Welcome to New York 101

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What is fall without a Taylor Swift album? The pop sensation tends to release an album every other fall which leaves me wondering whether the turning of the leaves indicates the changing weather, or if they just countdown the days to Swift’s upcoming release. Swift recently dropped her latest album, 1989. A catchy mix of songs intertwined with sounds flashing back to the 80’s. Being a music nerd, after Swift’s release, I found myself in a committed relationship with the computer screen obsessing over why she wrote each song, who it was about, and where she was when she wrote it. Swift’s new sound has been influenced by her recent move to New York which she explains in her opening track, “Welcome To New York”.

I read an amazing article written by Sophie Gilbert who stated that “Taylor Swift’s New York Is Not Your New York”. Which I totally agree with…Much like Gilbert says, Swift will not experience the creaky floorboards, the rats, the Sex And The City feeling every time that she goes out for drinks.

However, the amazing thing about New York is that no matter who you are, where you are from, or how much money you have, New York is YOUR New York.

I am going to break this down for you using the lyrics to the chart topping song “Welcome to New York”.

“Welcome to New York, it’s been waiting for you”

If there is any moment that I could relive day by day, it would be the moment that I moved to the city for the summer. Nostalgia overtakes me as I remember looking out of the plane window that early summer morning on my 6 A.M. flight. I kept looking at the islands that my plane soared over thinking “Is that it?”…Nope. “Is that one it?”…nope. But the moment that I saw that beloved city, I knew…THAT was it.

I exited that plane with more confidence than a model on a runway. I didn’t even know where to get my luggage, but I followed the other passengers on my flight and imagined the things that they had planned for their day in that big city. I hailed a cab and possibly had the best, and most expensive ride in a car that I have ever experienced.

My driver dropped me off on the corner of 3rd and 23rd, where I encountered two homeless people, my heel getting caught in a steam grate and an extremely nice maid, Estella Bird, who helped me tote my two suitcases to my small and not so charming dorm room.

As a result of my sleepless night that I had in the Atlanta airport the night before, I was in desperate need of a power nap. However, the honks of taxis and commotion on the street was stronger than adrenaline in my veins. I was restlessly awake and anxious to find my grounds there in Greenwich Village.

I wondered through the grid of Manhattan and found myself in places I had never seen, places that I wanted to see, places that I probably didn’t need to be and places that I felt that I had belonged all along. Though my body was in mission mode, my feet took a beating and suffered the rest of my stay there in that concrete jungle. In fact, getting out of bed in the morning and onto my feet was an actual fear. The touch of my foot on my scratched and beat up hardwood floor made every inch of my body hurt…

“It’s a new soundtrack, I could dance to this beat forevermore”

My feet hurt. I had no money for $400 shoes or $20 meals. I didn’t know how to work the subway or how I liked my coffee. I didn’t know what “on line” meant and I didn’t know what the lights on top of cabs meant…but I liked it.

My reasoning for venturing to NYC (other than the fact that I knew I was destined to be there) was a class at New York University, a music journalism class that I knew that I would thrive in. The confidence that was coursing through my body at the airport dissapeared when I found myself wandering through the village to find the building that my class was in. Trying to maintain the status as a Manhattan resident, asking for directions was a last resort. However, I blew my cover that day while trying to navigate my way to Cooper Square.

When I finally found my building, the “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore” realization set in when I had to show my student ID (which I whipped out like it was a police badge) and take an elevator to the 6th floor just to get to my classroom, filled with all girls. Girls that weren’t draped in nike shorts and big greek t-shirts. Girls that wore heels and did their hair and makeup perfectly before stepping onto the streets to get to class. I was in a room full of girls whose eyeliner didn’t smudge and mine had already sweated off.

My teacher, Will, who works for Rolling Stone introduced himself and explained the things that we would learn in the class that we had registered for. We did the whole “first day of class” thing where we talk about ourselves and had to choose the words carefully to make our very best impression. As I listened to the biographies of other girls, I realized that I didn’t know as much about music as I thought. I wasn’t as good of a writer as I thought. It challenged me.

A girl sitting next to me, outspoken with an accent, introduced herself. She was from Michigan and came to the city for the same reasons that I did. At the end of her self description she said “oh yeah, and I need friends so my name is Natalie…”

And I took her up on that. I found myself standing next to her at a window after class taking a picture of the village skyline like two tourists. Natalie and I figured out that city together. We paid $15 for movie tickets to sit in extravagant theatres with balconies, walked 40 blocks looking for food and found oursleves eating at the “touristy” Olive Garden in Times Square, sunbathed on the Sheep’s Meadow, walked the Brooklyn Bridge, and looked hopelessly for people who had made a name in that city and hoped that we would someday too.

“Everybody here wanted something more, searching for a sound we hadn’t heard before”

No matter where you are in New York, physically or emotionally, you are not alone. Not at two in the morning, not at a coffee shop, park, or in your own home, where you generally live beside, under, and above someone else in your building. Everyone in New York is searching for something… A name, money, “Labels and Love”, change.

I was searching for myself.

I found that the Manhattan skyline seen from the Brooklyn Bridge or the top of 230 5th makes me tear up. I found that an expensive cup of coffee is the same thing as a cheap one on the street. I found that giving money to homeless people truly makes me happy. I found that street and subway performances make me feel like a child. I found that the feeling I experience after leaving a concert is how I want to feel every day. I found that you should always invest in good shoes. I found that survival of the fittest is a real thing in New York City. I found the character that I am supposed to play in this storybook called life.

“The lights are so bright but they never blind me”

T. Swift and I differ here. I hate to break it to you but the lights are really bright and get pretty annoying when you live on the second floor and have cheap blinds. We can’t all live in a Tribeca penthouse…

“Like any great love, It keeps you guessing, Like any real love, It’s ever changing, Like any true love, It drives you crazy, But you know you wouldn’t change Anything, anything, anything…”

New York City contains the 4 “R’s”: rats, roaches, rubbage and rude people.

I experienced the rats first hand…

One nights as I was getting off of my aching feet and into my cheap bed, swaddled in sheets that were too big, I got a call from my friend Natalie. I answered the phone and wondered how quickly she would judge me when I told her that I was comfortably in my bed at 10 o’clock in the city that never sleeps. After a quick and convincing phone call, I found myself in heels, a dress and out on the streets not even an hour later. I was headed to a rooftop bar that Natalie and her friend Kevin had wandered to the top of. As I reflect on that glorious night, I realize that I probably shouldn’t have been wandering the streets alone and unsure of my destination but, if I could do it again, I would. I was a character in Sex And The City, out for drinks with my best girlfriends. As if I didn’t think that I looked good enough, the comments from homeless handouts that I strutted past only made my head bigger.

The sound of my department store heels sounded like department floor heels on any old floor. However, the sound of my department store heels on the New York City streets was easily mistaken for Louboutins. As I reached my destination at 230 5th, I realized that it was nothing special. Just a regular Manhattan highrise with suited men opening the doors (just because no girl in heels should have to open the door herself). I found my way to an elevator filled with men in suits that cost as much as my dorm room rent and tall brunettes who resembled porcelain dolls. When the elevator doors opened, the other passengers exited like it was something they did daily and this small town girl caught herself without breath and a tear in her eye. The Manhattan skyline was on display for me as if Van Gogh painted it himself.

I was high society. I enjoyed my night atop that building gazing at the skyline while listening to pretentious lyricless music playing in the background. Too loud to talk across the table but loud enough to lean in close in order to have intimate conversations. I was too poor for drinks that average at $16 dollars but I drank my lemon water like it was spiked. As we left that rooftop, I felt like I was almost leaving New York altogether. Seeing the skyline from that angle was like a first kiss. I knew I would never experience that feeling again and no matter how many times I mustered up my money to return to that bar, it would never take my breath away like it did that first night.

We wandered the streets back to Madison Square park where Natalie, Kevin and I all parted ways. The three of us were not at all intoxicated but New Yorkers passing us on the street never would have known. We were laughing uncontrollably, still floating from the high we had recieved towering above the city like that. Our laughter halted as we noticed a moving trashbag on the sidewalk next to us. Our curiousity grew as the bag continued to twitch. I think that we all knew what was on the opposing side of that black plastic but we had to see it with our own eyes. A few seconds later, two rodents escaped from the bag across our shoes leaving Kevin with a remnant of an aching arm swearing it was a result of a heart attack. So there I was on a New York City sidewalk in patent, black, department store heels with rat tracks on them.

New York City has roaches. Correction…New York City has flying roaches. They like to catch you when you feel like you’re in a dream walking the streets of Manhattan and then they fly down in front of you just to snap you back to reality. After class one summer night, as Natalie and I made our way through the village for food, one of those little suckers flew down in front of us just to make sure that we were in our right minds. The most memorable part of that insect so rudely interrupting our night was the fact that Natalie had no idea what a roach was. And her world was forever changed…

Like any other city, New York City has rubbage. Unlike any other city, New York throws their trash on the sidewalk until picked up in the morning. I’m assuming that my readers know what trash smells like…not exactly a scent that Yankee Candle wants to cram into their overpriced jars. You can only imagine the smell of the trash during the hot summers.

New York City is called home by many “rude” people. Correction: New Yorkers know what they want. As much as I hate to make this statement, it’s hard to stay off the “rude” bandwagon. After living in the city for a few weeks, you catch on to the fact that obeying traffic and pedestrian laws is merely a suggestion in Manhattan. Walking fast and knowing how you want your coffee, down to the amount of foam on your latte, is a must. However, do not fall into the Manhattan whirlpool. New Yorkers are fast but enjoy a southern accent and manners every once in a while.

“You can want who you want, boys and boys and girls and girls”

People in New York City want who they want. I got to experience gay pride week and what an experience that was. The Empire State building is not the only colorful thing living in that big city. With that being said, NYC is called home by many beautiful people.

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I’m convinced that NYC was built from the ground up with the wave a wand. It is magical. It is challenging. It is molding, for it will mold you if you let it. Do not let Times Square become annoying, for it is amazing that that many watts of lights or people can be shoved into a few blocks. Do not let Central Park become any old green space, for it is 51 blocks of that small island that replaces all the oxygen we destroy. Do not let highrises become the norm, for they aren’t. Though it seems like they were made with pure fairy dust, they were built with hard work and passion and claimed their territory on the New York City skyline. While in New York, you should wonder if life even exists once you cross the Hudson.

At the end of my stay there in the city, I could hail a cab at ease, I learned that “on line” meant in line, I knew exactly how I like my coffee, I could work the subway system like a regular, I had lunch with author of Inside The Dream Palace, Sherill Tippins at the Chelsea Hotel, I had conversations with multiple publicists and interviewed one of my favorite bands, Misterwives, I could give directions to tourists, I got compliments on my outifts that I dared to wear, and made my mark in that city of dreams.

My wish for those who embark on an adventure to that island that crams 2 million people into 33 square miles is that you arrive a tourist and leave a tourist.

My heart belongs in that smelly, yet magical, rat infested, grid of Manhattan.

Stay tourists, my friends.

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