You’re the First, the Last, My Everything

(Part Fourteen in my series on my six years in New York)

Whether you live in New York, or you visit New York, you will find that New Yorkers are an opinionated lot.  New Yorkers will say this not that; that not thisYankees not Mets!  Grey’s Papaya not Papaya King!  Uptown not downtown!  People will tell you where to go; what to do.  But when you are a New Yorker, you find that there are certain things that you acquire, that you need, that define your experience, be they persons, places, things.

This, friends, is brief overview of the contours of the this not that of one New York experience; these are the things one woman thinks a person needs, as distilled into a list of 25 persons, places, things:

1) A neighbourhood brunch place where they serve bottomless bloodys and mimosas; where the bartender/waiter knows your name; where there is outdoor seating in summer (you will pick a new place when you move to a new neighbourhood, and when you come back downtown you’ll lament how the old place isn’t the same.  But it’s you, not the place, that has changed, silly);

2) A block on which you won’t walk because the memories are still too unpleasant;

3 ) A favourite square (my preference is always Union Square — the Greenmarket; the skateboarders; coconut water in the sunshine);

4) That restaurant you go to when you’re all alone;

5) That restaurant you take people to when they come to town;

6) The place you were when you got the news (whatever news it was);

7) The streetcorner on which someone kissed you until you forgot to be afraid;

8 ) A best-friend-in-the-city (this, too, may change over time…);

9) The place you were when you realized that you liked asparagus/could drink tequila/knew that she was the one/realized you wanted to leave/had some small but life-changing moment that has now become linked to your New York experience;

10) A go-to dive bar (regrettably, this may also be your brunch place);

11) A good nail salon; a hairdresser you’d recommend who doesn’t charge you a fortune; someone you trust for a wax (who inevitably works at Bliss, but you decide you’re willing to pay anyway);

12) A pair of flats that fits in a purse/a pair of loafers that look good with jeans;

13) A preference between the Yankees and Mets; the Giants and Jets, even if you’re lying;

14) A basic understanding of deli terminology and the ability to eat a bagel, unscooped.  Even I can eat a bagel.  Please take your scooped bagels back to Foggy Bottom;

15) The song that reminds you of the first week you were here, and you sat in your apartment or wandered the streets wondering which way was uptown, which way was downtown; when you didn’t know how to buy food in a bodega or why the bananas at Food Emporium were…dusty; the song that brings you to your knees on lonely nights even now when you feel like your heart might burst with joy or the world might end and you remember how far you’ve come;

16) That bridge that you’ve crossed (for me, feelin’ groovy, it’s always, always the Queensborough…);

17) The New Yorker who broke your heart;

18) Your friend, the Native, who says things in the New York twang that you admire but secretly hope that you never develop;

19) An evening in the West Village, pretending that Christopher Street; Bleecker don’t make you giggle just a little;

20) Slipping into a dark, cool church — any church; regardless of your faith — to pray or to meditate;

21) Attending a parade in the crowd.  Pick a parade; any parade.  Ticker tape; ethnic day; Halloween; Pride; (any parade but bloody effing Thanksgiving — find a friend whose apartment or office overlooks the parade for that);

22) Bloomingdale’s Frozen Yogurt;

23) The place you were the first time you danced until the New York sunrise; the place you did it again;

24) A friend with a dog/a friend with a car/a friend with a house outside of the city — someone with the trappings of things that are related to the life you had before you became a New Yorker: these are the ways you retain some tenuous hold on the person you were before you were this;

25) Your fire-box…the tangible New York things with which you will escape if ever you are to leave.

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