I’ve been missing New York City more and more lately. I have to say that this latest onslaught of missing was triggered by my desperate yearning for New York City’s yarn stores. In particular, I long for Downtown Yarns in Alphabet City, which had the perfect mix of luxury fibers and handpaints combined with staples like Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride and Zitron Trekking sock yarn in a brightly-lit, homey atmosphere. I used to skip in there on weekend afternoons, let my pupils dilate, and gleefully fondle the fibers. I’d discreetly rub skeins of yarn against my cheek, sniff them and hold them up to the sunlight. I’m amazed I never got kicked out of there. Shopping at yarn stores in New York City tends to be a very tactile, sensual experience, while the yarns stores I’ve been to in Taipei bundle up their yarn in cellophane bags. They do that no doubt to keep them safe from people like me, but I feel horribly bereft. My arms almost ache for the feel of new wool that does not belong to me (yet).
That may seem very silly, but the things that I miss about New York City, including its yarn stores, are inextricably intertwined with the fact that I feel like I grew up and became fully aware of myself there. I started living in the city full-time when I was right out of college, and nearly everything I did for the next few years, including interning and working 65 hour weeks and going to the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism was, in part, motivated by my wanting to stay there. If I had decided to go back to California and work in San Francisco, I certainly would have had an easier time because I have tons of relatives in the Bay Area (and I do love the Bay Area). But, as unhappy and lonely as I was sometimes, I couldn’t even fathom leaving the New York. It was just non-negotiable.
I can’t try to describe everything New York City meant to me in this post, in part because a lot of it is so personal (and probably deadly boring to most everyone else). I do remember walking around Central Park the summer before grad school started, depressed and overwhelmed after enduring an hilariously farcical break-up (well, in hindsight, anyway). I glanced up and saw the street signs for W. 74th Street and Central Park West above me. In that moment, my head finally came out of my butt for the first time in weeks. It felt, almost literally, as if my brain had suddenly been drained free of muck and dirt. Things were clear all of a sudden. I’m here, I thought, I’m in New York, doing exactly what I want to do, and things will be just fine.
I saw “I Am Legend” a few weeks ago, and while I thought the film squandered its promising premise, I was touched by the visuals of Will Smith walking through a New York City that was empty, quiet and returning to the wilderness. Many of them were of neighborhoods I recognized or city blocks I’d often walked down. The scenes seemed to capture, in an impressionistic way, my own experiences on those streets. It wasn’t that I didn’t notice the people who surrounded me or didn’t value the time I spent with my friends, but my clearest memories of New York City are of the times when I was out wandering around by myself.
In my mind, I see myself gamboling around the East Village or Lower East Side, gazing longingly into windows and gated alleyways in the West Village at night, spying on the squirrels in Union Square Park, quietly mesmerized by the Frank Lloyd Wright room at the Met, wondering which luminary had lived in what (currently) New York University-owned townhouse on Washington Square Park, running along Morningside Park to class at Columbia, taking a detour on my way home from work to have some borscht and challah bread at B&H Dairy on 2nd Avenue, strolling across Tompkins Square Park in search of thrift stores in ABC city, or walking from my apartment in Long Island City to Socrates Sculpture Park on the waterfront with my clunky vintage Spectra Polaroid Camera in hand, two Blythes stuffed into my bag, and an entire sunny afternoon ahead of me.
Sometimes I’d just jump onto a bus that looked like it had an interesting route and watch one distinct neighborhood melt gradually into another, one after the other. I’d draft a map of Manhattan in my head, and even now when I close my eyes I can see the island build itself together, block by block.
I don’t have this kind of solitude here, in part because I do everything with Ron. I don’t mind this at all, because as much as I enjoyed my explorations in New York City, I always felt an undercurrent of loneliness. I was ready to leave New York City when I did, and I don’t miss the kind of budgeting gymnastics it took to make ends meet there on a young reporter’s salary. But I do miss the moments when it was just me, trying to let the city sink in as much as possible because I knew that I wouldn’t always be there. In the last few months before I left, I tried as hard as possible to feel everything as deeply as I could. I was so afraid I was going to regret not having appreciated the city enough while I was still there. I feel weird now when I see photos of New York City on NYTimes.com or on the television. I can’t help but wonder, how can you possibly be going on without me as if I never happened?
Boy, am I narcissistic.
Anyway, my plan for this post before I went on a tangent was to draw up a list of stuff I miss about New York City and then counterbalance it with a list of things I will miss about Taipei when I leave. I’ll do that later. I’m also going to try to blog about my time in Taipei more often, not merely to bore my readers, but for my own sake. I have a terrible memory, and I don’t want to lose track of the experiences I’m having here, or the things I’m learning about myself.