Sunday, June 8, 2008

New York - the end of a love affair

I always thought i would end up living in New York. My love affair with the city began at the age of 9 when I devoured Sydney Taylor's "All of a kind family" books - stories about an immigrant Jewish family on the lower east side at the turn of the century. A few years later I discovered Betty Smith's "A tree grows in Brooklyn" and not too long after that my imagination was captured by the Woody Allen greats - Manhattan, Annie Hall, Bullets over Broadway etc (Mind you the nuances were beyond me for many years but being self-consciously precocious I understood that if I was going to really love New York City, i would have to love Woody Allen). I was hooked.

I finally made my first visit to New York City in 2001, when aged 21, i escaped an uncomfortable situation and came to this crazy city to visit friends and take a holiday for the first time in 3 years. That visit confirmed everything i had already known - I was destined to live the Jewish upper west side dream - complete with a banana republic wardrobe, Sunday brunch at Isabellas and Saturday afternoons at Central Park. In short my life was going to be a Woody Allen movie but with taller, more attractive and less neurotic protagonists.

I have been back to New York several times since 2001 and over the years, my aspirations have shifted only slightly: in 2003 i desired a Soho loft and model's physique (both of which will forever remain elusive). In 2004 i lusted after an apartment on the lower east side, a job as a music journalist and a rockstar boyfriend and in 2007 all I wanted was a quiet brownstone on a cobbled street in the Meatpacking district (and an outdoors table at Pastis goddammit). Over the years I have played a game with one of my best friends every Monday morning where we amuse ourselves by picking out the most ridiculous New York Times wedding announcements and supplement it with our own acerbic commentary. I do not even want to estimate how many six minute billable units have been wasted on those email exchanges.

My love affair with New York may be coming to an end and this is something that I am now ready to accept. I arrived in the city last week and almost immediately I noticed that i was feeling anxious - so much to do, so little time and why are all these people in my way? New York can be the most alienating and lonely place in the world. There is always someone here who is smarter, richer, cooler and more fabulous that you and chances are that person is standing behind you in the line at Starbucks. Here, you are just another person and for all the wonderful things this city has to offer, I have realised that when i am here I fixate on the most superficial aspects of my life. I had the opportunity to visit Chicago last weekend and I noticed how much more down to earth the people there are and how conversations are not all about name dropping the latest and hottest restaurant/bar/designer. Refreshing.

I have been showing some of my Australian friends around the city and i take pride in the fact that i know my way around Tribeca, Nolita and Alphabet City as well as I know my way around my own newly gentrified neighbourhood back in Melbourne- that i know where the best cafes and restaurants are as well as all the trendiest places to shop. But deep down I know that this visit marks the end of an era. Truthfully, I feel relieved- as my friend commented - one more thing that I can now cross off the to do list and get on with it (thanks for the insight Alon, as always).

i am excited to find my new "New York".

Soundtrack for the Day:
Death Cab for Cutie - Marching Bands of Manhattan
Elliott Smith - Tomorrow, Tomorrow
Bright Eyes - First day of my life
Duffy - Hanging on too long
Ryan Adams - Damn, Sam

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