Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I love New York

The butterflies started when the pilot announced that we were landing in 20 minutes. I pushed up the blind and craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the lights in the dark and cold night, already picturing the glittering skyline I would soon be admiring from the taxi taking me back into town. A warm wave of joy and excitement overtook me … I was back in New York!

While this blog is already a testament of my love for the city, I pondered the reasons for my schoolgirl infatuation. A copy of the latest "New York Magazine" was waiting for me in my mailbox when I arrived home, and the words "Reasons to love NY" boldly printed on the front cover prompted me to come up with my very own list … I do have a huge fondness for lists after all.

But this is when I experienced (amateur) writer's block for the first time. I have been trying to meticulously list out all the little things that make me love the city, not wanting to leave anything out, for weeks and frustratingly found myself unable to actually rationalise my infatuation fully.

Maybe it's because anyone who lives here for more than a few months can call themselves a New Yorker, because the city is so inclusive, so incredibly multi-cultural and so transient that anyone has a right to citizenship as soon as they feel settled.

Because you can have a conversation with your Korean dry cleaner, your Pakistani concierge, your Jamaican street stall owner, your Thai take out delivery man, your Russian taxi driver or even your WASP Harvard MBA graduate colleague and find a common ground with them that transcend ethnicity, gender, wealth, religion and political convictions : we all have a story, a reason why we moved here and we are all on a seemingly elusive quest for more, faster and harder - be it money, career, love, life experience. You can’t stand still here, in fact people admire you for keeping up with the frenetic pace.

Maybe it’s also because while I have been to over 100 restaurants in 9 months – much more than in my 10 years in London – I can still discover new culinary delights every time I go out. Only recently, a girlfriend of mine took me to "Lure", an underground restaurant on Prince and Mercer, which I have walked past many times with not as much as a second glance. But as I was sipping on a delicious Ginger Apple Martini and sampling incredibly fresh and beautifully spiced tuna and yellowtail sashimi sitting on high stools at the sushi bar, I thought that there was no other place in the world I would rather be right now and that I had found somewhere I would go back to over and over again.

Because I never tire of the eclectic and raw beauty of the city. I still get a sense of awe and excitement when I catch a glimpse of Times Square on my way somewhere. Or when I walk in Central Park in all its bleak and winter beauty, the trees bare and the rocks protruding oddly. When I pound the picturesque streets of the West Village, Soho or the Lower East Side to meet friends for brunch, dinner or drinks. When I witness a jaw dropping sunset, luminously pink over the Statue of Liberty, outside of the World Financial Center every day.

Because despite this being the home of over 8 million people, I can still walk around anywhere in the city and feel that it belongs to me … that somehow that beautiful fire escape, that aging tree, that ornate architectural detail on a building, that lovely deli or even that random mad person on the street were put there for my enjoyment alone.

Also because life here is a lesson in time management. All mundane tasks are outsourced - we don't have time to do our own laundry, to cook our own meals, to do our own nails, to drive our own cars, to find our own dates. Work is crammed in whenever we can - everyone, including me, feverishly typing on their blackberry on the subway. Yet we make time to go to that special Seurat exhibition at the MoMa, watch that obscure play at the Steinberg Center just off Broadway, hear Jimmy Scott sing at Columbus Circle or go to the newest restaurant that was rated highly by the Zagat guide or the NY Mag.

The truth is that I will never be able to come up with a comprehensive list. Love or infatuation wouldn’t be as magical or special if it could rationalised.

I expect the city will continue to provide me with an endless number of reasons to sustain my love affair with it … I just have to live with the fact that I frustratingly will never quite be able to express them.