City Diaries: "My First New York"
In honor of this year's first snow, I thought I'd share a short essay I posted almost exactly one year ago on Medium, before 5th Floor Walk-Up existed. This time of year is all about reflection, and sometimes it's nice to just go back and relive the old things you've written instead of always trying to create something new. Hope you enjoy!
On the way back from my first client meeting, I took a lunch break.
This wasn’t the kind of lunch break where I hastily grabbed my app-ordered salad and hurried back to the office, scarfing down organic greens in between traffic lights.
Nope. It was the kind of lunch break where I spoke the words “For…here” and felt a rush of freedom—indulging in some sort of forbidden, clandestine meal.
As I sat on a barstool near the ordering counter, I noticed a little teal book atop a heap of odd reads and old magazines. (This lunch spot served wine and coffee in the same cups and had bartenders who called to regulars by name…so doubling as a used bookstore did not feel out of place.)
I slowly thumbed through the pages, as it had regrettably been a while since I’d opened a proper book. It was a welcomed change from thumbing through the same Instagram feed I’d looked at 5 minutes prior—a millennial tick I was determined to shake with this moment of rediscovered-literacy.
My First New York.
An anthology of sorts, I knew it was my kind of read—easy to pick up and put down at any given moment. The type of book perfect for commitment phobes who only consider themselves “Readers” on summer vacations or a rare lazy Saturday afternoon.
The book was comprised of people’s first experiences living in New York City, with a couple names I immediately recognized. I opened to Dan Rather’s story, where he recalled having a “Cortez Moment”—a Texan phrase that gives a nod to the Spanish explorer who burned his boats once he discovered Mexico—after living in the city for a while.
“When you move here,” he said, “if you’re any good at all, you burn the boats.”
In the early chapter of my own New York adventure, that phrase has stuck with me.
This past weekend, as I stumbled down Prince Street after shopping for winter essentials like thermal tights and wool socks (items I probably would have already had in my closet had I not just moved from Los Angeles), I experienced my first NYC snow. It started little by little, flake by flake, and then came all at once in a flurry that left most people sharing my narrow Soho sidewalk seemingly unprepared.
I fumbled in my bag and magically found an umbrella. With cold hands, covered by size-too-large borrowed gloves, I held my umbrella tight and walked in the snow.
As I turned the corner, I saw snow falling on the Christmas trees for sale at the sidewalk stand by my apartment. It was one of those magical New York moments where the words “Winter Wonderland” were exchanged genuinely and un-ironically between myself and the stand owner as I walked by.
Yet, instead of losing myself in the NYC holiday dream, all I could think of was that fake snow flocking all the SoCal Christmas tree farms offer for an extra $15. And I decided then and there, I preferred the real thing.
A far cry from the expertly sprayed trees in sunny LA, it was in that moment…I burned the boats.
My first NYC snow.
My First New York.