I think I’m in love.
Of course, I’ve thought I was in love before. But it was never for real. When I first moved to New York, I thought I loved the Lower East Side. But it was too hard. Too noisy. And after 9/11, too fraught with memory. We needed some time apart.
So I moved to Brooklyn. Where I thought I was in love again. But when I lost my job, the herd of toddlers living above me who treated the hallway above where I slept as their own personal playground and enjoyed flooding their bathtub so that it would rain down into my bathroom became too much. I fell out of love. I just couldn’t take it.
So I moved to Park Slope. I thought I loved Park Slope, but what I really loved was the park. I didn’t love the neighborhood. My feelings about my neighbors can be illustrated with a single anecdote. I was walking to the subway one morning, behind a gentleman in a suit, when a child on a tricycle zoomed past, nearly knocking me onto a stoop. The child smashed into the gentleman, the tricycle’s tire riding up his pants leg, smearing it with mud. The child’s mother ran up to him and screamed into his face, “Jesus Christ, why don’t you watch were you’re f*cking going!” I wasn’t in love with Park Slope.
So I moved to Cobble Hill. I did love Cobble Hill. And I loved the apartment I was in. But I didn’t love my roommate or the landlord who lived below us with his wife and two boys who felt our apartment was an extension of their apartment. They would just barge in at any time and make themselves at home. And their father often did the same thing. It was creepy and I already had a man in my life, so I decided to move in with him.
So I moved back to the Lower East Side. Things had changed in the neighborhood. It was even noisier than when I first lived there, and our apartment was so small and cramped. We tried to make it work, but it just wasn’t meant to be.
So we moved to Bay Ridge. There were times when I truly loved Bay Ridge. On foggy nights when I could hear ships talking to each other across the bay, over breakfast at Pegasus, while shopping along Fifth Avenue, during walks to Red Hook, when Fred was at our window. But those moments of love were far, far outweighed by dark, bleak, seemingly endless stretches of anger and hatred, brought on by the Sisyphean subway commutes. I would often arrive home in a towering rage, having left work after 8pm and getting home after nine, on a side closer to ten. It was not good. My nerves were fraying, as were Isaac’s.
So we moved to the Upper West Side. And here I sit, in our pretty little apartment with the sun streaming in through three big windows, a block and a half from Central Park, in the midst of a vibrant, grown up, happy neighborhood, chock full of restaurants and shops and groceries and museums.
It’s beautiful and I love it. Just yesterday I went for a run along the Hudson River. As I turned inland I began flagging. I ran up 80th Street and turned down Broadway. As I crossed 79th Street a man popped out of the subway, took one look at me and yelled “Come on girl! You can do it! Pick up those feet! RUN! RUN! RUN!” Everyone turned to stare at me and people giggled and muttered encouragement. And it worked. I picked up my pace and beat my sluggishness. I love this neighborhood.
I find it funny that in the ten years I have been in New York, until we moved here, I had probably ventured up to this area so infrequently I could count the number of visits on one hand. There was the time I took the wrong train, and the time I went to Fairway, the time I got my wisdom teeth out, and then there was one of the worst days of my entire career in New York.
It was while I was waitressing at a Mexican restaurant owned by a certain restaurant mega-group. They had such a regimented training program for their waitstaff that they felt confident in telling someone from one restaurant to go to another when they were short-staffed. One Sunday morning, I rolled into work, after having worked a double the day before and having missed the evening family meal. I was half-starved and exhausted.
And they told me to go to the Upper West Side to work brunch. The most hated assignment in the company.
I argued, I begged, I pleaded, and off I went, uptown. Of course I took the wrong train, got lost, arrived late, missed the family meal and was summarily shoved onto the floor where I was faced with a phalanx of angry grandmothers who wanted their bellinis now, but were being forced to wait until noon by New York’s liquor laws. They were cranky, they were grouchy and they were awful. Simply awful. Everything was wrong, nothing was ever right. Their eggs were overcooked, undercooked, too wobbly, too burnt. It was endless and exhausting.
So as noon rolled ever closer, the bartenders began lining up champagne glasses, some empty, some with little pools of peach nectar or orange juice at their bottoms. And then the clock hands aligned. The waiters lined up with our trays, corks popped, waterfalls of champagne were poured. I loaded up my tray, headed up the marble stairs to the mezzanine where I was waiting, and then I slipped.
CRASH!!! BANG!!! Tinkle! Thump. sob. I slid down the stairs, still clutching my tray, into the middle of the dining room, all eyes on me, staring, mouths agape, covered in champagne and juice. And then I started to cry. The regional manager, a tiny slip of a woman, marched over and picked up my not-insubstantial frame, frog-marched me through the dining room and tossed me into a coat closet where I proceeded to sob and sob and sob.
She came back a few minutes later with a sandwich and a glass of Coca-Cola. Ten minutes later I was back on the floor and managed to complete my shift plus a little extra. I splurged and took a taxi back downtown, and then splurged again on a bacon cheeseburger and more than one dirty martini. I vowed never to go back to the Upper West Side.
Thank god I don’t take my own word seriously. I still haven’t gone back to that restaurant yet, but I’ve thought about it. And you can rest assured that if I do, I will leave a very big tip for our waitress.