On a recent weekend out of the city, a young cousin of mine asked me a question every New Yorker has asked their self at least once—a question I have asked myself more times than I care to think about: Will I live in New York City forever? I looked out the car window, past his puerile face to the bucolic scene in blues and greens—the perfect azure sky, the rolling hills dotted with lush, leafy trees. I shrugged my shoulders, flashed a face of doubt and said simply, “I don’t know.”
It’s not that I can’t bring myself to imagine ever living elsewhere. I daydream about faraway places all the time—about living in a quaint Parisian apartment on a narrow cobblestone street in Montmartre, or a charming, light-filled flat in London, or even packing up and heading somewhere closer to home like Chicago or Seattle, just to see what it’s like. But what James was asking was not so much could I leave New York, but could I ever leave the city. I knew this because of the way he asked—the sweet innocence in his voice, as if he wondered how anyone could prefer urban chaos over rural quietude. I turned to him and asked, “Do you like New York?” He said back gently, but assuredly, “No. I like it here.”
As a child, when I would sit down with my paper and pencil to draw, it was rolling hills and barns that came to life on my page– this despite having grown up on the beach where palm trees stood instead of pines. Was there was a longing within me? Maybe. But then along came Seventeen magazine and its editorials that pictured young city gals in Bohemian dresses carrying brown paper bags of vegetables down Soho streets. Those images made my heart skip a beat. As soon as I could go, I headed for Manhattan. And as many times as the question of staying forever has crossed my mind, here I still am.
I tried explaining to James what it is about the city that gets me…what it is that, as backwards as it sounds, actually puts me at ease. I’m not sure he grasped it—perhaps for no reason other than at twelve, knowing home only to be the quiet country suburbs, he simply can’t relate. I know I’m not alone however, in my love for city life. Just last week I came across this letter in an old issue of AD Russia, a printout of the English translation literally falling from the magazine while I sat thumbing through it in search of an article for my boss. Eugenia Mikulina, who at the time was editor, gets it exactly…
Well put Ms. Mikulina.
As for my future, well– I don’t know where life is going to take me, or if I’ll ever feel a pull to any place quite like the one I felt that brought me here. But I like to go with the flow, take whatever comes my way. So if an opportunity for a new place to call home ever does come around– even if it is the country– I’ll consider. Until then, I’ll be content here, in the city…with its uneven pavement (on which I get to walk each and every day) and crowded subways (where I get to see faces and overhear stories I would otherwise never know)… the tiny, expensive apartments (where I have learned to find happiness living with less)…the bumper to bumper traffic (where I sit back and enjoy the ride) the noises, the smells… the glitz and glam and grit and grime that makes the city what it is… the place for now at least, that I call home.