Remembering New York

This morning I was remembering my first fall in New York. I moved to Manhattan just before my 20th birthday in May of 1998. I stayed up every night that summer until dawn, smoking cigarettes in the living room and watching the lights twinkle distantly on the Chrysler building through the window.

I had insomnia those first few months. Not until the first vestiges of a rosy pink dawn bled into the sky would I crawl into bed, my sighs filtering silently across my pillow as I finally let go of consciousness. It’s hard to say what I thought about all those nights. My mother mostly, I think. She had lived in New York for 17 years before she married my father and I often wondered about her life there, about the places she lived, the streets she walked down. I have a few journals from that time, their entries a meaningless and incoherent jumble of grief and nuanced adolescent wonderings.

My insomnia broke with the cooler weather later that fall. I began waitressing in a restaurant in Union Square and I started classes at the New School that fall. My life was suddenly busy with schedules and assignments and endless tables; there was no time to sit up all night watching the lights of the city through the window.

I remember October evenings, the air surprisingly cold after such a warm summer, walking through Astor Place, past the library and all the shoe shops, the subway stop and the Barnes and Noble, crossing Broadway and continuing on along a quiet stretch of 9th Street until I got to 5th Avenue, where I would head north a few blocks to my classroom building on the corner of 12th Street and 6th Ave. I loved those meandering walks, past the delis with their fresh flowers and fruits on ice, the bustling crowds on Broadway and 5th, the fashionable women and the height of the buildings rising up all around me. I felt so alone in the midst of all of it, like I had a secret somehow.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget those walks, the walks that continued all four years that I lived in New York, each fall the cool air evoking memories of that first year, the cool air here in Chicago now, bringing those same memories back to me again.

p.s. Greg has a really funny piece up on The Nervous Breakdown today about his early days as a writer in Cleveland:

Rewriting a Media Guide is Easier When You’re Both Lonely and Looking Important


More Dreams

Last night I woke at 4AM from a dream about being in California and having dinner with this nice couple we met when we were in Costa Rica. I lay awake for a while in the early morning gloom, feeling my heart beating softly in my chest, Greg’s solid presence warm beside me. This is the second morning I’ve woken at 4AM.

I fell asleep again eventually and woke again at 7:30. After Greg left I lay in bed for a while longer staring up at the ceiling and thinking. I think the biggest part of my problem these days is that I have a hard time just living. I have a hard time simply being. If something dreadful or something unbearably wonderful isn’t happening, if I’m not standing on the top of a mountain in Taiwan or trekking through the rain forest in Costa Rica, if it’s just a normal day and the clock is ticking slowly by in my life, I begin to feel caged and silent.

This, I think, is my challenge and my work: to find peace and meaning and light within the day to day unspooling of my life.

In other news, my dear friend Herb Jordan is coming for dinner tonight. He’s flying in from Los Angeles today, staying a night here with us, and then continuing on to Italy tomorrow.  Jordan (as he likes to be called) and I met when I was working at 826LA and our friendship slowly evolved from there. We began meeting for regular dinners throughout my last couple of years in LA, after running into each other in the same yoga class.

My dinners with Jordan were always some of the most restorative and uplifting evenings of my month. He’s one of those people that is just so full of life and light and magic that just being around him seemingly fills you with the same. It’s been well over a year since I’ve seen him now and I’m really looking forward to an evening in his company. I’m making butternut squash soup, an heirloom tomato salad and bread pudding. We also just got a fabulous shipment of wine from Beckman Vineyards and I can’t wait to open a bottle.

And tomorrow night, Greg’s friend, writer Tyler Stoddard Smith, is coming to dinner. He’s also briefly in town and we’re both looking forward to spending an evening with him. My menu for tomorrow is quite different than tonight’s: grilled steaks, twice-baked potatoes, spinach souffle and an as of yet, undetermined chocolate dessert.

Other than some writing this morning, my main goal is to enjoy my normal day.

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Thursday, Before Going to Work

I have to leave for work earlier than usual today. An early morning meeting in the south suburbs.

I’ve been wishing lately that my blog was more anonymous. There are things I’d like to write about, to really expound on, but I feel like I can’t because of small secrets I’d like to keep. I remember when I first began writing this blog five years ago and how it felt to send these posts out into the infinity of cyberspace, not knowing, not caring who was reading.

This, here, has become an entirely different entity. I have no intentions of ebbing but I think I need to find a better flow.

Okay, off for an hour of traffic, NPR and my coffee thermos.