There’s No Place Like Home

It’s funny, but I barely remember the first time I visited New York. I was nine years old, and went with my Dad and brother to see the World’s Fair in Queens. I remember the It’s a Small World Exhibit, but mostly I remember the car ride home on the Jersey Turnpike, gazing out at the brightly lit New York skyline and realizing for the first time that if it’s dark outside, you can actually look sideways out the window and not get car sick.

The next time I visited New York, I was on an eight grade class trip. I think we went to the United Nations, but I don’t recall that. Here are the two things I do remember – (1) singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall”while stuck in traffic coming out of the Lincoln Tunnel onto 42nd Street, which in those days was lined with Peep Shows and Porn Shops and (2) being a smart-ass with my friends and leaving a one-cent tip at the restaurant in Tudor City where we were packed in and served overcooked Salisbury Steak, which was basically inedible. (Even then, I was a food critic..)

The third time I visited New York, I fell in love.

It was a day trip I took during college with my best friends. I think we must have seen a play, but for the life of me, I don’t remember what it was. This time it was lunch at Mama Leone’s, which even I, the rube from Philly, recognized as cattle call for tourists – the place was loud and packed and I felt like a number.  And the portions?  HUGE. Like “I think I’m gonna’ be sick”, huge.  So we decided to walk it off with a stroll in Central Park. And it was there, sitting under the Wisteria Arbor on the West Drive, that I fell. Hard.

Maybe it was  the intoxicating floral perfume. Combined with post-prandial carbohydrate overload and a bit of a buzz from the wine we had with lunch. And a warm spring day and best friends. And that skyline. (Clearly, it was not the food…) All I knew was – I was in love. With a city. And I knew – I had to move here.

So after college, I did. I spent two years living in the Village and going to grad school at NYU, a time during which I moved four times with a succession of three different room mates, ran out of money after 6 months and started working full time and going to school at night, lost my innocence and my baby fat, suffered a few bouts of great loneliness, fell in love,  had my heart broken and broke one myself, and tried and failed to get into medical school, until I tried again and was accepted to a school back in Philly. I was so happy to just get in that I didn’t think twice about leaving New York. I had more important things to do than be in love with a city.

So, I moved back home. Where I got my MD, did a residency, joined a med school faculty, moved a few more times. Alone the way, I met Mr TBTAM and the rest is history on that front. We had a kid, bought a house – you know the deal. I think I came back up to New York to visit once or twice, but my heart was in Philly. Or so I thought. Until one day, during a time when I was feeling a bit frustrated in my job, someone offered me another one here. It took me about a minute to consider it before I knew the answer had to be yes. It took Mr TBAM a little longer than that to warm to the idea, but he pretty quickly did (not that I gave him much choice). So we sold the house and the car, took the kid and moved to the Big Apple.

That was almost 16 years ago. Since then, we’ve only moved once, within the same building, to a bigger apartment. We lucked into the world’s best nanny, had another kid and sent both our girls to NYC public schools, which have their problems but have overall served us well. And I learned that while New York City can sometimes be a lonely place for a single person, it’s heaven for a family.

Needless to say, New York City and I are still going strong. Which is not to say that I am happy 24-7, or that life has been perfect. Because it is not. For a time there around 9-11, New York and I were in a rough patch. Not that I ever thought of leaving, because I didn’t.  But it wasn’t fun in those days – how could it be?  And yet, we came through it, New York and I, stronger than ever. We made it through the worst and are still together.

Now, I don’t think a day goes by that I don’t get that little jump of joy to realize that I call this place home. Like when I walk home from a play on Broadway. Or head to the bus after a parent teacher conference and find myself on the steps of Lincoln Center. Or stop in at St Patrick’s to light a candle for my Mom. Or strike up a conversation at the hair dressers with another client and find out she’s getting ready to sing in the Opera that night at the Met. Or ride my bike in Central Park, shop for dinner at the Union Square Market, go to a Friday night movie at the Film Forum, get off the subway at Bryant Park to meet a friend for lunch, stop in at the Metropolitan Museum after a doctor’s appointment or gaze out the window of the bus home from Laguardia Airport and realize I’ve just passed 5 Equadorian restaurants in two blocks and wonder how soon I can come back to try one of them.

You know that feeling you get when you walk in the door of your house after a crazy day, or a long trip away? You drop your bags and your heart rate slows down, your spine softens, your feet sink into the entryway carpet and you feel every muscle in your body relax. Everything’s right again. You’re home.

Well, that’s exactly how I feel now when I come out of the Lincoln Tunnel onto 42nd street. It’s absolutely  true. I just sink down in my seat, look out the window, take a long, deep, contented breath, and smile as I head into that bright as day all night long, neon-plastered, subway faster, tourist gawking, vendor hawking, corporate whoring, pigeon soaring, traffic stalling, theater crawling, Big Ball falling, pedestrian malling, tour bus loading, restaurant rowing, taxi honking, honkey-tonking place called Times Square.

I’m home.

21 Responses to There’s No Place Like Home

  1. Well you are living my dream. I would love love love to live in NY. I too have a love affair with the city but sadly it's long distance. I'm here in CA. If it were not for all my family being here I would be packing my bags so fast to move to NY.

    You are so so very lucky!


  2. such a love affair! i recognize the emotions, although my heart is in a little city near S.F. — not in it, but close enough. home.

  3. How about picking up the Sunday New York Times on Saturday night? Bliss.

    You have captured it perfectly, the sense of belonging to the greatest city in the world. I was born in Columbia Presbyterian and grew up in Washington Heights, with both my grandma's on the same street.

    My parents decided it would be healthier to live in the 'country' so we moved to NJ when I was a teenager. But New York was still where I had my summer job in college (Circle Line) and where I flew back the minute I graduated.

    Then for some reason my husband and I decided we wanted to live at the shore, so we moved here 30 years ago and raised our family here.

    But I will always be a New Yorker at heart. Thank you for a wonderful portrait of your love affair with the city!

  4. What a wonderful love affair you have with NYC. I missed the boat, so to speak, about moving to the City, though I live just 12 miles away in Jersey. But both my kids attend college in the Big App and I love coming in to visit them, get something to eat, see a show or go to a street fair, etc., etc.

  5. I just want to say that I can relate to your post so much. I am currently a third year medical student, and I spent some time in New York City during my undergrad years and before I started med school. I fell in love with it… my favorite memories are walking through the city… just getting to know it. I loved Irving Place… and Caracas, the arepa bar down in the Lower East Village. Sometimes, especially during the stressful times of third year… I think back on it as such a happy place. Like a warm cocoon. By the way… I absolutely love your blog. I am on my ob-gyn rotation right now… on labor and delivery days (writing from the floor!)… so a lot of your articles are relevant to what I'm doing. I have started a medical student/food blog recently… so that's what led me to your page. So…thumbs up! I will definitely be following you! I've already added you to my blogroll!

  6. I hope you don't mind, but I just linked to you on my blog entry for the day. Your words express exactly my feelings of love for this amazing City.

  7. Dr B- I read your post – happy to have you link here. We are of one mind when it comes to this city…

  8. What a fun post! I've been to NYC only once (last summer) and I really liked it, but don't know if I could ever live there! It was so surreal to me that there would be people out on the streets at 2 or 3 AM, just walking around like it was daylight, and that there were places open, too?! Such a different feeling in NYC… maybe if I tried it, I would like it! But for now, the south is going to stay my home!

  9. Awesome post. Well written…We are a flip of the coin, as I'm always trying to shake the small-town boy from me and can't…

    Thanks for sharing your words.

  10. This- this is it. Every single word rings true, especially the second to last paragraph. This is why I don't think I'll ever leave the place I was born. I went skating at Bryant Park, back when there seemed to be no end to the terrible winter. I looked up, skates hanging from my hand, and saw the Empire State Building, with a halo of red and green, clear in the night sky. It was a moment I'll never forget.

  11. Sorry to post a little after the fact, but…

    I am looking at ob/gyn residency sites, and I was thinking of St. Luke / Roosevelt. What do you think about it? Do you think it would be difficult to move my PE coach husband, two sons, and animals from the suburbs of Florida to NYC?

    My brother works in Manhattan and lives in NJ, and I have other friends in the city. I think I would love it as a single woman, but have some trepidation about moving my family there, especially if it will be in the rush between the match and starting as an intern.

  12. I know EXACTLY how that feels! I grew up in Forest Hills, Queens and rarely saw the beauty of Manhattan until I high school when I went to Stuy. It was soo refreshing waking up at 6 every morning and taking the subway with all the white collar workers, wandering preachers, homeless, immigrants, EVERYONE! And then after school we had the city within our grasp. We could walk over to Chinatown/Little Italy/Soho, hang out at Union Square/St. Mark’s Place, or use our extra Student Metro Card ride to go ANYWHERE!

    I feel like I really took this freedom for granted now that I’m in Philly for school. Just like you I had to say farewell to my beloved city so I can pursue my dreams of medicine. But still, I miss and love my city so much!! I especially miss the good bubble tea, Japanese food, and all the amazing ethnic foods we have. And I really miss the bajillions of busy people I can lose myself in, reminding me of how insignificant I am yet instilling within me a sense of belonging in such a majestic city.

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