New York state of mine.
Thursday, Mar. 13, 2003

I had an interview yesterday with a firm that's a block and a half from the one I'm in now. Of course, you can't swing a dead cat in Midtown without hitting a law firm, but the proximity got me thinking...which inevitably leads to...

some meandering!

See what I did there?

~~~

The majority of places that I've been applying to are here in Manhattan. I've been sending the résumé to some firms in Westchester County, where I now live, and Southwestern Connecticut, both of which are within reasonable driving/train distance. I'll most likely end up working in the City (by the way, when New Yorkers say "the City" they mean Manhattan, even though New York City comprises the five boros), but if I end up working somewhere else, it would be the first time that I don't have a daily connection to NYC since July of 1985.

~~~

The first time I set foot here was in November of 1977. I had long made my desire to see New York known to my parents, and was rewarded with a trip here (we were living in Montreal at the time) for my 14th birthday.

I remember hardly any of the specifics of the trip – where we stayed, where we ate. My actual present was going to see Grease - my first time in a Broadway theater.

What I do remember, vividly, was the frisson I felt just being in the city, walking around. The lights, the buildings, the unbelievable amount of people. Now, I'm no bumpkin; even at 14, I'd lived in some places. But this was New York, and I knew I’d be back, for good.

I went to college outside of Boston, at least a part of which was that I was offered a scholarship, and the arrogance of saying "no thanks, I'd rather spend more of my parents' money so I can go to school in New York" was too much for me, even as a suitably contemptuous teenager.

When it came to applying to law school, though, I only applied to New York schools, since I knew I wanted to work here, and the best way to do that was to go to grad school here.

I rented a tiny studio apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn and moved in in August of 1985.

~~~

Now, "Brooklyn" had always been more of a concept that I'd heard about than an actual place to me. Coney Island, Bensonhurst, Midwood, Flatbush…these were more ideas than physical neighborhoods. They were places grandparents came to to start new lives, where grandparents escaped to. "Brooklyn" was freedom, you see.

And it was, for me too, though not, of course, in quite the same way. That first apartment was a third-floor walkup with no air-conditioning and barely any heat and I loved it. It was mine, all mine, and I was four F train stops from the world’s biggest and best playground, right across the river. The first time I stepped on the subway to go into Manhattan by myself felt, in some stupid yet serious way, like the beginning of life to me.

~~~

When you drive into Manhattan from Brooklyn, there's a point at which you turn on to the Brooklyn Bridge and the whole skyline of Manhattan is, all of a sudden, right there, and it's every movie you’ve ever seen, every book you’ve ever read, every song you know all the words to and have sung a thousand times. The same thing happens when you come up out of the subway into Times Square. You can't even really absorb it all right away; there's this rush of blood to your head and your heart jumps a little and you just move your head around and around, looking at it all. The skyline on a crisp, clear day and Times Square at night, all lit up. Art, really.

~~~

“So why,” you are now asking, “are you considering giving that up, if that's how the city makes you feel (and, by the way, all of that crap is exactly what the rest of us can't stand about you people)?”

Well.

Time, surprisingly enough, does pass and things do, indeed, change. I don't get that feeling much anymore. The period from 1985 through 1993 was one of the low points in the city's history – crime out of control, rapidly decaying infrastructure, a dangerous and faulty mass transit system. The city was dirty, in every way it can be. Those were my formative years in New York, and while all of that stuff I said above was true, I was also acquiring the hard shell cynicism that you need to make it through most days here, especially then, when the city was not feeling good about itself in any way. Say what you want about Rudy Giuliani; the greatest accomplishment of his first term was to make clear his deep and abiding love for NYC and literally pull the city up by its bootstraps and get it to believe in itself again. Scoff though you may, a New York that believes in itself positively glows.

By then, though, my wife and I had embarked on child rearing. City schools are an absolute mess, and we did not have the coin to make sure that we were in a zip code where the local schools were acceptable; private school was simply not an option, as I'd rather save that amount of money for stuff like, say, eating.

So, in September, 2001 (my, wasn't that quite the month for our family), we bought (bought! Didn’t rent! Amazing!) a house just north of the city, about a 35-minute train ride to Grand Central. We have the city when we want it.

~~~

I'm looking for a job, so you take what you can get, and I'd be stupid to turn up my nose at a good opportunity just because it wasn't in Manhattan; obviously, the fact that I'm considering other options means that the city doesn’t have the same pull it once did on me. Is that what they call "growing up"?

Still, if I end up not working here anymore, I'd miss it.

I'd miss the hordes of people everywhere at rush hour. I'd miss the women putting their makeup on while they’re riding the subway, never smearing no matter how much the train lurches and shudders. I'd miss the ever present siren, which sometimes drops in volume, but never really goes away. I'd miss stepping annoyedly around tourists who block the sidewalk, sneering at them in a stereotypically superior Noo Yawk way while they gawk at the big billd'ns. I'd miss crossing against the light through a microscopic break in the traffic, safely making it to the other side just before the cab hits me.

I’d miss walking around Midtown on the first warm spring day, the city all shiny and clean and new again, whispering to me, telling me that I was a fool to think I could ever really leave her behind.

~~~

According to my stats, my diary has been viewed 666 times as of today. Heh.

Posted by mikeski at 5:11 p.m.