As someone born, raised and still living on the West Coast, New York City has always been a mythical and out-of-reach place
As a kid, New York was the mega-city with attitude, much different than the sleepy surfer town of my youth. It was where my favorite childhood superheroes patrolled. Later, as a budding writer and musician, New York was the mecca where the writers and musicians I loved struggled and created and performed. And as an adult, it was where 9/11 made each of us defacto New Yorkers.
But the place was still somehow far away.
I’ve never felt, as many do, the need to challenge myself by living there. I was content that New York was over there should I ever want to visit, and up until my early 40s, that was the status quo – one of the many places I intended to see before I die.
That changed when I took my new job in late 2014.
I had to travel to the city extensively on behalf of a client, and I was able to experience the place in a unique, and admittedly privileged, even spoiled way. My airfare and hotel and food costs were covered as a job expense. I didn’t have to struggle to find (or afford) housing; I didn’t have to scramble for employment.
I was able to be a part of the place as more than a tourist and not quite a resident. There but not there. An outsider insider. (But not quite this bad, I hope.)
Even so, I like to believe that I get it now. New York works and wears on you, and when you’re not there, the city makes you crave it, makes you want to be there and nowhere else.
A colleague (and resident) described New York as a city with an old soul. To be part of it—even as that outsider—was to be welcomed into the center, that ancient epicenter, around which the rest of the world has always orbited.
It’s a messy place. Not dirty, per se, (although there are of course grimy elements) but messy. Rangy. There’s no reason that so many people with so many different personal trajectories should somehow make the city work and yet the city does work; it emanates a palpable, synergistic cultural force that’s as infectious as it is addicting. It’s magical. Truly.
Tonight this city belongs to me.* And you.
(*Apologies for lifting another quote from U2 – this one obviously ‘Angel of Harlem.’)