Falling For New YorkPosted: October 16, 2009
I just spent several days in my hometown of New York City. I haven’t lived there for a long time now, and in many ways it’s a very different city than the one I grew up in. It’s not just that they keep renaming all the subway lines (what happened to the “RR?” I miss hearing the conductor say “This is the ara, ara train.”)
New York is a city that seems to reinvent itself overnight. You go to sleep with a coffee shop on the corner, and the next morning it’s a hat store. I know that’s what makes the city so exciting and vibrant, but you can’t drink a beret, so off you go to find a new coffee shop. Yesterday is old news. You gotta move on. New York keeps you on your toes.
One morning I went out in search of my morning latte, and I decided to try a place my father had suggested. He said they had pastries from Balthazar, a very trendy high-end French restaurant with an amazing bakery, and it was where the locals went. Apparently it was tucked into an cramped turn-of-the-century building, and was filled with authentic New York City charm and character.
I was feeling pretty good as I sauntered into the cafe. I tossed out my order to the disinterested counter guy, maintaining the perfect mix between being civil and not looking like I cared. I felt like a real New Yorker again. I took my latte and delicious almond croissant and decided to go upstairs to the small loft area where there were several tables. As I made my way up the steep, narrow steps, I was excited, although I took care not to show it. I had a chic little scarf tossed over my all-black outfit, which I felt gave me a certain je ne sais quoi. I was home, baby! This was where I belonged, not LA, where I always felt like an awkward outsider. After all, I knew how to navigate this town. Nothing rattled me. As I reached the top step, I reflected that a real New Yorker —
WHAM! All of a sudden my arms flew up, my coffee went flying, and I was down on the floor on all fours. I watched my croissant land in the corner, right next to the trash. Apparently the top step was not where I thought it was. Two very trendy Manhattanites sat nearby, watching me. Had they been entertained by my little performance of Swan Lake, there at the top of the stairs?
I looked at the pair for a moment, thinking one of them might get up and come over, but they just went back to their conversation. I picked myself up, retrieved my latte, which somehow had kept it’s lid on and managed not to spill, and glanced at the croissant – my beautiful almond croissant from trendy Balthazar, which was now covered with authentic New York City dirt. I tossed it into the trash and walked past the coffee-drinkers. I tried to think of something to say as I passed by – “Next show at 10:00!” or “If you liked that, you should see my double back flip.” But I couldn’t come up with anything witty enough.
I went to a table in the corner and sat down with my coffee. My knee was bruised from where I fell on it, but not as bruised as my dignity. My je ne sais quoi had definitely left the building, taking any fantasies of myself as a chic New Yorker with it. I was who I was, and it didn’t matter what city I lived in, or what outfit I wore. It was obvious I didn’t belong here anymore. They all knew I was a fraud. A clumsy, bumpkin fraud from LA. I felt their pity, their contempt, their eyes boring into me.
I looked up at all the real New Yorkers, and I realized that absolutely nobody was looking at me. Nobody cared. It was already in the past. It was old news. And I suddenly realized that I didn’t care, either. Time to move on. Time to buy another almond croissant.
New York. It has a way of keeping you on your toes.