Ten years ago this month I left New York City, my home of more than 12 years, for Salem, Oregon to help my elderly mother. It wasn’t supposed to be forever- 6 months, 9 tops, just until we could get her situation figured out.
Of course I wanted to help my mother, but I was not at all happy about leaving. Whoever is? The city has an almost magical power over you. It constantly whispers in your ear: Wait! that thing you have always wanted, it’s just around the corner, it’s coming, it’s almost here, if you only hold on one more day, one more week, month, year… and you do, willingly. The city sparkles, weaving its spell, holding you there as if with a giant magnet, promising that someday you too could be part of its lore.
That legendary attraction is undeniable and irresistible.
Before I lived there, I knew lots of people that just up and moved to NYC. I always thought they were crazy. I visited as a teenager and it was big and scary and I watched far too many Law and Order reruns to willingly go there without a darn good reason. And then the offer I couldn’t refuse came and it was my turn to go. And I went without hesitation. Fear, certainly, but not hesitation.
And thus began a lifelong love/hate relationship with that great city, THE city.
New York City is every superlative in the dictionary. It is truly the center of the universe. It is exciting, exhilarating, ripe with possibility, and encompasses every idea, person, object, and experience.
Unusual, unexpected things happen there with such regularity that you start to regard them with nonchalance: from my comfortable seat at Starbucks, I watched a Sorcerer, complete with pointed hat and wooden staff, walk up Broadway. I saw a crocheted bike chained to a fence. I stood 2 feet away from Meg Ryan, and even though she is in three of my favorite movies, I refrained from harassing her.
I experienced the most amazing theatre of my life, performances that will stay with me forever: Hugh Jackman in The Boy from Oz, Angela Lansbury in A Little Night Music, David Suchet in Amadeus to name but a few. Not to mention the thrill of seeing my very own students debut on Broadway. But that’s a blog post for another day.
And of course, I fell in love in New York City- certainly that alone cements its enchantment in my mind forever: Christmas lights on 5th Avenue, the orchid show at the Botanical Gardens, the Temple of Dendur at the Met.
Magic. All of it.
New York City is also soul-crushing, demoralizing, and just plain exhausting. You put up with the worst possible nonsense. My local grocery store would have been condemned by any decent health department anywhere else. And yet it stayed in business and I shopped there for a decade.
I lived in an apartment that rang with the roar of the elevated train every day, all day, for a decade and counted myself lucky because it was 600 square feet with a separate kitchen and room for a baby grand piano.
I had rats run across my boots, my wallet stolen by a child theft ring, and grown men in three piece suits elbow me in the chest on the subway and push me into snow banks because I was in the way and they were in a hurry. And still I stayed and still I counted myself fortunate because I lived and worked in the greatest city on the planet.
And it is, I believe, the greatest city on the planet. I’ve been fully indoctrinated into its magical ways and will always regard it as such. Even after ten years away, I miss the excitement, the glitter, the scope of possibilities… the allure is always there.
I would recommend it to anyone. Truly. I think it is an experience everyone should have. Not just visiting, but living there, working and struggling there, because it gives you gifts of enormous value: toughness, confidence, courage, wonder.
And magic, New York City’s most special gift of all that it confers on anyone susceptible. I certainly was.