Monday, March 8, 2010

"You suddenly realize what a tremendous opportunity it is just to be alive. The potential."

And then—bam!—we lived in New York. And it only took me 40 years to get here.

I keep waiting for the giant wallop of realization, the smack on the rear end as the door to California hits me on my way out. But it's not like that. I've discovered that instead it's an incremental dawning, a gradual accumulation of signs and moments.

I got my New York driver's license, surrendering my California license in the process. I have no car, but I have a driver's license, on which I've given my permission to donate my organs and tissue and eyeballs in the event of my untimely death. (Realizing that my eyeballs would likely go to a New Yorker, the better to see the Empire State Building, was one tiny wallop of realization.)

I got my first piece of direct mail containing return-address labels in my name paired with my New York address—and considered donating money to the cause just because they were the first. Yes, I'm that kind of idiot.

I give directions to inquiring strangers on a regular basis, and have only once sent someone 90 degrees in the wrong direction.

I launch into conversation with total strangers, as I did today on the subway when I found a car full of people dressed in plastic bags. It was the day of the New York City Half-Marathon, explained the woman on my right, who was proud to have completed it in under 10 minutes per mile.

I group my errands not by which side of the street the stores are on or by how many left turns I can avoid, but by the walking route I'll take to get to them. The other day I had a nice straight-line trajectory from the neighborhood office store to the FedEx office to the Jefferson Market library, back to Three Lives bookstore and home. It was a sunny day and I smiled the whole way.

I'm convinced I love snow and slush as much as sun and blue skies. I do not make myself popular when I express this opinion—admittedly formed after only half a winter on the east coast. But where else can you enjoy scenes like this:

And pat yourself on the back for having survived this:

And then you see things like this in a sidewalk planter, which give you a whole new appreciation for spring and new life and starting afresh and hope and change and you feel like the first person who's ever witnessed the birth of a season:

This morning The Child, home on spring break, said in the midst of a lovely 56-degree day, "I wish I could transport my L.A. friends here and say, 'So, what do you think of the weather?' And when they say, 'Brr, it's cold,' I can say, 'Yeah, no, not really.' "

I promise I'll never become a smug East Coaster who glows with moral superiority because her winters are tougher. I'll probably never call myself a New Yorker, because I haven't earned the title. I'm still an L.A. girl at heart—one who goes to the water for relief and renewal, and who feels calmed by the sun setting over the place where a body of water meets the land, whether it's over the Pacific Ocean...

...or over the Hudson River.

But I'm mighty happy to be here.

* Title courtesy Katharine Hepburn, speaking of her film The Corn Is Green, in her autobiography, Me.


Michele Hush said...

Great post, Susan. And not all New Yorkers get burned out on snow and slush. I always love it when nature gently messes up our plans.

I don't know what the statistic is, but a huge share of the people in New York have moved here from somewhere else. My immediate circle of friends is heavy on New Yorkers, since I grew up here, but it also includes people from Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin, Texas, Illinois and several other states. And then there are all the people from other countries. Sooner than you realize, you will be just as much a New Yorker as anybody else. Glad you're here!

That's Not My Age said...

Yep, my brother moved to NY from the UK and loves it. He's been there 10 years now and I think of him as a New Yorker.

And funnily enough I have duplicate copies of some of those images - the police cars piled high with snow and the view over the Hudson. Classic NY pics.

yaya said...

Your blog is a really fun read...good luck in your new home. I've only been to NYC twice but it was a wonderful time and everyone I met was so helpful as I stumbled around the big city with my eyes constantly looking up! Good luck!