The end of June is a special time in my life: it marks the anniversary of my move to/away from New York City.
Moving to New York was my dream from the age of 14, before I’d ever set foot in the city. I couldn’t tell you what the draw was back then, only that the idea stuck in my mind and stayed there for the ten years it would take me to get there.
Of course, the two years I lived in NYC were the hardest years of my life. I grew so much as a person from the struggles—both financial and emotional—that I went through. Even though I left of my own volition and wouldn’t want to move back, there are so many things that I miss from my time there.
(This isn’t technically a “Top 10 Tuesday” but I’m tagging it as such. Fight me.)
10. dog spotting
On nice days, my coworkers and I would sit on a bench in front of the cafe and watch the people of NoHo walk their dogs. You’d see all types, from poodles and fluff monsters to the occasional Great Dane. And they’re all just so damn happy about life!
The best thing about dogs in New York is that, 9 times out of 10, their owners have them trained to be super friendly with strangers. I mean, when you live on an island that somehow holds 9 million people during the day, your dog has to deal with it. Most dog people aren’t offended or creeped out when I coo at their dogs. Most of them are cool with me petting their dog and asking questions about said dog’s life. Most people are cool with it. Most of them are flattered.
This is what I tell myself. I also don’t care if people think I’m weird about how much I appreciate other people’s dogs.
If you haven’t heard of it, Grubhub is a website for ordering food online and having it delivered so you don’t have to put on real pants. It exists in most major cities in America, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it literally took over the world.
Like most New Yorkers, I rarely bothered to cook. In fact, I can’t actually cook much of anything that doesn’t come in a box. So I relied heavily on ordering in dinner, and Grubhub meant that I never had to call a stranger on the phone (which is one of my greatest phobias).
The best thing about Grubhub in New York, though? The sheer variety of food categories. Depending on your neighborhood, you can have not just Mexican food delivered, but Dominican and various types of South American. You can have sushi delivered, or a burger, or pretty much whatever you want. You can even have ice cream delivered. It’s amazing.
8. the subway system
When you’re a New Yorker, it’s common practice to go on long rants about how awful MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) is. They’re constantly constructing at the pace of snails, so that somewhere in some borough, it’s nearly impossible to get anywhere quickly. And yet: MTA was my lifeline for two years. It got me anywhere I needed to go for the low, low price of $2.75. It got me everywhere for the weekly price of $31.
MTA might not be the cleanest or most reliable subway line, but it’s the most effective and widespread one I’ve ever seen. Living in Philadelphia for a year, I almost never used SEPTA because it wasn’t ever convenient for me. I’ve seen the T in Boston (interesting), the Paris subway (which I give a B+ because there was no air conditioning), the London underground (which confused the hell out of me, sorry), and even briefly the subway system in Vienna. None of them were as simple and convenient and LITERALLY EVERYWHERE as New York City transit.
Brunch, or the meal that’s not breakfast but not lunch, is a Huge Deal in New York City on the weekends. It’s a trend, but it’s also an experience.
In general, New Yorkers eat fast. We don’t have time to sit down and enjoy a meal for longer than 45 minutes tops. We’re on the go. But brunch is another story. Brunch is our chance to sit back, have a mimosa, and celebrate the good things in life.
Now, there are many types of brunch, from simple cafe-style to the outlandish Gay Brunch. One of my favorites, actually, involved bottomless mimosas and a full drag queen performance, complete with loud music, dancing, and raunchy jokes. There’s just something terrifying and beautiful about getting day drunk and celebrating nothing except the fact that you’re alive. And let me just state, for the record, that New York gays know how to throw a party.
6. amazing graffiti
Most big cities are known for their graffiti, but the stuff I saw in New York was pure art. The great thing is that street art is actually celebrated in New York. When I lived in Bushwick, I used to walk around and take photographs of the awesome murals painted on street corners. Aside from the more “sanctioned” street art, though, I saw some notable messages left for anyone to find.
5. people watching
I feel like this should go without saying,considering I’m a writer, but the people watching in New York cannot be beat. The city draws all sorts of tourists, but it’s also home to a wide population of people. It’s more common to see people with tattoos and piercings than those without.
I used to sit on the commute to and from work and just watch people. I’d make up little stories about them, where they lived, what they did for work, what their heartbreak was. I hardly ever wrote any of these stories out, but I have a note on my phone filled with little one-liner descriptions of people I saw who inspired me in some way.
Which brings me to my next point—
4. random conversations with strangers
People have this perception that New Yorkers are assholes. It’s not necessarily wrong: New Yorkers are often incredibly blunt, and they don’t like when you get in their way.
And yet, living there for two years, I had some of the most fascinating conversations with people I never saw again. New Yorkers aren’t unwilling to interact with others. It’s just that, living there, you’re surrounded by people all the time; a lot of times you do just want to be left alone. Other times, though, being in New York is isolating; sometimes, people do want to have a conversation, provided you’re not hitting on them or trying to sell something.
When I was there just recently, my friend and I got caught in a random rainstorm that passed over the island. We took cover under an awning in the Village and got into a conversation with a middle-aged Brooklyn native. He told us how he’d moved to the Village over 20 years ago and he’s never considered leaving, and about how the neighborhood used to be so sketchy and now it’s almost unaffordable. A few minutes later, the rain passed and we all went our separate ways. As simple as our conversation was, and as interchangeable, perhaps, it warmed my heart. It reminded me of that special New York feeling; that we’re all in this together, like it or not.
3. central park
Yes, it’s cliched, and yes, it’s often extremely overcrowded, but Central Park will always hold a special place in my heart.
The thing is, it’s huge. You could wander that park an entire day and still not see all of it. You can hang in the crowded, touristy areas, or you can wander off into the Rambles, where you might come across a couple having sex BUT you might also find a secluded spot where you can forget you’re in the middle of a big city.
A couple years ago I found a spot up there in the “wilderness” that became My Spot. I’d go there for an hour or two to read, or write, or just reflect on things away from the crowds. As much as I loved being a city girl, my poor Taurus heart needed some nature to balance it out every once in a while. I love that, in a city as huge as New York, that is still possible, if you know where to look.
2. Strand Bookstore
When I left New York, I moved to a small town with a population just over 1,000 people. There’s a small library, but no bookstore to speak of. One of the things I miss about New York is the sheer plethora of used bookstores.
My favorite is Strand, on 12th & Broadway. It’s a 4-floor monstrosity that’s been there for ages. They sell used books on sale and on the top floor they have a rare books room. They even have a massive section of bookish knick-knacks that will eat your wallet alive. And! They have reasonable prices: I recently found two new-release hardcover YA books for $9 each!
I honestly didn’t realize how much I missed Strand until I went back last month. Nowadays, I get most of my books on Amazon. I have neither the space nor the money for physical books, sadly, and Amazon’s convenience can’t be beat. But when I walked into a real bookstore—my favorite bookstore—I realized just how much I missed the experience of book shopping.
Fellow bookish people, if you’re ever in New York City, say hi to Strand for me.
1. diverse population, same struggles
This ties in with #4, but it’s kind of impossible to explain. See, New York is one of the loneliest places I’ve ever been in my life. I couldn’t tell you how many times I stealth-cried on the subway, whether about my money/job situation, or people who Did Me Wrong, or just being depressed in general. I spent many a day wishing that someone—anyone—would notice how much I was hurting. Mostly, no one ever did.
Still, there are moments in New York City when the diverse population of strangers comes together in some small way. For instance, in the many times that my train was delayed, I found myself bitching along with strangers about the travesty of being late to work. I spent many a morning armpit-to-armpit with someone who gave me the nod of approval at what I was reading or listening to on Spotify. I watched wealthy businessmen give up their seat to a pregnant woman or a mother with small children. I laughed at said children as they swung around on the polls. I gave money to teenagers dancing through the train car in the tunnel from Manhattan to Brooklyn on the L train.
It’s hard to explain unless you’ve experienced it, but being in New York filled me with the realization of the sheer possibilities of life. You’re surrounded by diverse people of all skin colors, all nationalities, all class backgrounds, all religious views, all sexual orientations and gender expressions. When I was on the train after attending the Pride Parade last summer, a random gay guy saw my ridiculous outfit (read: a brightly colored bralette and short shorts with various rainbow accessories) and gave me a high five as I exited at my stop.
New York reminded me why I love and hate humanity—sometimes at the same time.
New York City is like the ex-lover that you somehow end up becoming friends with. You know that in some ways, they were toxic to you. They made you doubt yourself, encouraged your self-hatred, and left you alone when you needed them most. And yet, despite their flaws, they made you a stronger person, and you know you wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for them. So you remain friends, and it’s not quite the same, but you’ll never forget them.
New York, I love you. Always.✌🏻
Do you have any fantastic New York stories? Let’s talk in the comments!