(A title taken from the second album of my most favourite singers of all time, Tim Buckley).
I never dreamed of NYC. I never even imagined moving here. My arrival in NYC in 2005 happened due to a string of circumstances at the time. I never once thought that this city would become my home, it was just supposed to be a slight pause on my way to California. And then I got into a cab at JFK with my 2 suitcases and saw the skyline from the highway. My heart told my brain “this is home”, and she was right. In the nearly eleven years that I have lived here I have never once regretted moving here. Wanted to run away at times? Yes. Never wanted to ever leave a 4 block radius? Most of the time. But I have no regrets at all, the random events that happened 11 years ago made this move a great choice of my life. This is why it breaks my heart to say goodbye.
In the second half of 2014 I wrote a love letter to NYC and posted it on my blog - all of this still stands. I know that not a week will go by when I will yearn for a bodega coffee and a walk down the street with my camera in hand. But not a day goes by right now when I don’t yearn for a walk up Orchard St, saying hi to friends along the way, popping into the French Diner for an omelette and to 200 for a pint. I walked down that block the other day and nearly burst into tears when I saw how unrecognizable it was. I felt completely disoriented and sad. 200, Taqueria, Bereket, all gone. The Sixth Ward empty and closed. But this is NYC, and this is how it goes, it changes constantly, she reinvents herself, evolves and as much as it saddens me, this will never change. All we have left are our memories, and they will always remain. This will not be an “I’m leaving because I can’t afford it anymore” rant. This will also not be a heartbroken “I have to leave but want to stay” essay. While both statements hold some truths in them, it’s a lot more than that. I dream of slightly different things now.
I dream of a back yard for the kids to run around in. I dream of a porch for me to sit on and write. I dream of a dog or two playing with the kids in the backyard. I dream of Cesar working “normal” hours and having time to play with his kids and hang out with me. I dream of being able to afford a place with more than one room, where the girls have their own room, we have ours and there would even be a room for guests. Our current super has lived in a 2 bedroom apartment in this building with his wife and 3 teenage kids for years now. That works for them. It isn’t how I imagine our future. I dream of Cesar having his own area to paint and create and listen to his music full blast without me telling him to turn it down because a child is sleeping, or our upstairs neighbour is being an asshole. I dream of having my own writing space where I can cover the walls with quotes and pictures and inspiring pieces of paper.
I used to dream a lot about bringing the kids up in the city, just Cesar and me against the world, but over the past few months, especially after having Aurora, I have started to feel more despondent and the city has begun to lose her magic. I never want her to lose her magic. However much she changes, I want her to always hold that special feeling for me, the one that makes me sigh with relief and opens my heart. I don’t want to leave with the feeling that we got run down by the hardships and the day to day life. Yes, life can be incredibly hard here; every day is a hustle for us. I used to love that hustle, the unknown, the idea that one always needs to fight to survive here, but now, with a family, I want more than just survival. My life has been full of spur of the moment choices and decisions that have helped make it into something wonderful and creative and spectacular at times, and this is just another step in the journey.
So we told our landlord to list the apartment he was holding for us upstairs, got one way tickets for us and the cat for the end of the month, and booked the movers. I’m nervous and scared of missing this city that I have called home for so long, but I’m also excited to see what the changes will offer us and what it will be like to be close to family again after all of these years being so far away. Apart from both my mother and my sister living in the city for a few years I haven’t lived close to my family for over 15 years now. It will be wonderful for the kids to grow up near their Nana.
So there it is. I have way too many memories to fit in one blog post. Enough memories for several novels, collections of essays and short stories. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful and the in-between. Just life in general. With a little distance I may actually be able to finish something properly, make a real effort to continuously submit articles over and over again and not get discouraged by a “no” or a “maybe”. Write a real book. And by the time the kids go to school actually make a real living from writing. (And yes, I know I need to start believing in myself a little more). I was so used to packing up and moving on before I came here, dipping my toes into the waters, sometimes even submerging my body, and then jumping out and onwards. I never once imagined that I would leave here a decade later with a family.
So, so long city I never dreamed would become my real home. You will always be my home, even if I have to lay my head elsewhere for a while.
I spent the last few days perusing thousands of photos on Flickr, my Facebook and Instagram pages, and saved a few to a new album entitled Over a Decade in NYC. Hardly a smidgen of the memories I have, and nowhere near complete, but a glance at friends, some no longer friends, others closer than ever, and good times over the past 11 years. It was a real trip down nostalgia lane! I also have a collection of NYC-related albums on Flickr, that can be found here if you are really bored. Who knows, you may well find yourself somewhere.
(We are leaving on January 31st. I will try to organize a little get together before we go, probably at Dorian Gray or the Half Pint, seeing as my two favourite bars of all time, 200 Orchard and Motorcity do not exist anymore).
O the new children dance -- I am young
All around the balloons -- I will live
Swaying by chance -- I am strong
To the breeze from the moon -- I can give
Painting the sky -- You the strange
With the colors of sun -- Seed of day
Freely they fly -- Feel the change
As all become one -- Know the Way
Tim Buckley – Goodbye and Hello