In the summer of 2011 when I started telling people my plan was to move to New York City in a year, people often asked me why. Why New York? This question has followed me on my journey into the city. When I tell people I recently moved here, I'm often asked why or what brought me here. In a lot of ways, I find this question silly. New York is one of the greatest cities in the world, so, of course, I want to live here.
A few times a week, I go and write in a local coffee shop here in Harlem called The Chipped Cup. While I'm sitting there working on poems and drinking coffee from one of their giant blue mugs, I often overhear conversations. Last week, I heard two professional clarinet players discussing the ups and downs of the business and then a lot of specific music stuff I didn't even understand. On another day, two people sat discussing the complexities of Beyonce's message of empowerment to women and how it is often contradicted by the lyrics of her songs. These were just normal conversations happening on a weekday in a cafe.
I'm also amazed by the amount of reading all around me. If anyone thinks people don't read anymore, they need to come to New York City and ride the subway. I'm constantly surrounded by readers of all kinds. One afternoon, I was on the subway during the after school rush and I was amazed to see a few kids between the ages of 8 and 11 sitting there on the subway reading. They weren't doing homework. They were reading novels and were extremely into them. On Friday, I saw a girl who was probably only 12 sitting there reading Time Magazine. During the English composition classes I teach, I often ask students about their reading habits. Here in NYC, the response has been very positive. They all read. When I asked that question to students in Florida, most of the room stared at the floor and a few would mumble how they hate reading. I'm not saying everyone is reading great literature, but people here are engaging with the written word on a regular basis.
On any given day in New York, you can have such a wide range of experiences. This past weekend was a perfect example. On Friday, I went to Grand Central to see the artist Nick Cave's piece Heard, which combined art, music, and dance. This was a free event that was happening for just one week. It was amazing to see how many people make an effort to come to things like this. The place was packed. On Saturday, I went to the Macy's Flower Show at Herald Square, which was also free. It was a beautiful tent full of flowers and the theme this year was Asia. On Saturday night, I got see the play The Lying Lesson starring Carol Kane. I have a friend who works backstage at the theater and she got my partner and me tickets. It was a great small theater in Chelsea. It also provided me with my first true celebrity sightings. Sting's daughter is also in the play and he was there in the audience. Thanks to my friend, we got to go backstage afterward and got a tour and Carol Kane walked by and said "goodnight" as she left. On Sunday, I went to the Game of Thrones exhibit, which was also free. We did have to wait in line for like three hours, but it was a fun experience. The exhibit is only going to a few cities worldwide. They had lots of costumes and props that are still being used to shoot the show. I also got my picture sitting on the Iron Throne (gingers will rule one day). After that, I got to experience a Holi celebration, which is an Indian holiday that celebrates spring. People throw color on each other. It was also free. Yes, free. Everything I did this weekend was free. Yes, the theater experience was only free because of my friend, but it's not that hard to find a theater friend in NYC.
This past weekend is just one example of all that New York can offer. You can find culture in many different places, but here it is just so easy and so many people actually care. You can stumble upon so many interesting experiences and know that tomorrow there's just as many things happening. It can actually be overwhelming. I keep having to remind myself that we just moved here and we don't have to do everything this first year. There is time.
So why New York? Because it's amazing and I feel completely alive here in the city where anything is possible.