Falling in and out of love with New York


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  • Photo: Richard Khavkine



lex and the city

BY ALEXA DI BENEDETTO

In the time that I’ve spent writing this column, I’ve described New York as a place unlike any other — a source of ceaseless wonder, a mecca of opportunity. I’ve meant every word I’ve said; I’m so appreciative of the fact that I’ve spent most of my life here and that, at age 25, I’m still enamored by it. But to say that I feel this way at all times would feel like false advertising.

Failing to admit that I sometimes see cracks in the magical portrait of this place would challenge my integrity as a writer.

My relationship with this place is comparable to one that I’d share with a boyfriend or girlfriend or close companion. It’s full of love but fraught with small obstacles, made more valuable by the ability to see past them and to rise to the challenge of learning to love the other regardless of his or her flaws.

Moreover, I’m only human — a sensitive human, if I’m being honest. A difficult commute truly takes a toll on me, although a large cup of coffee and a sugary bakery treat tend to bring me back to high spirits. Rainy weather may put more of a (literal and figurative) damper on my day than it should.

If New York were my boyfriend, he’d certainly be my type: a man with many layers, vivacious on the surface but complicated and broody underneath. If New York were my boyfriend, I’d have the opportunity to tell him my concerns — I’d sit him down and give him constructive criticism, tell him what’s working and what’s not (over several glassed of wine, courtesy of him).

Since this isn’t an option, I’ll just put my thoughts on the page. Here is a week’s worth of diary entries in which I pour my heart out to the love of my life.

Day 1:

New York I love you, but you’re bringing me down.

So the song goes, “You are filthy but fine.” I argue that you could use a few adjustments — you seem to be letting yourself go. I was late to work again, New York. While I was once charmed by your subway’s 1970s aesthetic, I think it maybe it’s time for a tune-up. I can’t afford to miss my morning meetings, New York. I spend so much money on you. I hate to bring money into this — really, I do! It’s an investment I’m happy to make. But throw me a bone, babe. Please.

Day 2:

New York, you’re perfect.

Don’t, please don’t, change a thing.

New York, you’re so full of surprises. I’ve grown so jaded to the bars and the clubs and the pubs, all offering a similar experience in which it’s easy to spill your drink and to be elbowed in the chest on the way to the bathroom but not quite as easy to meet interesting new people. Sometimes the most amazing things happen when you open yourself up to chance and accept vague invites that offer almost no detail. Who would have thought that I’d stumble across an acoustic concert in the backyard of a bakery or receive a last minute invitation to a Saturday-eve meditation in a candlelit space. What a pleasure it is, to be surrounded by people who feel compelled to try something different. Whenever I sink into a state of ennui, you always know how to bring me out of it, New York.

Day 3:

New York, I love you.

But you’re freaking me out.

Is it possible to feel both gratitude and contempt simultaneously, toward the same thing? How could I possibly feel so inspired by you, New York, and also so consistently defeated by you? You’re teeming with creativity, New York – everyone knows it — and yet your competitive nature makes it impossible for anyone to keep up with you. I want to learn from you, New York, but sometimes it feels as though you don’t want me to succeed.

Day 4:

New York, I love you ...

I know we have our ups and downs. I know that there days when I act as though I’m tired of you, or when I pick out all of your faults. I’m sorry that I sometimes call you a “smelly trash heap” or “soul-draining monster.” No one’s perfect, New York. But at the end of the day, you’ll always be the one I come back to.

Why? Because you’ve got more hutzpah than anyone I’ve ever known. More character than any other city has in their left pinky or part of town. More to offer than anyone else or anywhere else. So despite all the things I say, you can be sure of one thing — I’m in this one for the long haul.


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