I never fall into a stupor and sigh, “I belong in New York.” New York is glamorous and fun, if overwhelming, with an infinite number of things to see and do: art museums, concerts, plays, foreign film festivals, poetry readings, markets, grazing at gourmet restaurants, cozy cafes, ferry rides, and sight-seeing.
It is also ruinously expensive.
New York City is a magnet for young, ambitious people. Years ago when I was starting out, I applied for a teaching job at a private school in Manhattan. I declined the interview when I was told the salary was $8,000 a year. I tried to get my head around living in New York on that. Would I inhabit a homeless camp, getting up at 3 a.m. to rush to school to shower and don my one suitable outfit, a designer suit from a thrift shop?
New Jersey might be more affordable – but it was quite expensive, too. Perhaps Bruce Springsteen and his wife would let me rent a corner of their attic. In return, I would recite lyrics I’ve misheard: “Your almost enemy has come to town” is my edgy version of “Your own worst enemy has come to town.” But perhaps it is tactless to admit I haven’t quite understood the lyrics.
In New York, the bookstores ensorcell me. About a decade ago, a friend sent me a picture postcard of The Strand, a famous four-story bookstore with 2.5 million new and used books. I stared at it, saucer-eyed. Where I live, the choice of bookstores is between Barnes and Noble…and Barnes and Noble.
I would love to go to New York to shop at The Strand. I have one question: does The Strand have chairs? After an hour (or a day), I like to flop in a cozy chair and sort my stack of books to decide which I’ll buy.
I’ll settle for a wooden chair. Sitting must be done.
If they don’t have chairs, they must accompany me to a coffee shop where I can sit and sort the books.