Ce n'est pas une ville abordable.
I can't afford to live in New York, but that's okay, because you can't either. Broke misery loves broke company.
Scratch that. Broke misery loves rich friends. Preferably with a free place to crash in the tonier parts of Brooklyn.
I will go on for days about how much I love New York, about how at home I feel when I'm there, but I know it's an illusion. As a teenager, I befriended girls whose parents, it turned out, were wealthy, and celebrated this by living in brownstones and high-rises in the Upper East and Upper West Sides of Manhattan.
We drank and smoked and complained in $1.4 million homes, then I'd take a short train ride and long bus ride back to New Jersey to drink and smoke and complain in parks.
I can keep up the illusion that New York is awesome because I don't live there. I'm a fairweather friend of New York's. I go when the weather is nice, stay for free with my sister or a friend, and have unlimited time to stroll 20 blocks instead of spend a few bucks on the subway.
Though when I skip the subway, I miss delightful graffiti like this.
New Yorkers, telling it like it is.
I follow a simple routine in New York: I eat grocery store food, I fawn over clothes at every Beacon's Closet location I come across (multiple stops in a day are normal), I go into Bergdorf's to smell their $400 perfumes (my birthday is July 7), and I go to at least one museum besides the Met.
This time, it was the Tenement Museum in Chinatown. As I stood in a perfectly replicated second-floor walk-up overlooking the perfectly replicated ground floor latrines in 90-degree heat (They didn't have air conditioning back then! It's so realistic!), it dawned on me that I paid $25 to experience exactly how my family lived for free during the Depression.
I felt like I was paying $25 to ride a tour bus through Detroit to see how it feels to ride a municipal bus through Detroit. And all I can think is: What the hell am I doing in Detroit?
If Chinatown doesn't have to dress up, I don't either.
This routine I've created brings me great comfort. I live out my Life in This City fantasy with little to no consequences, and this allows me to have normal visits with my sister wherein our time together feels like normal life: we kvetch, grocery shop, run errands, and, because we're not caught up in a tourism treadmill, have time to enjoy knowing each other better than anyone else could.
Case in point: it was during this trip that I learned my mother and sister resuscitated my ailing pet hamster Toby using a drinking straw respirator and fingertip chest compressions while I walked home from middle school.
Toby died soon after, and I buried her deep in our tiny backyard. Her clean, cold little body was placed with great care on burgundy velvet padding in the center of a garishly ornate golden box.
It has been my hope since that sunny afternoon in 1995 that archaeologists in the distant future are confounded by the meaning of this fastidious burial.
Old memories -- even ones I didn't know existed -- are all over that city. Class trips to South Street Seaport and Canal Street. Rainbow cookies. Rockefeller Center at night. East Village during the day. Broadway in the snow. Central Park in the spring. Brooklyn Bridge in the fall. Summer in the subway swamp dungeon darkness.
New York never feels new, and that's what I like about it.
This was my last stop before venturing into New England, namely Boston by way of Rhode Island. I'd never been that far northeast, and it was hitting me that the last familiar part of my trip was ending.
The summer would be ending soon, too. Days were already getting shorter. I drove out of Brooklyn alone, watching Manhattan become a blue blur in the rear view mirror as I headed eastward, onward, to what was truly new.