It amazes me how time flies. Next Wednesday, August 28, will mark the date that I first came to New York City - 19 years ago. Nineteen! Neunzehn! Diecinueve! Dziewiętnaście! The night before I left, my family celebrated my parents' 22nd wedding anniversary. We all went downtown and indulged in a carriage ride along the lakefront. It was weirdly romantic (not in the sexy sense - don't get any ideas) and sad and fitting. The next day, we all packed into the car and drove to O'Hare. Nineteen years ago, anyone could walk to the gate at the airport, not just people who were ticketed. (Remember that? Right - it really was another era.) We sat together, then when it was time for me to board, we hugged and kissed, and I tried really, really hard not to cry. On the plane, I hugged Theo (my teddy bear companion to this day) tight, and we tried not to think about what was behind us, but what was ahead of us.
My plan was just to go to college in New York City, then move back to Chicago. But, as readers of this blog know, almost nothing I do goes according to plan and works out anyway. New York City, it turned out, was really where I was meant to be all along. I loved everything about it, even if it made me a little nervous at first. I wasn't sure that I'd take the subways at night, that I'd venture out into outer boroughs, that I'd ever eat sushi or Thai food, or walk miles and miles for fun. Over the years, it all became second nature. Here I am, 19 years later, co-owning a residence in a neighborhood that I'd never even heard of when I got here.
Oh, the affair with New York City has not always been smooth. There were the Giuliani years, where anyone who was not 100% with him was an enemy of the city. The gritty places that I was a little bit afraid of (like 14th Street beyond 2nd Avenue - seriously) turned into luxurified neighborhoods that I rail against. Seedy Times Square was already on the way to becoming a tourist trap from hell (although I appreciate enormously the expanded pedestrian areas) when I arrived, but it is abominable now. September 11. The blackout of 2003 (which kind of was awesome). Bloomberg the Fascist giving away the city to the Republicans in 2004, only for them to continue to fuck us as anticipated. A subway strike in December 2005 (which I walked 8 miles to work in 20 degree weather, but also perversely enjoyed). The distressing changes in my neighborhood, including new apartment buildings with one bedrooms renting at $6,500 per month. How much other people consistently annoy me by walking on the left side of the sidewalk, or riding their bikes the wrong way on a one way street and/or not following traffic signals. The fact that assholes insist on standing directly in the doors of the subway so that it is hard to get on or off the train. My 900,000 job changes.
But here I am. In the last few weeks, I've been pretty stressed out in general. I've been evaluating what I've been doing in the last decade or so, and what I can do in the next one. Increasingly, I found myself maybe not as much in love with New York City as I had been. Maybe I need a change of scenery, I've been thinking. A fresh start, at least for a year or two. Then I'll walk down the street on an unexpectedly mild August afternoon, gazing in the windows of shops, watching the street life bustle around me, or stand on a sweltering subway platform and hear wonderful blues music from the platform across the tracks, and I know. Once you love New York, it never really ends.