The first time I visited New York City was in 2009 during the fourth of July weekend. It was a last minute trip, but I managed to arrange a place to stay and fill the weekend with activities. I had stayed with a friend/schoolmate (although she was not present), her dog, and her roommates. Those five days confirmed that I needed to move here. An hour after arriving in Spanish Harlem by cab (who overcharged me) from the airport, I jumped on the MTA. I explored midtown and Greenwich Village, watched the sunset on the Hudson, celebrated with locals during the fireworks at Pier 54, partied on Christopher Street, slept on sloped rocks at Central Park, ate street food cuisine, sat among people in the middle of Times Square, shopped along a mile long festival at the Avenue of the Americas, listened to a jazz quintet, talked to a Haitian voodoo man who sold water, napped at Pier 1 with the view of the Brooklyn Bridge, watched break dancers at the Staten Island Ferry, rocked out to Saul Williams and Janelle Monae while standing on a bike ramp with 20 other people at the Afro-Punk festival, partied atop a Brooklyn high-rise that overlooks what will eventually be my home. My goal was one year.
While I decided to stay in St. Louis a little longer to gain more experience in teaching at the collegiate level before I compete in the market in New York, I did make sure to visit again this year. This time, I feel much more at home.
It takes one minute to hail a cab: “You heading uptown?”
“Yes, to East 94th.”
I stay with a friend in Manhattan. We dine at Esperanto (Brazilian and South American) with her co-workers who are in book publishing (MH, Higher Education). The usual inquiries morphed into to a mini-business dinner once they find out that I teach English Composition. Indeed, it feels as if I could belong here one day.
The night goes on: a no-name bar with alternative music, a hip-hop club called Sutra. The next day, we eat brunch at Braii in Midtown, which is a quaint, chic hut with South African cuisine and motif.
Although a bit out of my price range for a normal weekly budget, the food (fish parcel with goat cheese tartar, shown above), along with unlimited passionfruit mimosas, is fantastic. I’m told that the twenty-something proprietor owns another restaurant in Midtown, which makes us all feel a bit under-accomplished.
That night, we have an adventure trying to find my friend’s car. She had parked it at her co-worker’s place because she was away traveling. We get lost and have to transfer trains and buses. We find our guru in the form of a black gay boy in short overalls, sporting an updo fauhawk with cowboy boots.
I explore Central Park again the next day. I meet with the friend I had stayed with last year. We have pastries near Lincoln Square. Another friend from New Jersey picks me up in the Village. We have dinner then drinks with my old roommate, who works at TED. The conversations are always interesting: life changes, our mistakes, evolution of perceived monogamy.
While having wine at Centro Vinoteca, she tells me, “Every dinner or hello has a purpose here. It’s never just to get to know you as a person or as a friend. It matters who you know. It matters who can help you get further ahead.”
While I appreciate the culture here–no one blinks if you’re 60 years old, wearing a modified beige wedding dress with elaborate jewelry and sunglasses, taking the F train–I certainly worry about having to develop that kind of aggression, to solely approach this city for capitalistic gain.