I was born and raised in New Jersey. I am not ashamed of this at all. I love Jersey, and will defend it to the end. However, in all my travels, I have related to one location more than any other. I love it, I hate it, it is part of me, and will be forever.
I am a New Yorker.
I lived in New York for only a few years, but, growing up less than an hour from midtown, it wasn’t just “the city,” it was MY city. As a kid, I went to Broadway shows in my best Christmas dress. I visited the Rock Center tree, the Met, saw the dinosaurs at the National History museum. I’ve lit candles at St. Patrick’s, and had tea at the Plaza. As a teenager, I went to the Knitting Factory and CBGB’s for shows, in the dark, cramped, tiny spaces where you always had the chance of seeing Joey Ramone shooting up in the corner. I got served at the Bar 55 before my sixteenth birthday. I was often mistaken for homeless. Back then, this was cool.
I moved to the city from Boston after college. I love Boston with all my heart, but that’s another post for another time. I lived on the edge of lower Harlem on the West Side, in a neighborhood where I had Glatt Kosher Chinese food and Barney Greengrass and muti-millionaires living across the street from housing projects. I loved my neighborhood. I had a microscopic studio apartment with a waterbug problem and an old AC vent that was constantly leaking, no matter how many times it was patched. It was the most perfect apartment in the world. I worked thousands of temp jobs, modeled for shoe companies and makeup demonstrations. I acted in Lower East Side theaters with more rats than actors. Kevin Bacon’s kids played with my neighbors’ kids. I bought knock-off designer purses and had Dim Sum in Chinatown. I would walk from 93rd St. to the Village and back on the weekends for kicks, people-watching through Jackie-O sunglasses. I ate shady burritos and Ethiopian food. I loved every minute of it, even when I hated it.
I left the City eight days later. I haven’t lived there since. It’s too hard, too fast, too crowded and too nerve-wracking for my often-fragile psyche. But I am still a New Yorker. Always will be.
Smithsonian Magazine puts being a “rude, crude New Yorker” in a lovely light.