I think some people are just meant to be here and that I am one of them.
Nine years ago, I packed my bags, tucked my dwarf rabbit into a travel crate and moved to New York City. From where doesn’t matter—let’s just say I had been traveling down the boulevard of broken dreams for a long time and was craving an opportunity to reboot my life. I was longing to be alone in a sea of strangers, none of whom knew me or expected me to do anything other than mind my own business. A short-term visa and a one-way ticket to a foreign place on another continent, where I had no friends, job or apartment became the perfect escape.
In hindsight, I could probably have gone anywhere that offered enough possibilities for anonymity on the other hand, and fresh starts on the other. But somehow, I had my heart set on New York. This is where you go to be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do. Which was just what I did.
Everyone seems to have their own New York story. In fact, everyone seems to have an opinion about New York, regardless of whether they’ve lived or even been here. Not to mention their own memories, recollections and anecdotes about the city—good, bad or ugly. Clearly, that coveted New York City experience comes in all shapes and sizes. To me, it’s been all about little moments like the following:
1. Living for three months in a filthy, roach-infested SRO in Chelsea and loving every second of it. Moving out when the cravings for a private bathroom become unbearable.
2. Passing out at the Siren Festival and waking up just in time for the Spoon show. Batting your lashes at the medic who revived you and asking him if he can get you a piña colada.
3. Strutting through Times Square and down Seventh Avenue like John Travolta in Staying Alive after the opening of your first Broadway—uh, I mean off-Broadway—show, still wearing your stage make-up and costume.
4. Sitting on your fire escape, smoking Gauloises and peeking down on St Mark’s Place and the punks, homeless and free spirits. Walking by years later and complaining loudly about how “commercialized” the block has become since you moved.
5. Receiving unwanted fur coats and faux diamonds as gifts from equally unwanted admirers. Reselling said items on Ebay and using the money for a yoga studio membership.
6. Waiting for two hours to get seated at some overly hyped brunch spot. Getting so hungry and cranky that your friends dump you at the nearest Dunkin’ Donuts.
7. Hitch-hiking in the middle of the night with a Chinese truck driver, from the dodgy parts of Chinatown all the way home to the Village. Smelling like rotten fish for the following two days.
8. Seeing your favorite bands in concert at tiny (or tiny-ish) venues, such as Luna, Lakeside, CBGB or Sin-é, before they became famous and everyone suddenly claimed to like them.
9. Going to the free clinic for a physical when you lose your health insurance and almost getting mistaken for an upscale call girl. Not wearing expensive-looking jewelry for your next visit.
10. Singing karaoke at Continental with your then-sort-of-boyfriend and his band mates, alternating between “Heart of Glass” and “One Way or Another.” Not giving a damn that you’re a terrible vocalist.
Nine years and counting, my love affair with New York is still rock solid. I know Manhattan rents are ridiculously outrageous and that the checks I write to my landlord could buy a castle in some godforsaken remote location. I’m aware that the weather here sucks, there are too many potholes in the streets and that the island sometimes smells like syrup. But who cares?
I believe no one summarized it better than Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City:
If you can only have one great love, then the city just may be mine. And I don’t want nobody talkin’ shit about my boyfriend.
How could I not second that?! The city is like that annoying but charming guy, who drives you crazy but makes you smile so often that you’ll ignore any of his flaws. The one who uses his laundry quarters to play your favorite song on the jukebox in some dive bar. The one who bends down in the middle of the street and pulls up your slouchy boots so that your legs will stay warm. The one who knows where to buy the best bagels. The one who will disappear completely, but show up and be there for you when you need him the most. The kind of guy who’s mostly good, sometimes a little bad and occasionally downright ugly—and somehow gets away with it.
I’m so happy that we met. And Carrie, I hope you’ll forgive me for stealing your boyfriend.
Malin Bergman is an ashtanga yogi, indie film and music aficionado, often-cheating vegan and failed ballerina, who sleeps like a starfish and refuses to accept that Pluto is no longer a planet. She loves green figs, anything crochet, horses, Coney Island, second-hand book stores and the guy who plays piano in Washington Square Park. She seldom leaves her house without giant shades, a mug of black coffee and her Chinese Crested darling dog, Angel.
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