I haven’t written a “favorite places” post in a while…
New York City is my ultimate favorite place. I can’t believe it wasn’t the first place I wrote about! It’s the one place I have consistently ,since I was about 16, dreamed of living. I often think of if my airline had a New York base…would I go there? Even if for ,like, 6 months just to see what it would be like. Not move (we bought a house last year, I’m never moving again hopefully) but stay there on and off so it felt like living there.
A couple months ago I had a super cute chaser on one of my flights who currently lives in New York. She told me that a year ago she scribbled down “365 days NYC apartment” on a sticky note and stuck it to her bedside table – she didn’t know how she was going to do it but living in New York was her dream as well. One day ,out of the blue, a friend reached out to her and said “I’m moving to New York and I know you want to go too…do you want to live with me?” and so they began looking through apartment options and found one & her dream came true. She manifested this move. Now. Mind you, she is in her 20s. She does not have a mortgage to worry about. She does not have a fiancé who would sooner die than live in a freezing cold & quite liberal city. But how I wished that in my late teens to early 20s that I would have done something like that with my life! She told me that living in New York is great but ,turns out, not for her. So her next dream is Los Angeles – after her lease is up that’s where she’s heading! What a badass! Her opinion is that living in the city means that everything is just a little harder than it should be – she’s on the 5th floor in her building that doesn’t have an elevator. So for laundry ,for example, she’s lugging her laundry bag down 5 flights of steps to the laundry room in her building. Start laundry. Back up 5 flights. Back down 5 flights to put laundry in dryer. Back up 5 flights. Back down to retrieve laundry. Back up again to put laundry away in apartment. Or grocery shopping…or getting to work! She rolls her luggage to the train station, rides to the airport, and then commutes to Florida to report for work. I understand this. I get that it would be hard. I’ve just never been able to shake the feeling of how fun it could be.
She actually put a fun idea in my head – maybe one day if I decide to really pull the trigger, I could just check the NYC sublet pages on Facebook & find an apartment to rent for a couple months! Maybe even just a month. I could totally handle a month! This is all just a maybe of course, I’m obviously happy in Florida & most certainly can’t handle a place that snows but it would fulfill a dream of mine. I’m a big believer in fulfilling your dreams. I’ve done nearly everything I want to do & will continue doing exactly what I want so who knows? Maybe I could pull this off one day & me, Clinton, Emma & I can go be city slickers for a month!
In honor of my love for New York…I’m recycling a post I wrote in 2018 that I recently found tucked away on my neglected little MacBook Pro.
“My whole life I’ve wanted two things – to be a writer and to live in New York City. If I can do one while doing the other? Even better. I’ve never been one for a small town. I don’t want to bump into people I went to high school with in Walmart and see their kids with the sticky faces and be forced into small talk about whatever new shit the soccer mommies sell on Facebook because they have nothing else to do. I couldn’t do it. I want adrenaline and excitement! I want to be in awe of my life every. single. day.
There were times when I lived outside of Chicago when I had a very lax job, I would sit outside in my car instead of being inside and ,ya know, working and stare over this little hump of a bridge. Once you were over the bridge you would see the South Shoreline train station that would get me to Chicago in about 30 minutes. I loved that train station. It would take me to my favorite place ever. It would deliver me from mundane, bland, uneventful, and boring to pure bliss and excitement. I would sit and stare for a few moments and debate leaving work. I didn’t have a traditional job to where anyone would even know. No one even knew I was sitting in my car, fantasizing about leaving! My boss lived in Michigan, I had no coworkers, and worked 100% solo. In my mind I would take it one step farther – I would just stay gone. I could find a job in the city so I could go every day! I could take Emma and we’d live out by the river/Lake Michigan and we could walk along the water when it was sunny out. I could have coffee and lunch at Eataly every day if I wanted to if only I was there to do it. But no, no here I am, in my Hyundai…in a parking lot…in frumpy work clothes, following the rules (kinda), and living “that” life. I would go home, send in my reports, feed the Ems, start dinner, and be prepared for the routine. Silent dinner, mediocre TV, shower, skin care, brush teeth, bed. Wash, rinse, repeat.
A couple years later, I would visit New York for the first time and I loved it as I’d waited my whole life to visit but I was a little jaded. It was confusing and hard to navigate as opposed to the Chi’s easy vibes. I wasn’t sure it lived up to my mental hype. I was overwhelmed mostly & it didn’t help that I had made an itinerary that was packed from dusk til dark to make sure I did everything I wanted to in case I never got to return! Luckily for me though, I did. It took a while but I made it in December of ’17 on a Newark layover. I had just started flying a few months prior & knew Christmas would be hard for me (that was the day I found out my ex was ,like, for real cheating on me) so I decided I wanted to spend Christmas in New York to restore my holiday spirit. All the flights were pretty full so I was afraid of flying on my benefits in case I made it there & got stuck so I gave up on those dreams & decided I’d try a different year when crew scheduling had other plans for me – I showed up to sit a 5 hour ready reserve period & when I signed in, they had taken my ready reserve away & put in a trip. I slightly panicked until I saw it – a deadhead to Newark. 16 hour layover. Work one leg to New Orleans the next day, and deadhead home. It was December 23rd & 24th. I would be in New York for Christmas (Eve-ish). I had a great time. It was busy. So damn busy. Completely saturated with people – tourists from the small towns I am bored by, there to see the Rockefeller Center tree and go ice skating. I can barely make my way through Times Square due to slow moving droves of people. I went with one of my crew members who is from Poughkeepsie and we made our way to all of the holiday hotspots and back to Jersey. He did all the navigation & even taught me where to get good sandwiches in Newark & how to properly order them. I remember standing in front of the Rockefeller Center tree & was in complete disbelief that this was my life. That I somehow cheated the system and was allowed to be this blessed. I saw everything I wanted to see and felt so, so grateful for it all.
Then, 2 weeks ago I had another long Newark layover on my schedule and another crew member said she wanted to go with me but she wanted to eat and sleep for a few hours before we left and I thought to myself “hell no” – I don’t like to waste time. I said I wanted to go, and by God, I’m going whether she goes or not…so I left. Plus, I kinda wanted to go alone. I like my alone time. I walked from our Newark hotel to Newark Penn Station. It’s not far at all (one street over from our hotel) and while Newark isn’t the safest place to go walking, I’ve learned no one is out to bother me. Same way as with Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, and New Orleans. And I decided since it would be dark when I would be back, I would just pay for an Uber to get me back…I didn’t, but still. It was an option if I didn’t feel comfortable walking around in the dark. I get to Penn Station and purchase my ticket at the computer & realize I don’t really know what track to go to…on the South Shoreline going to Chicago there was only one track to get you there and the one to get you back home would have a lit up screen. So I asked a cop. She told me to go to track 1…perfect! Thank you! So I stroll down the corridor to 2 sets of doors to go to track 1…but which one do I pick? Left or right? Oh to hell with it, go right. I get upstairs and start stressing a little bit because I’m not sure I picked the right track and what if the train goes to the OTHER track 1?! I mean it wouldn’t matter, I could walk over and catch the next one but what a nuisance. Then I realize the other side is for the PATH train and I’m taking Jersey Transit so cool. We good here. I double checked with a couple in front of me just in case. They were as lost as I was but I decided I was right and reassured them I knew how to get us to New York.
Sho’ nuff, I was right! It was a cold and rainy day so I decided indoor activities only (jk, jk, I started off that way but definitely did not follow through) – but my first stop on this layover was a must do. A dream I’ve had since learning how to cook – the Chelsea Market. I saw it on Food Network so many years ago and decided “I must go here one day” – I love food. I love to go out to eat and try different things. I love cooking and new ingredients and quirky food trends. It was on my “secondary list” of things to do the very first time I went to NYC…all the touristy things came first and the not-as-touristy things were added onto the second list. I never made it that first time. New York’s Penn Station is right beside of Madison Square Garden and a little over a mile walk from Chelsea so I took off on foot and figured if I get cold or too wet I can go into a restaurant or cafe or little shop to warm up. I made it quite a ways until I saw a doggie boutique called the Barking Zoo. I went in and bought Emma a cookie that said “I pawprint NY” on a cookie in the shape of an apple. The owners loved me but berated me for not wearing a coat (I was ,however, wearing a fleece lined zip up as that was the only warm thing I packed) and begged me to walk to 14th street and buy a cheap jacket to wear. Sorry, it’s a no from me folks. On I trekked to Chelsea Market. My phone was off by like half a mile so when I strolled up on it it shocked me because I still had a little walk left according to Apple maps.
It was busy but nowhere near as busy as I figured it would be! My first stop was Fat Witch Bakery. I browsed and decided I will bring “C” back a brownie as he loves brownies but I would come back and purchase later as I had a lot of ground to cover and why would I want to stop now? So, I went onward. I went to Bowery Kitchen Supply, Chelsea Market Baskets, Artists & Fleas, Pearl River Market, Posman Books, and a few of the specialty food stores. I bought “C” a fancy pair of chopsticks at Pearl River because when we went to Sanibel he taught me how to use chopsticks on our sushi date. I bought myself a pair too. I’m cute. I loved all of the quirky gift shops and flea market vibes but honestly, it was time to settle on where I wanted to eat. I stopped by this gorgeous tea market (Spices & Teas(e)) and bought a giant iced tea (Pina Colada Hibiscus! It was red!) with honey and while I was in line I asked the cashier where I should eat – he told me Creamline which was directly across from them and a man overheard me that was in line behind me (Igar? Ibar? A very unique name) and told me to eat at Friedman’s. I asked if it was a place that would be ok with me sitting alone and that I didn’t want to take up table space if it was more suited for groups of people to which he replied “Get over it! It’s New York! The perfect place to be alone” and I thought to myself in that very moment “Fuck yeah! You’re right! Girl power!” Ok, maybe just “he’s right!” so I go to purchase my tea and the cashier says to me there’s a $10 minimum if you’re paying by card and my tea was only $3…I was about to hand it back because let’s be real, no one needs $10 in tea when Igar behind me said to not worry about it and how he’s got it! It was the kindest thing ever. I told him absolutely not but he insisted to which the cashier replied “I was going to give it to you for free anyways honey. Enjoy”…..New York. Pushy, busy, loud New York. I mean, how do such awful people exist in this world? 😉
I ended up settling on pizza. Once I had my lunch at the pizza place I decided to revisit all my favorite shops and buy my souvenirs. So I went back to Fat Witch and bought “C” his brownie and myself a brownie AND a blondie. Ps — the resounding opinion on the Fat Witch is, it’s cute and kitschy but the treats were mediocre at best. My homemade brownies taste 10x better than those bland (but very cute) little guys. Sorry Fat Witch. Next time I’m doing dessert at the Doughnuttery or Sarabeth’s. And there WILL be a next time because that place as a whole was amazing.
I really wanted to take a bratwurst home from the German restaurant in the Market but decided randomly that I wanted to continue on. It was a bit rainier at this point so I took an Uber up to Times Square and walked around there. I stopped in the M&Ms World store and filled a personalized bag of black and red M&Ms for “C”…his last souvenir (in his favorite colors even!) but I do get him something from all of my “cool” layover spots (such as the voodoo doll made of bones I bought him in New Orleans, which he said was creepy as hell but he loved it). I walked all the way up to Central Park before I couldn’t take it anymore. My feet were genuinely killing me. They ached and throbbed with every step I took. The rain started and stopped on and off the whole day and I looked horrible. It was time to go. I couldn’t walk all the way back to Penn Station so I took one last Uber.
On this trip to New York, I finally realized why I’ve always loved it so much – it truly IS a magical place. It’s a magical place to share with someone. It’s magical to be there with friends. It’s magical to be there totally, 100% alone. Doing whatever I want on no one’s time but my own. I could eat where I wanted, visit where I wanted, see what I wanted to see. You’d think it being such a massive place (but quite small…Manhattan is only 13ish miles long and 2.3 miles wide) it would be horrible to be alone in New York. Maybe it is for some. But not for me. I thrive on it. I make friends with quirky tea market employees who compliment my nails. I get asked for directions by tourists with insane Cockney accents like they belong in a Harry Potter movie. I even know the guys who make the best damn deli sandwiches at the bodega I like to stop at in Newark. I will never (probably never) leave Florida but in the oddest of ways, New York feels like home. I’ve never lived there and probably never will but when I am there it feels like I’ve returned to the warmest, comfiest bed. I didn’t have that feeling the first time I went there and I think it’s because I didn’t do my own thing.
From the time I was on the train going to New York I was people watching and wondering on how everyone ended up here. The lady with the cross tattooed on her face on the train? What made her think the cross was a good idea? Why her face? What does she do in New York? Is she dangerous? Is she going to Queens? or Brooklyn? Or hell, she could go to 5th Ave for all I know! The trio with the Cockney accents…did they just move here? Are they vacationing from England? Are they wizards disguised as real people like in Harry Potter?! Do they think I’m a muggle?! The girl walking out of Harry Winston dressed immaculately with perfect hair but an absolutely nerve grating voice…is she as vapid as she sounds? Does she work at Harry Winston? Is she getting engaged? Does she live here? Is her boss like Miranda Priestley? The men who sell dirty water hot dogs from the street carts…how’d they end up here? Do they make a good living selling hot dogs? Should I buy a cart and move here and sell hot dogs?! And then there’s me…I wonder if anyone wonders about me. What would they wonder? “Does she live here? Did she move here from the South? What brought her here?”…
While I walked and people watched I had the Chicago thoughts – ya know, if I didn’t want to live in Florida and be a flight attendant (which I do on both parts…always!) I could pick up and move to New York and not one damn person could stop me. I actually could disappear. You may see me one day selling hot dogs or strumming a guitar I don’t know how to play on a street corner. I could get based out of Laguardia or JFK or Newark and keep flying. I could drive the horse drawn carriages around Central Park! Or, very simply, I could write. New York City. She makes you open your eyes and pay attention to people and appreciate all the weirdness. New York City. She is the perfect place to roll around in your thoughts and have them flow out of you. She brings the creativity out in you. New York is the perfect place to be a writer. Even if just for a visit, it’s just enough to rejuvenate you. You don’t have to live there. The energy sticks with you far after you’re gone. My favorite place, New York City.”