Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Love and Hate Affair with NYC

Last night Kyle looked at me with glassy eyes. He had a 101 degree temperature and wasn't feeling well. "What will I do when I am in school in New York and I get sick," he asked. "Who will take care of me?"

"So, you want to go to NYU?" I asked.

"Yes," he replied. "I just watched the Daily Show and Jon Stewart was talking about the SHAKE SHACK. I really want one of those hamburgers."

I realized quickly that it wasn't the SHAKE SHACK that called to him, but Kyle had been bitten by the New York bug. Everything seemed exciting and slightly dangerous in the city in which Kyle was born. I didn't know how I felt about him moving to NYC, a city I both love and hate.

I began to reminisce about my move to New York City when I was 27-years-old. I sat in a bubble bath at the Sunset Marquis Hotel unable to decide whether I should stay in LA or move to Washington D.C. with my boyfriend of eight years. My sister called and my Mom handed me the phone in the tub. I told Georgie it had been a 5 bathtub day. She knew what that meant. I was a mess and I needed to submerge myself in warm water at least five times that day.

She told it to me straight. "You've lived in LA your whole life, it's time you try something new. You are moving to New York and you are going to take the apartment I just rented and I will stay in my old place and continue to live with my roommate. You can visit Washington DC whenever you want. It is only a train ride away."

That was it. I now had a plan. Georgie had a way of fixing things for me. She was kind and compassionate and so, so strong. Nobody knew how strong she was because she disguised it with her vulnerability. Nobody knew me nor loved me like Georgie and nobody ever will.

I packed all my earthly belongings in a few bags and I left for NYC. Of course, Mom was coming too. She had actually instigated the whole thing. After Dad died, and Georgie left for NYC, Mom was lost. She thought a change would do her good. At 63, Mom packed up her whole life and moved all her shit with her. All the china,crystal, paintings, pictures, furniture, books, silver that had seen its way from Germany to Holland to New York to Los Angeles was now on its way back to New York. These beautiful and uprooted possessions were never in danger of living a quiet life, this was not to be their last move.

I had never really wanted to live in NYC. It always seemed like a nice place to visit but living there seemed claustrophobic. With trepidation I stumbled into my new life.

I walked into my new apartment and thought I was going to cry. I probably did cry in fact. I am sure I picked up the phone and called Georgie right away. "What were you thinking renting this place? It is no bigger than a small walk-in closet. I can't live here. It hangs over Second Ave and the noise is unbearable." Poor Georgie patiently listened to my complaints with the quiet knowledge that I would soon love my own home, no matter how tiny it was, and I would begin my love affair with NYC.

What she didn't know was that yes, I would fall in love with NYC, but I would also grow to hate the city too.

I had quit my job in LA, a good job that payed well. It was the early 80's and I needed a job. I had no idea how to find one. I put together a resume and called all the people I knew in New York. That took fifteen minutes. Since I finished UCLA, I had never not worked. Actually I never looked for a job. I had an internship with CBS News my last semester in college and they offered me a job before I finished my degree. I had to take time off work to take my finals. So here I was, in a big, big city with nothing to do and absolutely no prospects for finding work. Days turned into weeks and suddenly a whole season had passed. I was living through my first real winter.

The idea of doing my laundry seemed daunting. Getting dressed was hard enough. I was so tired. I just wanted to stay in bed. I was sure I had some serious disease that was going to kill me soon. I couldn't get my own destructive voice out of my head. I had no purpose. Soon I realized that I was depressed. I forced myself onward, one step at a time.

One winter day, with nothing to do I walked over to the Metropolitan Museum Of Art. The clouds were low in the sky and everyone told me to expect snow. I had never seen snow fall. I was 27-years-old and I had never seen a snowfall. I walked into the museum and silently gazed at the wonderful exhibits. I don't remember what caught my eye that day or what particular period of art I enjoyed but when I stepped out of the museum I had the most magnificent experience of my life. It was that moment I fell in love with New York. In the quiet hours I spent wandering the Met, snow blanketed the city. I left the lofty stairs of the Met and entered my own winter wonderland. A hush fell over the city. It was grand. I was transfixed and transformed! This was a city to love.

Soon I got a freelance gig at CNN working for SHOWBIZ TONIGHT. I was back in business, in a city that can almost be impossible to break in to. Like every other idiot that move to New York, I had Frank Sinatra's words stuck in my head, "If I can make it here, I can make it anywhere!"

This job quickly turned into a full time position at THE TRAVEL CHANNEL. Back then it was owned by Carl Icon, who also owned Trans World Airlines. With my title of writer/senior producer, I was entitled to flight benefits. I could fly anywhere TWA flew for free and with a $30 upgrade charge I could fly first class. But the best part about the job came days after I started. I met three of the most interesting, colorful, smart women who would soon become my closest friends. When we weren't traveling for work, the four of us would find ourselves at Kennedy Airport, picking a flight that still had first class seating. We would drink champagne and eat caviar all the way to Paris, Belgium, or Rome. We ended up in hotels that honored airlines employees discounts. So, we fooled ourselves into thinking our little jaunts cost us nothing. We didn't bother to add up the prices of the fine brasseries, cafes, and restaurants we haunted nor all the boots, belts, scarves and dresses we bought. For less than one hundred dollars we could be in Paris for the weekend. We couldn't be bothered to figure out how much money we really were spending. We were wonderfully reckless. We were having the time of our lives.

Then, out of nowhere I got a call from a rather new network called NICKELODEON. They needed a writer/producer and they had been referred to me by someone at SHOWBIZ. I interviewed for the job and took it on the spot. It was quickly to become one of the most rewarding and creative jobs I ever had.

Soon after, I met Tom and fell madly in love. New York is a great city to fall in love in. But I had to kiss my share of commitment phobic frogs before I met my love. By the time I turned 30, I thought love would never come. I didn't know it was just around the corner.

New York is a difficult place to meet someone. You sit in the middle of the world, right in the epicenter, and everywhere you look are interesting people, beautiful people, accomplished people. I would find myself straining to hear other people's conversations at tables next to mine. Like me, the men I would be set up with on blind dates always wondered who might be around the next corner, never really giving love a chance. They fantasized about the super model they were destined to meet or the accomplished heiress with a home in the Hamptons. Dating in New York sucked in the 80's. I bet it is even worse now.

But I met my man, who was living in LA. He moved to NYC to be with me and for a much needed change in his life. Together we walked arm and arm through snow falls and down pours, through hot muggy days, and starless nights.

I got pregnant with Kyle not too long after we were married. We wanted to have children so much. But then my beloved sister, Georgie got sick and we found ourselves living at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. She got sick when I was five months pregnant and died when I was seven months pregnant. We buried her on Long Island in a cemetery crowded with the dead. Smoke stacks studded the ugly skyline. It was an awful place, not at all like Forest Lawn Cemetery were my father was buried. There it was green and peaceful and you could sit and cry all alone in the sanctuary of your own space.

A year later my Mom moved Georgie next to Dad. Mom had decided to move again too. This time to Marin County to be near her twin sister. I knew Mom wasn't well but didn't really want to admit that she had the early stages of Alzheimers. Tom found a job running a sports entertainment company in Marin. So, we all moved. Tom's family lived in the Bay area and we needed family. We also needed space and sunlight and the smell of the sea air. We needed to live again.

And so, we packed up Moms crystal and silver and paintings and furniture and returned West. Kyle was one-year-old now and all I wanted was to be with my family and leave behind the old, decrepit buildings that blocked all the sunlight from my view. New York had never looked so ugly to me. It embodied death and decay. There was nothing about it that felt hopeful and exciting and slightly dangerous. It was a city that traps you. You begin to think you can't live without it and right when that happens the city begins to crumble around you. The old lions flanking the steps of the grand public library almost seemed to sneer at me as I walked by. "We got her, she can't ever leave," they seemed to whisper to each other. But leave I did and straight to Marin County, a golden county rich with spiritual awakenings and way too much health food.

So, if Kyle moves to New York how will I feel? Excited for his possibilities, frightened by the cold realities I encountered in a city I love and hate all at the same time.

1 comment:

  1. oh sweetheart and so the love affair continues, out of the ashes