an ode to new york city

I find myself wandering down the Chelsea Highline as the sun falls over the Hudson, turning the city a peculiar shade of orange.

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Maybe it isn’t the sunset that’s particularly eerie tonight, though. Maybe, just maybe, it is the realization that washes over me as I watch my city fade into darkness…

In a few weeks, this place will no longer be my home. 

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My two best friends and I look at each other knowingly.

Nostalgia. Heartsickness. Excitement and worry about the future. The mixture of emotions fills our guts as the sun finally dips below the skyline of Hoboken.

But tonight is about celebrating the city that has given us so much, not about mourning the end of an era.

We grab a couple beers, find a secluded spot, and stare up at the Manhattan sky as stars begin to pop up, competing for attention with the sparkling lights of high rises and roof-top bars. We sit in silence for a while, until one of us sighs:

“We live in the best city in the world.” 

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I have fallen madly in love with these five boroughs living, working and playing here over the past four years, and though I know Spain will be good to me, as she always is, my heart breaks a little to know I will be leaving my first love behind.

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So, as our time together comes to a close, here, in no particular order, are the things about New York City that enchant me, inspire me, and will always keep me coming back for more:

Creativity.

The New Yorker is inherently creative; constantly inventing, brainstorming, collaborating, hustling and trying to not only survive in one of the toughest cities in the world, but more so to make a name for herself.

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The environment here encourages people to create, and the surroundings offer endless inspiration. An unrivaled destination for art-lovers, we have a museum for everything: modern art, sculpture, sex, literature, insects, classical paintings, and even elevators. Street art causes passersby to  stop in their tracks, absorbed by the intricacies of the tongue-in-cheek themes and rebellious, yet refined, styles. Subways tunnels and buildings alike are tagged with graffiti, reminding observers of the evolution of urban art and hip hop, the sometimes forgotten gang presence, and underground social revolution.

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Since the birth of American punk at CBGB in the seventies, New York has been a mecca of sorts for aspiring musicians. You’d be hard pressed to walk five blocks without stumbling upon players trying to make their dreams come true.  From the unassuming young man that croons a chill-inducing rendition of Dylan’s Girl from North Country at the Bedford Avenue stop on Saturdays, to the Bronx family that sings acapella under Central Park’s Bethesda Terrace on cold winter weekends, the sheer talent and drive of the musicians of New York lulls you into a state of amazement and pushes you to cultivate your own gifts, as well as those that are given to you by this city.

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Seasons.

Winter in New York is brutal. Wind whips through the streets and snow and rain terrorize the morning commute. A general depression settles over the city from January to late March, relieved only by a hearty meal and a [lot of] beer with friends at the neighborhood pub. Other than holing up in a watering hole, there are few ways to escape the cold. A New York winter teaches you to fight. To force yourself to brave the conditions and keep hustling towards the dream. It toughens you up in a way that LA la land never will.

The best thing about the winter, though, is that it ends. Come mid-April, the city thaws out and you are reminded why you came here in the first place. Your struggle through the winter is rewarded by blooming flowers in Central Park, open outdoor seating, an inbox full of invitations to rooftop parties  and the beginning of the street fair and food festival rotation downtown.

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Walking to work, taking the long way home, and yoga in the park all become acceptable again, and the smile and healthy flush returns to your face after a long season of deathly pale skin and perma-scowls.

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New York’s location allows you to escape the summer heat by flocking to the Hamptons, the Jersey Shore, or City or Coney Island. Take a dip in the Empire Hotel’s rooftop pool, put on a baseball cap and head to the Bronx for a Yankee’s game, sip refreshing wine at the Txakolí festival, or take a canoe out on the pond in the park; summertime in the city does not allow for a dull moment.

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The New Yorker exits the winter tougher, more motivated and, yes, maybe more cynical, but above all, more grateful than ever for all the wonders that the city has to offer once the snow melts.

Culture. 

For anyone stricken with wanderlust, being confined to one place can seem like a nightmare, but New York proves that you can stay in one place and still have a taste of every culture you could imagine.

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Little Italy Street Fair

Nearly 150 years after the tenements, the ethnic neighborhoods have only grown.

Greek, Egyptian, Filipino, Bengali, Argentinian, West Indian, Romanian and Caribbean in Queens. Italian, Irish, Albanian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, African, Central American, Jamaican and Cambodian in the Bronx. Russian, Israeli, Mexican, Polish, Syrian, Czech and German in Brooklyn.

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New York teaches you about the world without ever requiring you to travel. Sample dishes from every corner of the world at Smorgasburg on sunny summer Saturdays, wander the halls at Harlem’s Hispanic Society of America, or exchange English lessons for free dinners in Koreatown. Here, you have five boroughs to adventure in, almost forcing you to share stories with people over food from their native land, learn about the realities of far away places, and diversify your outlook on life.

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In a city where I can speak Spanish to my neighbors, feign French with the Senegali cab driver, practice the little Arabic I know with my Libyan shawarma guy, and use drunken British accents with tourists in pubs, neighborhood hopping feels a lot like backpacking the world.

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There’s something to be said for a town that makes you want to go out and explore the world by introducing you to all it has to offer, all the while offering you so much itself that you never want to leave. It pulls you in and pushes you away, ensuring that even if you ever do muster up the courage to follow your wanderlust, New York will always own a piece of your heart.

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No, leaving New York is not the end of an era. It’s only the beginning of the journey she prepared me for. It’s a celebration of everything I’ve seen, learned, and how I’ve grown here. I’ll carry this city with me wherever I go, in my attitude, outlook, sense of humor, and work ethic, hoping to do my town proud, and always looking forward to the day when I will be chewed up, spit out, and reformed here again.

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It’s never goodbye, New York. It’s see you soon.

161 Comments on “an ode to new york city

  1. Seriously amazing article. So well written. I felt such a sense of pride reading it. Thank you for such a beautiful tribute to such an incredible city!

    • Thank YOU for your kind words! I’m so glad you enjoyed the post 🙂 xx

  2. I live in Brooklyn (came here after college) and can relate to all the wonderful things you said. It’s a city that takes a lot of getting used to, but it changes you in ways you never expected.
    Good luck on your next adventure!

    • Love me some Brooklyn 🙂 enjoy it for me, and thanks for the kind words and well wishes. All the best. xx

  3. Wonderful imagery of a beautiful city…..Keep blogging…..

  4. Beautiful tribute to NYC. You nailed it! I’m from L.I. and I do not take advantage of the city like I should. Thanks for giving me many reasons – w/ pictures to go with it – of reasons why I should!! Great job!

  5. I just started my own time in New York City, but even after a short while here, I can see how true your post is! This is a great city, but congrats on your next adventure too.

  6. I’m from Brooklyn, and I have to say–your pictures take on an ethereal quality not usually felt in the day-to-day lives of people who’ve grown up in New York. Reading posts like yours remind me to take a step back and appreciate these moments! 🙂

    • That makes me so happy! Thanks for taking the time to share that with me 🙂 xx

  7. oh this reminds me of my time in NYC and when I had to leave the city, it was tough – it made me fall in love with itself instantly and effortlessly. I left NYC in person but in many parts of my heart, I carry it with me – dasy in day out (and am sure, you will know what I mean). Good luck for your next step and congrats on being freshly pressed – amazing pictures and narrative , they capture so much of the essence of NYC. loved it.
    overwhelmed,
    moodsnmoments

  8. I had the opportunity to spend nine days in the Large Tree Fruit (NYC) late June of last year. Yes, during the heat wave. I wandered through the neighbourhoods of Brooklyn and Manhattan, felt the vibrancy and intensity that I’ve heard people tell me is New York – in its people, its built form, and its graffiti. I sweltered in the stuffy subway stations, ate way too much street food, and didn’t get to experience even a third of all that I wanted to. I want more! Thanks for reminding me that I need some more New York time. Have a wonderful adventure in Spain.
    Greetings from Vancouver!

    • Ufff, I say if you’ve survived a New York City heat wave, you can take on anything! I hope you get back soon, perhaps during my personal favorite NYC season: autumn. Much more temperate 🙂 I also hope to get over to your parts one day soon. Vancouver is near the top of my list. Thanks for the well wishes xx

  9. Enjoyed reading this! The pictures and the sentiments you expressed so eloquently remind me that it’s time for a visit to the Big Apple.

    • Fantastic, you must let me know if you go! Thanks for the kind words 🙂 xx

  10. I loved this. There’s something about NY that’s absolutely entrancing and you’ve captured it. It’s a living, breathing thing and you are a part of it! Thanks for sharing! And good luck…wherever you end up! 🙂

  11. Loved your photos and your sharing. You captured it! My husband and I came here in the late ’60’s for grad school. Never returned to the west. And continue to experience and appreciate almost all that you wrote about (no more beer). Best of luck, although with your talent I doubt you’ll need much luck.

    • You are too kind. Thank you. Enjoy New York for me while I’m away 🙂 xx

  12. God makes beautiful things! Thanks for sharing the photos.

  13. Nicely said!

    I moved to NYC (suburb, but in the city all the time) from Canada in 1989. New York will toughen you up (in a good way) mighty quick. It’s just too crowded, costly and competitive to sit around slacking off. If you want it here — whatever “it” is — you find a way to make it happen. Have a terrific time in Spain — a wonderful place. Andalusia is my favorite.

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head. Beautifully put! Thanks so much. Andalusia, specifically Granada, will always hold my heart 🙂

    • I hope you do! I’d love to get to Copenhagen, I’ve only heard wonderful things. Cheers xx

  14. I have never been to New York, but it is definitely on my list of places I would love to visit. This is a lovely snapshot and a great incentive.

  15. Amen. I lived there for just over a year before going to Europe for my master’s degree. Now that I’m almost done, I’m making plans to move back. Even after a year away, my heart still aches for the city.

  16. I grew up in New York way back in the days when the avenues ran two ways, there were elevated railways on Sixth Avenue and Third Avenue, the World Trade Center had not even been dreamed of yet, and the subway fare was a nickel. (Does anyone else remember the nickel?) And I still live close enough to the city to keep in touch with it. The physical changes are immense, of course, but I am delighted to see that a newcomer such as yourself has captured–and been captured by–the eternal spirit of the city. Thank you.

    • This comment put a smile on my face. Thank you for sharing such kind, beautiful words.

  17. You captured the heart of New York perfectly. Even though I left NYC ten years ago, it still holds my heart and I hope to return home some day. Good luck on your new adventures.

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