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I ♥ NY

January 12, 2011

This wasn’t always the case, me involved in a love affair with New York. No, my first few trips were like bad dates that you just keep accepting because you’ve got nothing better to do on a Friday night. Manhattan was overwhelming to me—the noise level, the grittiness and brashness, the crowds, the lights, and the neighborhoods—all of it made me just want to stay home in my stereotypical sweats and watch a Rom-Com while eating takeout. Because of this, I never got to know the real New York until very recently—the one without cab drivers trying to rip off naïve girls from Kansas the second they step off the plane with their sleek black town cars sounding like a good idea in lieu of a grody taxi, one without harsh winters or sweltering summers, and void of tourists that stop to gawk in the middle of heavily trafficked sidewalks like they’ve just hopped off the turnip truck that I couldn’t look past.

I’ve been to New York a fair amount. My first trip, I wrote about here, in Holiday Bound, recounting the first Christmas after my father died. Every other trip after that initial one was for work (since when I worked in television my show was based there), so I made the jaunt often enough. Through it all, I’ve discovered in no other place does where you live exemplify who you are. Atlanta has neighborhoods, but our ‘hoods don’t necessarily define you as a person. In NYC saying you live in Battery Park, Alphabet City, Williamsburg, Hell’s Kitchen, or Morningside Heights says more about you than what line of work you’re in, whom you date, or the shoes you wear.

A tipsy Washington Square Park photo taken from a rapidly moving taxi.

But, this last time I went to NY, something dramatic happened inside of me. I was smitten for the first time with the hustle of the city and all that being in Manhattan means. I’m not going to tell you where to eat or stay while there. There’s just too much ground to cover and many places do that better than I ever could. I will, however, mention two things that are a must:

1. Order room service while staying in a big, fancy hotel.
2. Wander, wander, wander … seriously, get lost!

You can’t go wrong with those two things. There’s something about being in a ridiculously overpriced hotel wearing a bathrobe, eating a grilled cheese with tomato and a pile of fries at midnight, listening to the bustle of the city below all because you can that makes you feel alive. And of course, I wandered. I walked until my riding boot-riddled feet couldn’t take it; then I walked some more. There truly is something magical about the city in December. Shopping, eating, shivering, soaking it up. There’s a laundry list of things I always say I’ll do while I’m there—the NY Public Library (though, I’ve eaten at the Bryant Park Grill just adjacent), MoMA (does shopping at the design store count?), the Hayden Planetarium (can’t make it past Central Park), and countless other things on my list, but never got around to—there’s just too much.

What I did get to was on par with any true New Yorker, I think. I hustled. I worked, took meetings, networked my arse off, and was go-go-go the entire trip. It brings it out of you, even if you’re lazy and leisurely, NY will draw out the drive and you’ll be swept up in it. It begins with the culture there that after work, folks don’t immediately head to their miniscule overpriced shoebox that houses the box springs and flat screen. No, they stay in the mix of the city! They meet for drinks, then dinner, then a nightcap, and dress and plan accordingly. In three days I met with a NY Times Magazine writer about a book project I’m working on, worked side-by-side with the lovely photographer on said project, met the entire DailyCandy staff in the flesh in their sweet Soho digs (whom up to this point I’d only know as a login and email addresses) caught up with former editors and TV colleagues, ate amazing food and drank fantastic wine (I have yet to have a bad meal here), reconnected with old friends, and even managed to get in the Christmas spirit (holiday shopping and Rockefeller tree viewing). Pure perfection.

So much so that in the rare downtime I had while there I sent my sister this text:

It’s freezing here, but I am sitting @ a brasserie w a bowl of French onion soup & red wine … on a Wed! I think this might be the best day of my life.

New York City is full of hope and bustle, and in December, well, there’s really nothing quite like it. I left recharged and revived, the perfect remedy for any amount of complacency I’ve had in my own Atlanta as the year came to a close. Perhaps next time, I’ll finally make it to the MoMA; until then, I’ll bask fondly in the city’s torrid details.