I have a love-hate relationship with New York City.
The lights and skyscrapers are in all the magazines and movies, which make it feel like an unreachable place for the average person and then truly unbelievable when you’ve finally reached it. I’ve loved and hated the constant competition, the rat race back to your apartment so that you can “relax” amid the continuing commotion outside. It’s a thrill, truly. It’s an ongoing fashion show. It’s an all-day commute. It’s a happening with as much opportunity as you push yourself to find.
Over the few months I’ve lived here, I’ve learned that in order to really live, you have to find your personal New York experience. For me, that experience is the city that few know, when it’s napping — we know it’s the City That Never Sleeps — and from the outside looking in.
My boyfriend and I were in a cab racing up the FDR to get to Grand Central to get away for the weekend. It was almost dusk, and the orange light spilled over the buildings and shone on the Brooklyn Bridge. The lights of the skyscrapers were just beginning to twinkle, relieving the sun of its duty. The city looked enormous. It felt like a movie as the cab driver sped alongside the East River, switching lanes like crazy to get us to our destination as if we were famous. My mind was like a camera lens, zooming across the river to train itself on Brooklyn and then back on us as we snaked along one of the most famous cities in the world. I turned to my boyfriend who was gazing out the opposite window while he held my hand. It was a romantic moment in a city that does not wear its heart on its sleeve.
A few weeks later, we found ourselves walking downtown in the middle of a cold, windy night. From the Freedom Tower, we threaded our way along the cobblestones to the historic South Street Seaport. We cut through to the water, hopped the barricade and walked to the end of the dock, taking the full measure of the wind. With the Brooklyn Bridge to our left, we turned around to see the downtown skyscrapers clustering about us, like eager children, their lights yellow-diamond hard against the inky night. The two of us there on that pier, staring at the tip of Manhattan, felt like we owned the city. It no longer dwarfed us but enveloped us, reminding us that it’s only with distance that you gain perspective on anything — whether it be a skyscraper or life.
Later on that season, we had a signature midnight walk from my boyfriend’s apartment building next to the shimmery ziggurat that is New York by Gehry, one of the tallest residential towers in the Americas, to the newly finished Oculus, the Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center transportation hub that is like being in the inside the belly of a great white whale — or sheltered beneath the poised wings of a dove.
The wide, white hallway continues underground, crossing beneath West Street, which led us back up the escalator onto Brookfield Place. Sometimes we sat beneath the indoor palm trees that strain for half the height of the ceiling. Most of the time, however, we walked out the back doors and sat at the end of the dock where all of the megayachts berth and watched the endless procession of planes flying over the Hudson. We guessed where they went and where they came from, as they left our field of vision as lights in the sky. I wondered if we were both dreaming of all of the places we could go from here.
Maybe it’s because I’m from the suburbs that I felt the need to escape the congestion and run to the water. Maybe it’s my love of nature. Maybe these are my boyfriend’s favorite places to go and I fell in love with them, too.
Too funny: These were the New York experiences I was hoping for when I moved here, but it was not until I wrote this that I realized they all occurred at the edges of the edgy city.