I don’t know if late September can be classified as “dog days” of summer anymore, but it’s a hot day in Texas, and it’s not even 9 am. Texas has a way of holding back fall until you are so grateful for it, you begin to declare it your “favorite season” on those dumb social media questionnaires.
Today I’m trying to embrace the warmth. Stepping out of the shower, I catch a glimpse of my tan lines. They are fading, but still hold the memories of a South American sun, coaxing me into the pool at a hacienda in Anapoima. The weather, the house, the pool, the food and the views were all perfect in a picture-postcard kind of way. But what made it special was the company. My cousins (the hosts), and their friends created a vacation to remember. The drinks, games, stories and laughter were the filling that turned a beautiful crust into a State Fair Blue-Ribbon pie! So I take the dog onto the back porch and stretch out in the morning sun, closing my eyes and trying to imagine I’m back in Colombia.
The problem is that I’m not missing the place as much as I’m missing the people.
The PLACE I’m missing is New York. And damnit I realize I sound like a broken record. I am happy in this moment. I truly am. I am back with family and friends who, honestly, I haven’t spent much time with over the last two years. The address on my driver’s license suggests I am “home”. So why, when I think of New York, do I feel “homesick”?
In the quiet moments since I’ve been back (and surprisingly, there have been a few), I find myself experiencing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) about New York City.
I haunt the pages on Instagram of all my NYC photographer friends. Desperate for “word from home”. I have missed the Tribute in Light, a full moon, rain. I haven’t actually “missed” anything. I just wasn’t there. The world keeps turning. The sun rises and sets over Manhattan whether I’m there or not. Even the animals and people who would miss me aren’t there any more. They are on the left coast. And yet… full-on FOMO.
A cold nose nudges my shoulder. Coco has had enough sun and is ready to head inside. I open my eyes and squint at the windmill and its shadow on the fence, both silently spinning in the breeze. Seashell windchimes rattle softly, the sound reminding me of a Caribbean seashore once upon a time. The waves lapping against a beach made of shells and rocks. Another place I miss, but because of the people I was with at the time.
I follow Coco back inside and the air conditioning makes me shiver. I head to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. I reach for a mug. “I ❤️ NY”. I giggle. The two mugs next to it are from Broadway shows. Next to that, a mug from one of my favorite NYC diners. The mug beyond that is a sunshine-yellow enamel mug with a guinea fowl on the front. My toothbrush lived in it on the bathroom counter when I stayed in New York. I choose that one, and fill it with coffee for the first time. For a moment, I thought I heard all the other mugs cheering as they watched their pal finally getting used for his intended purpose.
I look for answers in the steam. It reminds me of the Cat-In-The-Hat pipes that vent steam from the mysterious underground of the city. I took pictures and videos of it while I was there, but nothing really captures what it’s like to stand on one side of 5th Avenue on a cold night, watching the taxicabs through clouds of steam, and then looking up to see the Empire State Building. I think I could live in that city for the rest of my life and STILL become a tourist in those moments.
With a little caffeine comes clarity. I know what I miss. What I will always miss. The energy. ENERGY. I just felt like I needed to capitalize that word. In between the Hudson and East River, there is magic. The past and the present have converged, and if there ever was a time machine, this is where it lives. Everyone lives here. Everyone has visited. In this life or another. The buildings remain. The history remains. The energy remains.
I realize that I had FOMO while I was living there. On the days I stayed inside, I felt as if I were missing out on some great adventure outside. I would be pressed against the window, watching the world go by on the street. And when I would be on one side of the city, I would wonder what was going on at the other side. I would often zig-zag through villages. Trying to walk every street. Cover all the ground. I didn’t want to miss a thing.
While standing 150 feet above Hudson Yards, the sun slowly melting into New Jersey and casting purple reflections across the Hudson River, a friend asked me what I loved most about New York. I wasn’t ready for the question. As helicopters buzzed the skies, and hundreds of other people crowded to see the same sunset, the world suddenly felt still and quiet. I couldn’t come up with one answer. I began to list, “The people, the architecture, the history…”. Those things were on the top of an ever-growing list. Ask anyone who has lived or visited. The shows, the talent, the food. The subway (love it or hate it, it’s one of the stars if the New York show), the food. THE FOOD. Name it, they have it. And it’s always “the best of” whatever it is. (I’m hungry as I type this).
But how can there ever be one answer? New York City is an ever-changing, ever-growing and ever-evolving force, rooted in history and tradition. Standing on that island is like standing on the intersection of yesterday and the future. A real-world Disney city. As I move through the streets, I feel like a time traveler. And a world traveler. Listening as conversations move past me, there are more languages than I can count (or recognize!). And I am sharing the same space with millions of people. Locals and tourists. Rich, poor, homeless. Famous and forgotten. And yet I never feel overwhelmed or swallowed up in it all. There are times when I find myself completely alone on a street, and it is always surreal. I am never lost on the streets of Manhattan.
I am never lost on the streets of Manhattan. When I typed that sentence, I realized my answer. I may have been born in New Jersey, raised everywhere, and live in Texas… but New York feels like home. THAT is what I love best about the city.
My soul calls New York City “Home”.
It’s been 4 months since I first wrote this. I got sidetracked and never came back to it for editing. I pulled it up to edit and I need to add a couple things.
Our beloved dog, Coco, left this world on December 16th. I am still grieving the loss.
Since writing this, I have not been back to the city. I have missed Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and the first snow of winter. I had a particularly bad day at work a couple weeks ago, and found myself buying a round-trip ticket to NYC, which instantly made me feel better. I booked the tickets without a place to stay, and that didn’t bother me even a teeny bit. There is a see-saw art installation on Broadway, and I’m going to see it. I’ve found a restaurant and a bar from a television series, and I’m going to have breakfast and a drink and take pictures and talk to people. I’m going to walk as many miles along sidewalks and over bridges as I can in 3 days. And then I will come home after getting my “fix”.
Some people have alcohol or cigarettes or drugs or gambling.
I have New York.