Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Moving to the Big City (or in a New York State of Mind)

on March 18, 2011
Broadway show billboards at the corner of 7th ...

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Like many of my blogging colleagues, I have moved many times in my life. I moved from the Seattle area to central PA when I was 16, which was quite a culture shock. It was the mid 90s and to go from the center of grunge culture to the Grange Fair was a bit jarring. But nothing prepared me for the experience of moving to New York City.

I have been living in central Pennsylvania for nine years when I decided to go to grad school at NYU. The choice was as much for the specific program as it was for the location. I knew I needed to get out of PA – I’ve always been more of a city girl and the country was getting to me. I arrived in the NYC metro area during the first week of September 2003, and I’ll admit, I was overwhelmed. It was the first time in my life that I got to choose where I lived. The moves prior to this one had been dictated by my family or necessity.

I spent the first few months there trying to figure out my way around. I actually lived in Jersey City, just across the Hudson from Manhattan.  I had to learn both the PATH train and the subways. I had to learn a new way of shopping – different stores for fruit and veggies, bread, meats. The grocery stores, for the most part, were totally different than I was used to. The aisles were barely wide enough for the mini shopping carts that they had.

The whole process of learning the city was exacerbated by the fact that I spent most of my time in Greenwich Village, a part of the city that is not on the grid system that New York is known for.  Where else does 3rd Street cross 10th Street? Anything above 14th Street was easy, but that’s not where I spent much time.

I moved into Manhattan when I was done with school.  I chose to live in the slightly more affordable Washington Heights (almost to Inwood.) I became very familiar with the A train, as well as the buses that went East and West across the Bronx (where I worked).  I learned to love public transportation and became very good at it.

I was told once that you need to live in NYC for ten years before you can really call yourself a New Yorker. I was only there for four years, but I feel I knew my way around better than a lot of people. For example, a couple of friends were in town for a Daly Chihuly exhibit at the NY Botanical Gardens. Being a volunteer at the Gardens, I got in for free and could bring up to four friends. We spent the day at the garden and then decided to go out for dinner and drinks that evening.  We headed down to the Times Square area – not my favorite, but there are a lot of options there.  We then found a great Scottish bar where the waiters were in kilts. After a few rounds, I was rather inebriated. We left the bar and were heading back to my place when my companions realized they didn’t know how to get home.  As not sober as I was, I was easily able to navigate us to the 42nd Street subway station, get us on the northbound A train, and got us off at the Dyckman Street station.

There are some days I really miss New York. I left almost four years ago, but I truly believe that there is no place like that city.

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