I’ve spent most of the last few days in my New York.
For immigrants coming to America, New York is a land of the future, of promise, of hopes and aspirations. For many young people, New York was and is a place to start a career, bright lights, the city that never sleeps.
My New York is centered around Broadway, and stretches from 13th street down into Chinatown.
My New York is the neighborhood where my Aunt lived for as long as I can recall. My neighborhood has shakes at Silver Spur, brunch at Knickerbocker, and hours in the Strand. My New York has the Radio Shack where a younger me dealt with a manager who felt it was just fine to be rude to the teen looking at computers. It’s still there.
My New York is a new book each winter; my Aunt’s gift. Pick a book, any hardback book. I spent hours deciding exactly which book I wanted that year.
My New York is family meals in Chinatown, and trying to convince someone else to order your favorite dish so you got two choices. My New York is filled with the scents of diesel fuel and roast pork. My New York is taking the bus into Chinatown with my grandmother in the middle of a gang war in the 1980s.
My Aunt and my Grandmother died in the 1990s. I haven’t been back in Manhattan since. This week, I’ve had dinner with family that I see far too rarely. I’ve had meals with friends, and meals alone. I spent this morning in the YIVO archives, just a few blocks north, searching rare books for poems and plays. It fit.
My New York is a place of family, food, books, and ghosts. Every time I come here it is a step back through my life. I can’t leave, but I could never live here.