School Yard in Chelsea
I forget how much I love New York City. It's like a favorite uncle you think will live forever and forget to call.
My connection with the city is long, if sporadic. As a kid, I saw many Broadway musicals.
When I was a teenager, I traveled alone to the city. At a movie theater near Bloomingdale's , I walked in to the fox hunt scene of "Tom Jones," and felt giddy with independence.
In my later teens, I went to the diet doctor who gave me a monthly supply of speed. After the weigh-in, I repaired to Schraffts for a hot fudge, coffee ice cream sundae.
Daring dates in Greenwich Village made me feel very sophisticated, though clearly I was not.
When it came time to earn a pittance, I moved to NYC. I worked as a dogs body at a publishing firm and shared a shotgun Brownstone apartment with two girls on East 52nd. The rent was $450. I was earning the princely sum of $110. And the first week's check bounced. Seriously.
When my husband shipped out to Vietnam mere weeks after the wedding. I moved back to the city and lived in the maid's room of an empty Park Avenue duplex.
Later, We lived in Yonkers. I commuted to the city. He sold antifreeze in upstate New York, Vermont and Bedford-Stuyveson . We enjoyed all the city offered, tentatively. When we drove to our first concert in Central Park. I insisted he leave his money and credit cards as I was sure we were to be robbed. Instead, the car broke down on 8th Avenue. He had pawn his watch to pay the repair.
I remained with the publishing house even after my husband took a job in Syracuse, New York. I flew down on Mondays and took the long train home Wednesdays. A friend of my parents, Jane, let me stay with her on Park Avenue. (Yes, I have been very lucky in my parents and their friends) She was a lovely, helpless creature. If a lightbulb burnt out it would stay out until I returned to replace it. She cooked chicken in Campbell's mushroom soup and huge artichokes. Mostly she ordered out. When she drank she told me steamy stories about her friends. I begged her not to tell me anything about my parents.
I lived that double life for three years, going from the thrum of Manhattan to monotony of Central New York. The commute was a slog, but I didn't want to leave civilization to become a housewife.
Eventually, children intervened. Trips to New York became child-centric. Would that I could have afforded to take my daughter to Broadway shows. But the museums and zoos were ample compensation.
The lovely, helpless creature on Park Avenue died. Walking to her memorial service during rush hour I felt my pace quicken to match the crowds. I missed it. We had bounced around the east coast, Connecticut, New Jersey and Boston but never considered living in New York City. The crime was virulent, the rents catastrophic...it was hopeless.
One of my paintings was to show in New York City starting September 15, 2001. I planned to attend. The horror and grief of 9/11 pre-empted everything.
Years later, when I did a pastel series of public sculpture, my husband and I trooped over a large swath of Central Park for photographic references.
Living outside of Washington, DC satisfied most of my urban itches. Recently, however, an artist friend, Susan Makara, and I decided to do a New York City trip to buy art materials. We went on the cheap: a lovely bus ride $27 round trip and a hotel room in an ex-convent for $146 (for two) a night. We stayed in Chelsea, a part of Manhattan unknown to me. When I lived in New York decades before, I wouldn't have dreamed of spending time on West 10th Avenue. I was amazed by the slow (relative to Midtown) pace of Chelsea. The very livability of it. I saw no homeless people nor any Starbucks. We visited Susan's artist friends, went to the Neue Gallery, the Chelsea Market, Central Park, an art opening, many galleries, the 9/11 museum, the High Line, all in 48 hours. It would have been a bargain trip had we not also visited Vasari Oil Colors and Sepp Metal Leaf. We could not resist their wares. Susan lugged her heavy Nikon everywhere. At lunch she asked her friend Katrin Eismann, head of photography at School for the Visual Arts, for a recommendation. Katrin looked at Susan's camera and pronounced it a "cow killer". She recommended the 20 megapixel compact Sony RX100 version 5. I have an upcoming Asian trip. I was dreading dragging my Nikon, so, naturally I leapt at the suggestion.
New York City has enriched me over the span of my life. I am indebted. But I ask you how does one repay such a debt?