@EldrinKarl – “I was headed home after a shift at Times Square Foot Locker and it was just one of those nights that called for dollar pizza. The spot on 7th ave and 40th st is a hidden gem. Two slices and a Brisk iced tea, always. As I was walking out satisfied, there was an old Asian guy sifting through the garbage looking for bottles. Like anyone else I usually turn a blind eye to it and continue about my life. But at this moment, I was tired from my shift and was fortunate enough to have sustenance after work. It dawned on me that even dollar pizza was a luxury for bottle collectors; 5 cents a bottle, so 20 bottles just to buy a slice of pizza? I walked up to him and gave him $5. I’ll always remember his shocked face and hesitance to accept it. The city always teaches me something new, and I realized that working my one 6 hour shift would be equivalent to at least 3 days of this man collecting bottles. New York City always finds ways to show me how to never take the little things for granted.”
@_Anna_in_NYC_ – “One cold evening this past January, my sister and I saw the ‘Hateful Eight’ in 70 mm in a historic theatre in the West Village. The film was set in a blizzard, so it felt just right when we stepped out of the theatre to see the first snow of the season, with the cobble streets blanketed with a fresh sheet of snow and gigantic snowflakes still falling.
I think most people have somewhat of a love-hate relationship with New York, but it’s moments like this that make me so grateful to live in this city – there really is no other place like it.”
@BehindTheScenesNYC – “I finally made the move to New York City on April 20th, 2015. I didn’t really have time to “celebrate” the move and had to travel to Barcelona on the 28th, so I had only 7 days to: look for an apartment, do all the required paper work to lock-in the place, open a bank account, get a guarantor (because I didn’t have credit in the US yet), get my Social Security, and get a cellphone. I ended up getting a place in a building I wanted so bad back in November of 2014 when I came to visit just a few months prior.
On an April 20th, 2014 visit to New York City I was at a restaurant called Dziupla (in Williamsburg). I ate pierogies, which is a typical Polish dish with red wine! SO GOOD! Before I sat down, I turned to my sister and said “You know what? In 1 year, I’ll be living here in NY. Write this down.”….and we simply continued having lunch. I was just so certain that it’s what I really wanted. The talk of moving to this city actually lasted only 5 minutes because it was out of the blue, an intuition I wanted to verbalize right then and there. My sister thought was great, asked how I was going to do it, and I replied with “I don’t know. I just know I’m moving here.” We continued chatting about other stuff….nothing really deep…we were on a 4 day vacation, so we were just having fun.
Just a few months ago in April, I saw a Facebook memory of my move to New York City from April 2015: It reminded me of that promise I made to myself and how I literally moved to the city exactly 365 days after I made that promise to myself.
It reminded me that I literally moved exactly 365 days after that night I decided . The power of words!”
@Kornelijaslunjski – “I drove in with a friend from New Jersey and met up with my friend who was living on 14th Street. I was crashing on her couch for a couple of days until I found something I can call “my own”. At the time, I had absolutely no idea where I was. We dropped off my suitcases at her apartment and grabbed a hot dog from the street cart (you have to get at least one in your life no matter how bad they are for you. I wanted to eat one ever since I was a little girl, watching obsessively all these movies set in New York City). After we finished the unhealthy deliciousness, we went to Starbucks where I got my first New York City latte. That was the time when Starbucks was putting Oprah’s quotes on their cup sleeves, and mine said: “The only courage you ever need is the courage to live the life you want.” I have it saved in my memory box even today.
Only a week into living the city life, I spotted an amazing street band playing in Union Square. I took a video of them that day and I’m so happy I did. I enjoyed their music with two of my (also fresh of the boat) friends. I still have that video. As time moved along, a lot has happened. I experienced roller coaster rides of emotions. And then after almost a year, I saw the same band, playing the same song in Herald Square. I can honestly say I felt some kind of warmth around my heart, remembering how innocent I was when I first got to New York. Without a doubt, this has been the toughest year in my life, and I wouldn’t change a minute of it. I learned so much as a person and still learning every day. I am looking forward for all the rides this beautiful city has in store for me.”
@FlysEyeView – “My favorite New York City story happened about 200 times over the course of a year. While the Groundhog-Day-nature of my favorite “story” could perhaps preclude it from being classified as such, it showcases a particularly beloved corner of my ever-expanding-heart for New York City. It’s neither fascinating nor unusual, and that is exactly the point.
But first, let’s rewind, as rewinding sheds light on why I adorethis place like I do. I grew up going back and forth between Atlanta, Georgia and a small town called Aiken, South Carolina. Aiken is a delightful horse town that had about twenty thousand residents when I was living there. Atlanta, on the other hand, was big time; “The Empire City of the South!” I was, in my mind, both a city chick and a country gal and far more sophisticated than my Aiken-only-counterparts. Bless their country hearts, I thought. [An aside: I’m realizing as I write this that I was a seven-year-old snob. Precious.]
As a little girl, I was fortunate enough to come to New York City on a mother-daughter trip. Mom and I did it all; we saw Chicago on Broadway, ate at Tavern on the Green, bopped around Central Park, marveled while peering in the windows of ornate Fifth Avenue apartments, and experienced sensory overload at Times Square. We checked off all the remaining NYC Greatest Hits that leave a young person from a thousand miles away – or a person of any age from any distance – in utter awe, and rightfully so.
On the plane back to Atlanta, I was quite pleased with us. We’d done it just right. Not to mention that I’d stopped by a local salon to procure an absurdly *mature* haircut reminiscent of Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail. Short as all get out, choppy, dozens of flippy layers, adorable on Meg, and terribly ill-fitting for a twelve-year-old with braces still very much growing into herself. Nevertheless, I was beside myself because a) I looked hip as heck, and b) I’d seen all of New York City.
Fast forward twelve years: I’m about to graduate from college in Nashville, Tennessee, and was one member of a class of graduates all trying to sort out what in the world to do with our lives. I’d applied to the Teach for America program and had my fingers and toes crossed that, if accepted, I’d be placed in New York. If I’m honest, my finger-crossing probably had more to do with my then-boyfriend’s job offer in New York than a particular love for the city, although my trip with Mom and a few jaunts since had sparked an interest in what the Big Apple had to offer.
I was accepted to the two-year teaching program and was placed in Washington, DC. Those two years were spent learning the devastating truths of our nation’s educational systems, but far more importantly, those two years introduced me to nearly 400 of the smartest, most resilient, and brilliant students on the planet. Every weekday, my trusty blue Honda Civic and I would brave Massachusetts Avenue traffic to get to Ernest Everett Just Middle School in Prince George’s County, Maryland. The kids, families, teachers, and staff at EEJMS taught me more about life than my fancy private school education ever could have and, for them, I am eternally grateful.
All the while, I was Bolt Bus-ing my way up to New York on weekends to see aforementioned then-boyfriend. Our Manhattan-based weekends were always a blast, always exhausting, and always jam-packed full of activities and friends, boozy brunches, late night pizza, hungover morning on the couch amongst roommates, and an extreme case of the “Sunday Scaries” before they were dubbed as such. New York City was a ball, but it presented a lifestyle I couldn’t imagine maintaining for more than 72 hours without losing my mind. Even still, for a handful of indecipherable and likely illogical reasons, I had to get to New York.
I cried as I hugged my kiddos goodbye on the last day of school, and didn’t have a particularly cogent answer as to why I’d decided to “leave them for those BROOKLYN KIDS.” Who knows what I said, but they definitely saw right through it; my kids could smell weakness and incertitude from a mile away. In hindsight, I’m grateful that they were empathetic and forgiving enough to love me through my bumbling, mistake-filled years as a clueless new teacher.
My best friend (a fellow teacher) and I packed up our big house in DC and our respective classroom supplies, grabbed our NYC Charter School offer letters, and headed to the Concrete Jungle. We wept our way through the apartment hunt, nearly killed the kind old man we’d hired to haul our oversized furniture up to our sixth-floor walkup in stifling July heat, laughed like loons when we had to stand on our beds to put sheets on, wept all over again when we found a bedbug in our new West Village digs, and offered dozens of tchotchkes (which we’d finally realized were ridiculous given our 400 square foot 3br apartment) to the Christopher Street sidewalk gods. We’d made it to New York City.
The distance between my Christopher Street apartment in Manhattan and my new school on Marcy Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn is 5.2 miles. School started at 7:15am, which meant I needed to arrive around 6:30am to get my teaching ducks in a row. The 5.2 miles took about 35 minutes if I timed it right. All too often, I’d spot the A train barreling away from the West 4th Street station the moment my lesson plan supplies and I sleepily arrived on the platform.
After giving far too much context (which I’m known to do), alas, we’ve arrived! This is where my favorite New York Story begins.
Every morning that year was the same. It was mundane and routine, but to me – because of what and who New York City is – it embodies so much of what this heart-stealing place is all about.
To anyone else, the story is as follows: girl wakes up, girl groggily navigates “getting her act together,” girl goes to work, girl teaches Spanish to kids. El fin. Adiós.
To me, the story is and will always be so very much more than that.
Every day, the same predictable ringtone woke me up at 5:30am (a song written and performed by a group of friends who made a band in college). My room was predictably tiny: my bed touched three walls and was on risers to accommodate for the same under-bed storage bins that I’d bought as an 18-year-old stocking up on supplies for my college dorm room. The toaster that warmed up my run-of-the-mill Eggo waffles on a daily basis was on top of the six-foot tall “pantry” we’d fashioned out of an over-the-toilet cabinet on sale at Bed Bath & Beyond. [Aside no. 2: I’m five feet tall, so I was practically hurling my Eggos up into the toaster.]
Once I’d managed to gather myself, my Eggos, and my stack of still-ungraded-papers, it was time to hit the road around 5:45am. The familiar smell of the tragically senile old couple that had lived in Apartment 5A for forty years woke me up every morning, predictable as clockwork. The scantily-clad Christopher Street frequenters were always still out from the night before. While I typically found them arguing loudly over who had snapped whose neon bra strap or whispering sweet nothings into the ears of their companions, never once were they too occupied or fixated on their own situations to stop and smile at me, despite my bleary eyes and nerdy cardigan.
Every single morning, the brown bag of baguettes had magically appeared outside of Tio Pepe, the Spanish restaurant on West 4thStreet. The bag sat there untouched every morning, pristine baguettes tempting passersby to snatch it up. Incredibly, no one ever did.
After the flu kept me away from work for a few days, the man with the big smile and warm eyes at the newsstand yelled out, “Where ya been, kid? I’ve missed ya!” I’d violated our pact, an unwritten rule that we’d exchange a cheery “Good morning, sir / ma’am!” every day, even when we both looked like we felt far too tired to speak to anyone. My friend wore a Sikh-style turban and looked like he was from South Asia but spoke with an undeniable accent straight out of Long Island: living proof that New York City is far more than what meets the eye.
And there they were, every morning on the subway: the steel-toe-booted Freedom Tower construction workers, lunchboxes in hand and hardhats atop their sturdy heads. The faces became familiar, and they’d look at me protectively as I got out my shiny new laptop to finish my lesson plans on the train. We didn’t know each other, per se, but I had no doubt that they’d have pummeled anyone who tried to mess with me and my laptop. We never exchanged a word, but I hated those huge boots for carrying them off the train every morning upon arrival at the Fulton Street stop. I still wonder what their names were and what treats they carried in their lunchboxes. I regret never asking.
The Bed-Stuy locals who had cued up early at the Trinidadian doubles stand on Nostrand Avenue became familiar faces, and I was crestfallen on the days when the proprietors appeared to have exercised their Caribbean-earned right to randomly remain shuttered all day. How dare they not give any warning to the masses who counted on them for morning sustenance, I wondered? In hindsight, good on them. Probably not surprisingly, I was the only one who seemed incensed by this thrice-occurring injustice.
Every morning, I’d groan as I struggled to open the enormous and beautiful old door at the Old Boys High School on Marcy Avenue. The school security guards made me feel like family every morning, despite the fact that I didn’t look a bit like most of the local residents and could have been perceived as an untrusted outsider. My security guard friends were, miraculously, always alert and ready to welcome the steady stream of often-grumpy teenagers who didn’t want to be awake, much less taking off their belts for the metal detector, at such an ungodly hour.
To my students, my kids, my babies, who made me laugh and marvel at the same things every single morning. Every day, I’d ask if you’d done your “tarea” and you’d pretend like you hadn’t because you thought it was funny to watch me “flip out.” You’d shake my hand at the threshold of our homeroom every morning despite, in many cases, having taken care of your little brothers and sisters until late into the night. Daily, you taught me about perseverance. You taught me it’s okay to shut down my meticulously-planned lesson to listen to what you have to say. You taught me to get real with myself about how sickeningly unjust it is that millions of young people in this country don’t have the opportunities they deserve based exclusively on the zip code in which they were born.
To you, my scruffy-faced subway guardians and my insomniac friends on the corner of Christopher Street. To you, my turban-wearing Yankee of a morning greeter and my never-to-be-seen baguette deliveryman/woman. To each of you who comprised this collection of 200 nearly-identical yet magically mundane mornings. You are why I love New York City.
And to you, New York City. I love you for your deceptive ways; for how you tricked me into thinking you were just a bunch of boozy brunches, Broadway shows, and billionaires. How wrong I was, and how irreplaceable you are.”