Alright, I know American Thanksgiving is still a couple of weeks away. And of course, my people already had our day of turkey and root vegetables a month back. Still, I’d like to express my gratitude for the time I’ve spent in New York this week – and on all my previous visits, too.
I think I tend to be a fairly practical person, grounded in the here-and-now and not prone to seeing any kind of larger meaning in the happenings around me. But for a long time now I’ve imagined a sort of mystical connection between my writing career and my time in NYC. Whenever I come to visit, it seems, good things happen: I got an email offering me my first ever magazine assignment while I was working at the NYPL during a short visit in May 2008; I flew in on my last airline points for a Restless Legs reading in October 2008, and during the post-event schmoozing an editor offered me a monster writing contract that cleared away my credit card debt and got me out of my mother’s spare room (thanks, Mom!); on every trip here I’ve met writers in person whose work I’ve admired online and in print, and found invaluable inspiration in talking to them at bars, coffee shops, restaurants and the occasional swanky PR event.
New York even manages to clear room in my schedule for those solitary basics I often neglect at home: a rainy afternoon in a coffee shop or a quiet night on the couch, getting caught up on my magazine reading.
Of course, a lot of that good fortune I just described can be attributed to the generosity of the travel writing community here in New York, rather than serendipity. Still, it’s hard to shake the idea that the city is my good luck charm.
This visit has been as helpful and energizing as the rest. I attended three readings – one starring Frank Bures, and two for the new food-themed Lonely Planet anthology, A Moveable Feast – and had drinks and lunches with other writers nearly every day. For me, there’s nothing like interacting with people who are in the same line of work to get me fired up all over again about writing. I’m headed back to Whitehorse feeling re-charged. So thanks to all of you who’ve made time for me here in New York over the last three years – and thanks, New York City.
One quick postscript: For all the time I’ve spent here over the last while (I’d guess close to six months spread out over 3.5 years), I’ve rarely written much about the city. I did write one blog post on the Matador Travel community blog, during my second short visit in December 2007, that still rings true. I was explaining my love for many of the cities I visit – here’s the key section:
Most often, this love takes a clear form in my trip journal: I declare that I’d like to live there, and then clarify what I’d like to do while living there.
In Istanbul, I wanted to be a diplomat, live in Beyoglu and roll in posh-yet-intellectually-stimulating expat circles. I wanted to eat out more often than not, and recline on patios overlooking the city’s domed skyline, sipping apple tea.
In Budapest, I wanted to teach English, live in a grubby flat off Andrassi Ut, buy my groceries from the eternally-frowning middle-aged cashiers at the Szupermarket, and jog along the Danube early in the morning.
In Siena, I wanted to stay for a summer and write a mystery novel. In Venice I wanted to do the same, only I wanted to stay for a year.
In Florence, I wanted to come back again and again, maybe spending a month or two each spring at the same smart guesthouse. I wanted to buy sealed jars of high-end olive oil and jars of peppers or sundried tomatoes packed in oil, and I wanted to know how to cook with them. I wanted to be someone who sends Christmas cards, so that I would have a use for all the thick creamy cards decorated with tasteful religious imagery in the shops along the Arno.
Now the funny thing is, I have no desire to join the public service, I don’t even read mystery novels, and I never, ever jog.
So perhaps earlier on I should have said: Most often, this love takes a clear form in my trip journal. I declare that I’d like to live there, and then clarify who I’d like to be while living there.
New York City, in case you haven’t guessed, is my latest love. But this time, I think it’s for real. And that’s because the person I’d like to be when I walk around the Lower East Side, or through Central Park, or up and down the hip streets of Williamsburg, or back and forth across any of the bridges, is the same person I am becoming anyway – or trying to become – with or without a home in New York.
When I’m in New York I want to write. I want to go for long walks, watch independent movies, read the paper over a latte, sit by the river and people-watch. When I’m in New York I want to travel, knowing that when I leave on each trip I’ll be as excited about where I am going as I am about coming home.