michael Wear
Every day, I learn the name of someone new and more often than I initially expected, a preliminary Google search reveals that they make their home in my city, in New York. In some instances this has led to me booking them to my news show or asking them to lunch. More often than not, I mentally recognize it as a New Yorker tradeoff — that it is, a validation that the hassle of the rush-hour subway, the frenzy of the tourists and the steepness of the rent are worthy sacrifices for the caliber of the population, the abundance of intellect, the magnitude of its cultural reach.
I’m packing my bags and leaving this city on August 15. My last day of work is July 31. I’m taking a position where I’ll be writing alongside the inspired minds at Christianity Today and I’m thrilled that they think I can contribute to their team. I am moving to the yet un-gentrified neighborhood of East Garfield Park in Western Chicago to be a roommate of a grad student with two cats and there’s a backyard. I have no friends there, but I intend to become a Chicago Fire fan. For the third time since graduation, tabula rasa.
I am not afraid of this new life.
But I grieve the passing of the one I craft here.
This month, it’s swimming in the outdoor pool in the West Village before 8:30 a.m. and biking the remainder of the distance to work. Every day, it’s attentiveness to where I stand on a subway car in light of the stairs from my home station’s exit. For night after night it was showing up and only knowing myself and now it’s night after night of being known. It’s pedaling down 7th Ave and 2nd Ave. and the Hudson River Bikeway and the East River Greenway.
There’s the waterfall on 51st Street, the Elevated Acre, and that the lobby of The James, the hotel just above Canal, serves cookies right after 5 pm wine and cheese. Watch out for the LIRR tracks because they’ll stymie your ability to get from Roosevelt to Queens Boulevard. Bay Ridge has top notch views of the Verazzano Bridge. You can take three buses from Rockaway to Coney Island and in between you’ll see a massive mall, larger than the one which makes up my backyard.
The New York City Botanical Garden lies just off the Bronx’ dustiest streets. It’s free on Wednesdays. Staten Island has a golf course and if you choose to dally around you may get escorted off in a golf cart. You can find a collector’s U.S. Open Grey Goose vodka cup without paying $15 if you hunt in the Grandstand. I am living proof that pedestrians may pass through Williamsburg to Maspeth to Elmhurst. I ate breakfast in Howard’s Beach hours before Sandy descended. Finnertys is a bottle of San Francisco in the New York ocean.
I am dispensable to the New York City machine but much less to its micro-communities. Another young female transient professional but also a breakfast server at St. Peter’s and mentor to my 11 year-olds and deacon at my dinner church. The doorman at my office gave me Mets tickets earlier this year. A lifeguard at my pool has my phone number and the other one lent me her goggles for weeks.
I will board the plane to Chicago alone and it shall cease and commence once again.