new york, i love you. still.

January 29, 2010 |  Category:   life nyc


Alright, don’t laugh at me, but that Jay-Z/Alicia Keys Empire State of Mind video gives me the chills (say WHA? did you just say that a Jay-Z song gives you the chills? Oh, come on). Like if I was still living on the west coast, this video and song would make me insanely and utterly homesick just like most images of NY did back then. But you wanna know what really sent me reeling with homesickness every time I saw it? The opening theme to Living Single, you know that sitcom with Queen Latifah and Tootie from the Facts of Life. Sure, plenty of other shows took place in NY, but Friends was so decidedly !Fake NY! and while Seinfeld was very NY, it didn’t make me long for the city with this ache in my heart like the opening street scenes from Living Single.

So what is it about this place that gets under your skin and lures you back even though you vowed never to return when you fled for the states in the Pacific Northwest which was as physically far away from NY as possible without crossing any oceans? Why do we put up with the crowds, living in small spaces, the trash, the noise, the grit, the ridiculous school situation, the astronomical costs of healthcare and housing, and people always in. your. face?

I really have no answer for you other than this place has always been home. I’m glad I moved away from here for those years back in the 90s as it gave me perspective on where I came from, but when I think about what I missed most about home, it wasn’t so much about specific places or people (though I missed those too). It was much more intangible than that, a certain feeling or energy that I associate with this city that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Unlike my years in Olympia or Portland, where I probably could have collected cans every month to pay for my share of the rent for the 2 story Victorian house that I lived in with 3 other people, NYC isn’t an easy place to live. I remember when Mark moved here 14 years ago without ever really having visited the city as an adult. He followed me here when I decided it was time to move back and he lived on a living room floor of a small, dark apartment in the Financial District that he shared with a former classmate. He was 3 months in and he was close to calling it quits. I’m not romanticizing this city at all and I’m sure that our lives would be much more comfortable and affordable if we moved somewhere else. But I discovered that I actually missed the struggles, the diversity on ALL fronts, the friction and craziness and yes, the in your face people that make you work harder and achieve higher. I NEED this.

NY isn’t for everybody and many people have a love/hate relationship with the city like an abusive partner that they can’t quite quit, but I’m hanging in here and I’m raising my kids here. When I was living away from home, my mom couldn’t figure out why I wanted to live anywhere else when all I needed was here in NY. Okay, mom. You win.

(oh, and Times Square above? I don’t love Times Square, but I recently found myself there one night after not having been in that neighborhood in probably years. Felt like a tourist, it was alien territory. New York, after nearly 4 decades, you still surprise me.)

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  • montague January 29, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    oh i do love ny so.
    and i have to confess, i even love times sq. sure, i’m not a fan of the mad noise and the crowds, but i LOVE seeing the faces of visitors. it reminds me of the first time i saw Times sq, when i was 10, and i was so overwhelmed with excitement!

  • Laura@mtp January 29, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    I totally understand Jenna and I’m in the UK! Don;t you know mum’s are always right, well that’s what I tell my kids 😉

    I’ve probably visited 20 times and no doubt will visit another 20. I may have an obsession!

  • laura January 29, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    I’m not a New Yorker. I’m a Texan. But I adore New York City. My husband and I visit the city at least twice a year and we dream of owning a place there. It does get under your skin. And it is that intangible thing that I can’t explain to people other than to say I am in love, hoplessly in love with New York City.

  • kate January 29, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    I have this clear vision of me at 16, sitting on a trampoline with some friends at a house party, telling them all that I realized I needed conflict and struggle in my life or I was bored as hell, that it gave me meaning. You know, some profound 16-year old speech. Then I moved to New York, apparently because I wanted to put that statement to the test.

    I avoid time square like the plague, but whenever someone visits here for the first time I force us to take the train there and stand in the middle of it all for at least five minutes, because there is NOTHING like it.

  • Nadia January 29, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    i miss it so much. love being back in miami, definitely don’t mind the sun and cool days in the winter and having family so close, but there’s something about new york. something special. something unique.

  • Sarah Jackson January 29, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Do not get me started on my obsession with that Jay-z song (or any of the rest of them for that matter. I love this new album so much.

    And “Living Single” is still one of my favorite shows!


  • Kelsey January 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    I loved this post and it made me extremely “home”sick. I only lived in NY for just under a year, but even in that short amount of time, I grew to love the place and became immersed in the in-your-face way of life. When I moved back home to Pittsburgh I was less than thrilled. I try to find something of New York in everything and every place here, but it just isn’t the same. It is my ultimate dream in life to one day move back there for good.

  • Anna @ D16 January 29, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Thank you for confessing to getting chills from that JayZ/AK song — I feel the same way, but didn’t want to admit it.

    I’ve lived within 100 miles of NYC since the day I was born (with the exception of a very brief stint in LA — ugh), and spent my childhood going back and forth between parents in and out of the city. There’s something about the early ’80s in particular, when it was…different here that put NYC permanently in my blood. I now find even a weekend out of state almost intolerable.

    And yeah, I missed NYC like crazy within a week of buying our house upstate, even though I still come in to the city every day. Having our little apartment in Manhattan now is such a big deal for me — physically and psychologically. It’s so hard to live here at times, but almost impossible to leave. This is my home, for better or worse.

    I wrote about this on my blog a while back, but what really gets me going in the I Love NY department is the opening scene from ‘Manhattan’. Jeez. I’m getting choked up just thinking about. Perfection, right down to the Gershwin.

  • rifferaff January 29, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    lol, i loved the opening music and scenes of new york undercover. even though the longest i lived in ny was less than a month, it makes me nostalgic for what i think it is. also sex and the city, though i’m aware that is a hyper fantasy version.

  • emmy January 29, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    I want to visit NY sooo bad!!!

  • Jenna January 29, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    anna, just watched manhattan again recently. I agree about the opening scene! Right in the heart.

  • sally January 29, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    i need to go to new york this year so i can fall in love, too! and i admit it, love the jay-z + ak song!! :)

  • Raquel January 29, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    the streets make you feel brand new! just like alicia says.
    it’s like the first time i went to paris after college. i gasped and thought, “i want to live better.” everyone now and then you need a dose of that inspiration. nyc does that on a daily basis.

  • Shilo January 29, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this.
    I too, have been somewhat sheepish in admitting how this video strikes me emotionally.
    I’ve heard myself making excuses that it’s just the normal pangs of adjustment as my husband and I recently left NYC for a job opportunity, but it’s more than that, it’s full on homesickness. New York is just that: home.

    It’s funny how we get addicted to the often frantic pace, the demands and the bounty of options.

    So much so that I’m living in a beautiful house in a verdant tropical paradise and constantly thinking back to the fifth floor walkup with a view of the BQE that I left behind.

  • Golubka January 29, 2010 at 9:40 pm

    Oh it gives me the chills too and I don’t even live in NY. It somehow sounds like the city or rather what it feels like to be in the city. Love your blog!

  • Iyang January 29, 2010 at 10:57 pm

    I have yet to check out the video, but I will now. Just wanted to share a funny story. So my big girl, M, stayed home “sick” from school one day last week. I was sitting at the computer surfing and I heard her singing Empire State of Mind (with lots of minced makeshift lyrics) and oh yeah, she was on the toilet!

    p.s. the earl grey sandwich cookies were so so delicious–maybe even sublime :) thanks!

  • RJ January 30, 2010 at 11:09 am

    concrete jungle where dreams are made of…

  • angie January 30, 2010 at 6:27 pm

    thank you for this post. been a ny’er for ten years and I’ve always wanted to feel this way about new york. but never have. home is where I grew up- near my family- in southern california….. It saddens me that I will never be able to give my children the kind of california upbringing I had. obviously, work ties us to ny and we can always visit my home state and family but it is just not the same knowing we have to return here. tears inevitably fall when I land at JFK.

  • Carla January 31, 2010 at 12:43 am

    I love New York from a rather long distance away. I’ve loved it since I was a kid and watched all those movies that usually involved horse drawn carriages in Central Park, doormen wearing top hats, and amazing big romantic musical numbers. One of these days I will get there, I’m determined…

  • alexandra February 1, 2010 at 4:40 am

    such beautiful pictures (as always), and a great, great will to visit new york, paulo would love to. someday, who knows? *

  • Peter February 5, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I lived most of my life near NY, but moved from Jersey City to Portland around the turn of the century. You know what did it for me? The Sopranos opening sequence.