Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Hello Google crawlers (and any poor soul who may have wandered in to see if I am still alive and utilizing the English language). I feel that it's time to explain something. This blog was created to celebrate, gripe about, and generally describe the New York state of mind. Well, I have left that country. Call it the onset of middle age. Call it a yearning to escape the claustrophobia that comes of living and thinking cheek by proverbial jowl with a multitude of dudes and dudesses. I dunno. I just got tired of it. It's a hard place to live, as anyone who's ever done it will tell you.

I knew I was leaving when I began this blog, and I suppose What I Saw was always meant to be a sort of final love letter to the city. It ended up being more of a Dear John letter, and that is perhaps more appropriate to the situation. I knew I was leaving. I knew I'd miss it. I knew I wouldn't miss it at all. (Both are true, by the way, and logic be damned.)

Long ago I started a list of things I'd miss and things I wouldn't. Here are a few:

The way the west village feels like Paris when it rains.
Shops with names like The Lively Set and Tea and Sympathy.
Meeting friends on street corners and watching them approach, knowing them by how they walk. (I know that works elsewhere, too, but it seems more romantic in a great city of millions)
Being able to get the absolute best version of whatever food you desire, as long as you're willing to trek there.
Walking and walking and walking, and always something remarkable to see.
Outlandish garb of every variety.
Sweet proprietors of delis, dry cleaners, restaurants, and a million other tiny businesses who are delighted to see you because they recognize you from yesterday, and hope you'll come by tomorrow to keep their business in, well, business.
Bus rides. No really, I like them, when they're uncrowded and it's Sunday morning and it's like watching a parade outside a wide and gently rocking window.
The view from the Empire State Building. Damn, it's fine. I never saw the view from the Twin Towers - I had an attack of fear of heights combined with fear of being crushed in the elevator on the way up, and my sister kindly agreed to stay down on the ground with me, where we looked up and marveled at their height from below. I have pictures of that day - it's the last time I saw those towers alive.

I don't think I want to talk about the things I won't miss. It seems like insulting an ex after you've left and it's all history, and it was really just a difference of lifestyle and outlook - nothing worth dissing someone about behind their back.

Anyway, more things I'll miss:

Yonah Shimmel's wonderful knishes, hot from the microwave on a cold day - burn your hands and eat them with mustard. Gorgeous. Breakfast.

The gritty garment district, a hub of commerce and fashion students that makes everyone else feel out of place. I was sent there on a mission for bridal fabric for a friend once, and had a terrific time begging swatches from the salesfolk.

The lower east side: including accidental Shakespeare heard in a parking lot on a blazing hot day, glimpses of really old world Jewish culture like Bialys in the window, pickles sold out of barrels on the street, and encroaching chinatown.

Bridges. Queensboro in a cab - a long twisting view of the island behind and to the right. Brooklyn, perpetually for sale to suckers and always reminding me of that Cher movie. Manhattan - I never can figure out where it comes in, but I know it gave Dumbo its name and perhaps its chic.

A sudden burst of music from under the footbridges in Central Park. Mysterious, echoing, sometimes jazz, once an accordion played by a Polish immigrant under the decaying mosaics near the fountain.

Quite a piece of work, all in all. Good luck to you.