I (usually) Love New York

The first time I stayed in New York I did an internship at Nightline for about a month over Christmas vacation my senior year of college. My father lined it up for me as he lined up the lovely and spacious one-bedroom with a view of the Park on Columbus Avenue. I was responsible for the owner’s cat while she was on an extended trip. That’s it. No chores, no fees, just beautiful views and pleasant surrounding. “New York”, I thought, “is great!”

As I was working for Nightline, I went in a bit later and stayed until after mid-night. My parents were crazed that I was walking home from work, but I have never been afraid in New York. The streets were filled with people and the view of folks enjoying their late dinners was a reassuring backdrop. So I walked. I walked up and down Columbus Avenue to work. I walked to see museums and shops. I walked in Central Park.  I loved New York.

I loved New York until I began to see inside the lives of my co-workers. These women were my seniors by only a year or two and they showed me the ropes. My job was to deliver faxes and scripts. This was a time when organizations had one fax machine and its silky rolls would pour forth uninterrupted  pages and they would have to be divvied up and delivered to the recipients. So these smart and savvy women showed me where to deliver the faxes and where to go out at night. They were working untold hours and begging for overtime to make their rent. One night, before heading out, we stopped by one woman’s apartment. She was living with three other women in a “one bedroom” slightly smaller than a walk in closet. The bedroom contained two sets of bunk beds. “How’s that working out?” I queried, peering around the corner. “We’re always at work so it doesn’t matter much.”

That one phrase started an early-life crisis that consumed the next five years. In broadcasting you have basically two choices at the beginning of your career; toil away in small towns for years, hopefully moving to increasingly larger markets every two years or so, or begin at the bottom of a barrel you cannot even imagine in a larger city and work up. I had thought the bottom-of-the-barrel New York route seemed the way to go. While my father had the connections to make the job happen, I was lacking both the independent wealth to sustain the lifestyle I’d envisioned and the drive to ignore my lifestyle while I pursued my career. My folks did not really want me in New York anyway, so when I said, “I’m not sure this is for me,” they said, “Great.”

But there is something about that city. I keep going back. Mr. Blandings does not really enjoy New York. Shortly after our big city friend moved there we went to visit. It was Mr. Blandings’s second trip. The first was a family vacation over Thanksgiving when he was in high school. They stayed at the Plaza. To hear the story you would think his parents had carted him off to do  missionary work in Central America. When we went back, together, in 1999, he thought it was better. Clean and exciting and fun. Except for the buildings and the cars and the people.

Now when we go together we’ve worked out an unsuccessful compromise. Short, two days at most. Mr. Blandings thinks this is all he can manage, but what really happens is that I am dashing and hurrying and compromising what I want to see the whole time and the trip has a frenetic feeling. When we leave I have a list in my head of all I was hoping to see and didn’t, sometimes including friends, and he is exhausted and out of sorts and convinced that New York is hell on earth except for the food.

The last two times that I’ve been I went alone. My big city friend, generous to a fault, opened his home both times. The first trip was magic. Everything fell into place. I met people, saw places, had fun.

The latest trip was different. Less magic, more life. In fact, I fell down. In every sense of the word, but I did actually fall down. My big city friend lives in the West Village. The geography of New York has been challenging to me, but this last trip I tried to untangle its neighborhoods and realized that mostly, it’s pretty simple, except for the neighborhood that has been my home base. As a friend said, “It’s all a grid, except in the Village where it all starts to squish.” Exactly.

Anyway, in an effort to find my way, I was walking everywhere despite the frigid temperatures. My first day, after leaving Kansas City at 5 a.m., I walked all day, until nearly midnight in boots with three inch heels. Piece of cake. Nary a stumble. The next day, all mine for shops and galleries and no meetings of anyone new, I donned my Chuck Taylors and headed out again. Starting one way, then realizing my instinct was wrong, I corrected. It was a convergence of four or forty streets, I can’t remember quite clearly, but as I crossed one, headed to an isolated triangular island of the next, the toe of my sneaker caught a slight heave in the sidewalk right where it meets the curb. 

I have a very clear memory of the mental process of the fall. I felt quite sure that my left foot would do its job. It never gets to lead, is always the number two guy, but the one you want in a pinch, like this, when the right foot screws up. The left foot is always the one who makes the catch, comes down sure and solid, resulting in an awkward stumble, but not a full on fall. Except in this case, where I guess the momentum of my springy-happy-to-be-in-New York step carried me right over the left foot as well. (I’m quite sure he’s still stunned by this and is seeking counseling.)

If you had seen me, I would have looked like I was sliding into second. Both arms fully extended in front of me. A little bit of air. Then down with a brief skid. There is that moment when you can’t move just yet. Mentally you are assessing your injuries. The responsible toe? Fine behind the cap of rubbery plastic. Knees, thankfully uninjured as they are the weak link at this point anyway. Hip. Yes, horrific, legendary bruise forming already. And hands. Fortunately, clad in snappy red leather, the hands themselves were fine, but slightly stinging. The snappy gloves, in comparison, bore cement burns. The realization of which led to a quick roll to the right. Thank heavens, the bag was spared.

And then, I had to stand up. I hadn’t realized until that moment that it is actually better to be with someone when you fall down. If you are with someone, there is someone there to absorb a bit of the experience with you. To ask you if you are ok. To distract you from the looks of passers by. Someone whose arm is available to grab while you bury your head in his shoulder

Mr. Blandings was horrified when I told him my tale, of course. “Didn’t anyone stop? Didn’t anyone ask you if you were alright?” Evil New Yorkers. But it wasn’t like that and it isn’t like that. When I did the internship over twenty years ago I realized one-on-one New Yorkers are like anyone everywhere. Helpful if I needed directions. Generous with their time and knowledge. Gracious in their willingness to entertain. It’s en masse when it’s different, when the gal in cosmetics turns away with a look of disdain when you don’t’ know what shade of powder you need at her crowded counter on December 23rd. But the fact was, there wasn’t anyone on that island where I had taken my spill. Nor, oddly on the next. So I stood up. And I walked. But I did have that feeling of being distinctly alone. And slightly bruised.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmailFacebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedinmail      rssrss

19 thoughts on “I (usually) Love New York

  1. Brilliant! Having recently taken a tumble (down) stairs your description resonates; but it’s so cleverly, wittily and imaginatively told! I haven’t been to NYC for over ten years, and actually have no burning desire, although everytime I was there I enjoyed it enormously. When you’re not used to it, like any big city, it is a bit intimidating, but familiarity breaks it down to its simpler ways and you begin to fit in.

  2. Columnist – you and Mr. Blandings would have a lot in common, I think. I do hope your tumble didn’t result in any serious injuries.

  3. I love NYC and look forward to my next trip. I love the smell of exaust fumes mixed with strong coffee-and could you not just sit and watch the people all day. The words you use to describe your fall are perfect-I want to laugh then hide my head for you. I’m sure you stood upright, brushed yourself off and walked off as if nothing had happened.

  4. These are the times that most New Yorkers covet, the fact that no-one did see them. Like the song says,
    “You can make it anywhere” – but there is something that caused me to fall hard for NY so very long ago.
    I still feel my pulse pump and my eyes widen. Your bruise – think of it as a souvenir from NY of sorts.

  5. As a dyed in the wool New Yorker, I have to admit this and the noise were the reason I returned to Westchester… oh, how I’ve been there…

  6. Oh, that happened to me on the way to work on Wall Street one day. I was walking along in my heels and serious “power suit” (this was the early 90’s) and I tripped on a subway grate-face first, splat! I was so mortified that I got right up – too fast obviously, as I then fainted dead away backwards. At which time, lots of people came around to help. No doubt to get me out of their way(!)
    So sorry about your experience.

  7. Awww… Mrs. B. I hope someone gave you a big hug when you got home and comforted you.

    I can do NYC for a week at most. Then I need to retreat back to a little more space and quiet.

  8. Hi, Mrs. Blandings; my daughter will be doing an internship in NYC this summer for a PR firm representing fashion houses…I’m sure she has visions of “The devil Wears Prada”, and I have other scenarios in my brain…I will save this piece for her…Thanks!

  9. I love NYC, too, and especially given time and freedom to explore as I please. I get the rushing about to satisfy those you are traveling with – tried it with my family last Christmas, and it does make the whole experience frenetic and frustrating.I love the way you write and your last sentence was so poignant – I was sad for your bruises and aloneness. Doesn’t that make your husband and your boys even more precious when you get home and get your arms around them?

  10. Hey Patricia-so loved this…and I love NYC, love all world cities really. Besides any infrontofgodandeveryone fall, I tend to walk with such purpose. And often without having the foggiest idea of where I’m headed. I’m so loathe to whip out a map. Where my husband has no problem whatsoever standing on a corner, trying to figure out the streets of the Left Bank or something, I have to look (and feel) like a native. A map? no way. I’ll trip and fall. But no map.

  11. Oh baby, now you’re a real New Yorker!
    And one day when you can’t get back there for whatever reason, you will treasure even this rough ride.
    Hope your bruises heal fast, so you can go back sooner than later.
    Thanks so much, as ever, for a great piece of writing.
    xo xo

  12. Ouch! I still remember falling in a crowded college hallway and could not catch myself because it was cold and I had my hands in my pockets. Embarassed beyond belief as so many rushed to help me get up…and feeling like I was in a staight jacket bcause I could just. not. get. my. hands. out. of. the pockets! I have been notorious about telling my girls not to walk down steps with their hands in their pockets because of the experience.

  13. love hearing about your trip – i lived in the nyc for 12 years – the last 3 in the west village – i think that was my favorite neighborhood – glad you didn’t break a toe or leg or arm… you dusted off and got on the move again like any new yorker!

  14. I’am shocked that nobody helped you or asked if you where allright it’s such a small gesture.

    Hope your feeling better!

    gr. Mel

  15. My moment of reckoning with New York was not entirely unlike yours.

    I used to run the streets of New York at 5 in the morning before work. I loved that time in the city when everything was shuttered and the streets were empty, save for the small coffee establishments stacking croissants and muffins for the onslaught of take-outs that usually started at 7.

    I was lithe, limber and sure footed, infused with the confidence of youth, never for a moment fearing a fall, stumble or misstep.

    Yet at the end of the day when the take-out entourage advanced on Zabars, the delis and salad bars to pick up dinner, I remember seeing older folks, enfeebled with age and arthritis trying to make their way through the maze, gingerly navigating the aisles, looking helpless, alone and heartbreakingly fragile. Hoping to circumvent the rush hour, they tragically got caught right in the middle of it and there was no mistaking their terror or fear. While some showed them the courtesy and civility born of breeding, most pushed past with annoyance and impatience.

    That was my epiphany of New York. As challenging and intoxicating as it was, as euphoric as it could make you feel, at the end of the day, it was not a place to grow old in.

  16. P,
    i love nyc
    and new yorkers are wonderful
    ( except for maybe the make-up gal )

    i lived there for 10 years, and it was magic.

    it is embarrasing indeed, to fall down .
    anytime. anywhere.

    nyc is a small town in many , many ways.
    But, after a fall like that , in a spot like that, it’s good to know that nyc is also very anonymous.

    xxxxxxxxxxxx you are the best !
    i am glad you are ok . i loved the story.

  17. I do miss New York City. It has been awhile since I’ve visited and would love a fun, long weekend to see those special, select sights!

  18. Thank you for the very lovely note you left on the errant aesthete yesterday. I immediately dashed off a response only to realize just today that you may not see it and it somehow mattered to me that you did.

    It read as follows:

    Mrs. Blandings,

    I am honored. Being on the outskirts of the decorative field, I always feel just the slightest bit like an interloper when I visit your site. Yet, I always come away
    with so much, particularly on your musings and reflections.

    The story of your fall in New York was touching and heartfelt and I was pleased to have something of my own to contribute. I am happy you have found your way here and I continue to be a supporter and fan of all you do.

    I still marvel at a comment you once made some time back on a photo of Paloma Picasso. In citing her very bold and irreproachable attitude you said “The confidence of her shoulders is stunning.”

    What was stunning, to my mind, was that beautifully pithy comment.

  19. Mrs. B., Don’t ever stop. Like that pell mell stumble forward your writing is rushing forward of its own momentum, with far more pleasing results.

    You’re making each post sing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *