I believe that New York City is my one true love. I was born and raised in Queens and I’ve always known that New York is where I want to live out my life. I realize that most people would say the same of their hometowns and I don’t dispute their loyalties, but there’s nowhere quite like New York.
I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled quite a bit. I’ve been to countries in the Caribbean, North America, Europe, Asia, and South America, as well as cities all over the United States. But while I’ve loved every single place I’ve been to, there’s no place quite like home. The thing I’ve realized is that all those new and wonderful experiences from London to Tokyo were made better by the fact that when the trip was over, I’d be going home to New York.
For 21 years, I lived in a nice house on a bad street of a neighborhood called Jackson Heights. When I was in elementary school, that street was actually right in the middle of multiple gang territories. All the kids I grew up with are high school dropouts or in jail. Last February, my family and I moved to a new house- three streets and an avenue away in the same neighborhood. Now we’re surrounded by doctors and dentists in the historical district of the neighborhood. Jackson Heights is made up of multiple communities: Eastern European, Russian, Colombian, Mexican, Peruvian, Dominican, Indian, Chinese, and Korean. I didn’t know a word of English on my first day of school but I could say “sit still” and “be quiet” in Spanish and I knew how to make samosas. I went to middle school in a neighborhood called Astoria and learned to love baklava from the Greek community there, as well as how to exploit the three free rides of my student Metrocard to explore the city. I went to high school in downtown Manhattan, five minutes walking distance from the World Trade Center. 9/11 was the fifth day of freshman year. I watched the first plane go in while I was in biology lab and the first tower collapse after we were evacuated. It took me six hours to walk home that day.
The city I call home embodies everything that the United States is and could be. Almost every culture in the world can be found in some corner of New York’s five boroughs. On a typical day, there is a distinct probability that I will run into people of every color, religion, political affiliation, musical preference- everyday joes like me and celebrities like Robert deNiro. If America is a melting pot, then New York City is the burner it rests on. Skyscrapers stand beside centuries-old brownstones; sprawling lawns and picket fences live just across the river; four-star restaurants and unknown holes in the wall compete for foodie love.
I believe New York is my soul mate because it was love at first sight. New York City is the quirky but cute stranger I met one day on the subway at three o’clock in the morning going home from two different parties, both carrying takeout from the gods of halal food on 53rd and 6th (with extra white sauce and extra hot sauce). The city’s iPod pumps my favorite songs as I find out that after clocking out of its nine-to-five on Wall Street, the city went to happy hour in Murray Hill, went home to play catch with the dog, changed and went to a house party in Brooklyn before hitting up a club in the Meatpacking District and grabbing some food for the ride home. The city asked me if I was free next Saturday to grab some brunch and hit the architecture exhibit at the Guggenheim. I gave the city my number when I got off at my stop.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.