Dear New York,
I know it’s been a long time since I’ve lived in you. I might have even given up the right to be called a New Yorker, as I have lived in Chicago longer than I have lived in you.
But there are a lot of days where I miss living in you dearly, and I find it impossible to give up my New Yorker-hood. Whenever I hear someone order a pop instead of a soda and I grit my teeth, or when I see gaps in rush hours subway cars that I know could easily be filled with more riders. Whenever I get stuck behind slow-moving people on a sidewalk who don’t understand that powerwalking is a valid mode of transportation, or wonder why there aren’t any Chinese Cuban joints where I can order pork fried yellow rice and a side of plantains. I miss being able to hear several dozen languages spoken in the course of a single subway ride. Also, the Met. I crave that museum.
And I know I’m not a native, but I feel like I earned my right to call myself a New Yorker when I first moved with my family to you as a child. Nothing could have prepared me for you then. Nobody could have told me how hard it would have been to fit in at school (where nobody liking me was palpably better and very different than when everybody actively hated me), and to survive in the many Queens neighborhoods we called home. But we hunkered down and muddled through. It was so fucking hard, and it still is hard for my family who live in New York today. But you’re worth it.
I had to leave, though. I had to go to college, and Chicago was impossibly attractive with its Midwestern manners. Yes, I know I could have stayed and gone to Barnard, lived in Manhattan like I always wanted. But I had to leave you, leave the family, leave their house to grow up and figure shit out.
But what’s funny is that once I got to college in Chicago, all I could talk about was you. The glory and the grit of a New York City childhood, a lot of which was spent in not so glamorous neighborhoods in Queens, the rather posh world of the Upper East Side, and all subway stops in between with frequent stops in the Village. Also, New York bagels. Sigh. I actively sought the company of other New Yorkers at school when I just needed their company so we could get together, hang out, and speak of all things relating to “the City”.
To this day two of my oldest and beloved friends are New Yorkers I met in Chicago, Kevin and Andrew. The weekend before the weekend before September 11, 2011, I spent the weekend with them. Kevin and I spent Labor Day weekend visiting Andrew in Minneapolis, where he was a law student. We drove around town in Andrew’s bright red Jetta, eating a bunch and laughing a lot and frightening everybody at the Minnesota State Fair.
We immediately headed to Matt’s Bar for lunch. Jacinda called to say hi, which immediately throws Andrew into a panic because she called his phone (knowing we’d be together) and Andrew had no minutes and Kevin answered his phone by trilling “Andrew’s pants!” and wouldn’t give up the phone without a fight. When Andrew got his hands on his own phone (after I had it so I could make fun of Andrew), he *hung up on her* so I had to call her back on my phone, which has more minutes than I know what to do with but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that Andrew is crazy. Andrew continued yelling about how he has no minutes, and we started fighting about how it’s not such a big deal, and it’s just chaos. I started screaming that Andrew is “such an old woman!”, and I’ll buy him some more minutes if he wants, and Kevin is having hysterics in the back seat. It was an “Absolutely Fabulous” kind of moment, only without the British accents and drug use. It felt so great to be with the two of them.
But now I’m talking about Minneapolis when the point I was trying to make is that you, New York, are impossible to escape. I end up in the Midwest and I still find the New Yorkers (who are easy to find on account of their accents and lack of indoor speaking voice).
You, New York, cannot be denied. I love you and miss you everyday and on this terrible anniversary most of all. And I feel that you still love and miss me, your not-quite-native daughter, too. Maybe that sounds impossibly self-centered and obnoxious but then I feel like that affirms that I’m still a New Yorker inside, where it counts.