In August, 1996, Julie and I went to New York. It was our first big trip together–10 days and across the continent–and my first big trip without my parents. We stayed with my aunt, a fashion designer (you should become a fan of the Facebook page I made for her) with a quirky railroad apartment in Nolita in lower Manhattan.
Never have I felt more like a country bumpkin. The city was an intimidating place for a naive 22-year-old Canadian. A lifetime of film and television had taught me that New York was home to serial killers, crazy homeless dudes and acerbic, mean New Yorkers.
Though I was a bit uneasy about the Big Apple, we had a great time. We took the subway at all hours of the day and night, rambled through the darkest corners of Central Park and managed not to be murdered, in serial or parallel. Amid a garbage strike and the August heat, it was an exhausting, exhilarating trip. It nurtured the sapling that was my growing love of travel and living abroad.
For no particular reason, it took me twelve years to get back to New York. What a difference 1.2 decades make. Manhattan now seems friendly, clean and of an entirely manageable shape and size. I found the people to be unilaterally friendly, and was only intimidated by the frigid temperatures on New Year’s Eve.
The difference is mostly me, in that I’m twelve years older, have traveled a lot more and lived in a bunch of different places. Still, the city is famously safer and cleaner than it was 15 or 20 years ago. And I wonder how much 9/11 changed the mood of the place? I really don’t know what long term impact a catastrophic event has on an entire city, if any.
It’s easy to imagine living in New York for six months or a year. My only real concern would be how difficult it must be to get some place where you are truly alone. That’s something I’ve loved about the west coast (and didn’t like about Dublin): quiet solitude is only an hour away. Still, I could easily live without that for a year. Do you live in New York? Have you ever lived there?