by Cassandra Garrison
I’ve added another new column to the blog called “Share Your Story.” This section is dedicated to all New Yorkers, and gives everyone the opportunity to tell us about their move to the city, their desire to live here, or share another NYC moment.
|JFK airport photo by wallyg, courtesy of Flickr|
I was still drunk when I went through airport security at JFK, with mascara smeared, whiskey on my breath, and the disheveled air of a tourist who had more than she could handle. It was 7 a.m.
I sighed and hesitantly slipped out of my coat, remembering that I was wearing a skimpy, backless number, then tried to maintain my balance as I pulled off my boots and prepared to go through the metal detector. I glanced back at Lisa, who chuckled and shook her head. My cheeks flushed with embarrassment as the TSA agent shot me an annoyed, judgmental look. But deep down, I felt satisfied with myself. Satisfied, with just a touch of sadness, as I prepared to leave New York, not knowing when I’d return again.
That weekend goes down in history as one of the best, and most-influential, times of my life. I was a news anchor at the local ABC-affiliate in Erie, Pennsylvania and I met Lisa through Team in Training, a non-profit that helps you train for races as you fund-raise for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She was my coach as I trained for a half-Ironman, but she had become one of my best friends, and then my partner-in-crime for a balls-to-the-wall weekend in NYC for New Year’s. The day before our flight home, we sat in a burger joint, having a belated birthday celebration for Lisa.
“I could live here.”
“What?,” Lisa managed to get out as she chewed a giant bite of burger. Our plates at Five Napkin Burger on 45th & 9th had just been set down in front of us. We were both finally over our hangovers from New Year’s Eve and ready to eat.
“I really think I could live here,” I repeated. “Like, actually right here, in this neighborhood. This is where I would want to live, if I lived in NYC.”
Little did I know that about a year and a half later, I would have my chance.
That night, we did a search for “cheap fun bars” on Yelp in an effort to find the perfect place to spend our last night in New York before returning to our lives in Erie. What we found was a pub called The Irish Rogue, located on 44th Street between 8th & 9th Avenue. Having absolutely no concept of direction in NYC at the time, I was totally unaware that we had eaten lunch just one block away earlier in the day.
The night started calm enough, but it wasn’t long before we were drunk on pints and had gravitated towards a fun group of people, and one very adorable guy named Chris, in particular. He was shy, but his friends weren’t. They were hilarious, outgoing, and friendly. They loved to dance and so did we. Shots all around, another round of beers and then a first kiss with Chris as Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” played in the background. It was all perfect.
The fun continued at another bar call the Gin Mill. I thought I was so glamorous, riding around in a taxi, with my new-found NYC friends. The group moved to one of the guys’ apartments, which was huge and impressive, and we ordered pizza at 4 am. I stayed up laughing with Chris all night until he brought me back in a cab just before our car to the airport arrived. I told myself that if I moved to Manhattan, Chris is the kind of guy I would date.
Again, little did I know that a year and a half later, I would have my chance.
Something in me had changed after that weekend. The seed was planted. My life experienced a series of important events over the next year; shifts in my career and personal life, relationships, break-ups and heartache, but one thing remained: My goal to move to New York. When my anchoring contract was due to expire, I went into over-drive searching for any opportunity to get me back to this city. I made plans to come here over my birthday weekend in June and I was finally able to secure a job interview with Metro newspaper.
The night before my interview, and my 26th birthday, I was dining at a tiny BYOB restaurant I had found online called “Nook” at 50th & 9th — again, purely by coincidence that I kept picking places in Hell’s Kitchen. Aptly named, it only has about six tables and it wasn’t long before I began chatting with the couple at the next over table. They were Tracy and Mike and they moved to Manhattan from Atlanta a few years ago. I could hear myself in Tracy’s voice and she spoke about always having the dream to live here, but not getting the chance to do it till later in life. They were put together. They were deeply committed. They had a cool apartment on the Upper West Side. And they were my new NYC life mentors.
That night, we closed the place down and kept drinking wine. I looked out at 9th Avenue from the wide-open front doors of the restaurant, and thought to myself that this was the quintessential New York City neighborhood. The streets were alive and it had that “step outside and be in the center of it all” kind of feel to it.
I told myself, “This is where I want to live, if I get this job and move to New York.”
A few weeks later, I got the job and got my chance.
I found my roommate through a friend of a friend. She began looking for a place with a broker and I turned the majority of the decision-making process over to her as I frantically tried to sell my car and all of my furniture before the move. When she told me she had found the perfect place at 45th & 9th, it still hadn’t registered to me that I had been in the neighborhood numerous times. I told her it sounded great and handed over the security deposit and first month’s rent.
I began stalking my building, thanks to Google Street view. As I glided up and down 9th Avenue on my laptop, I spotted Five Napkin Burger (right across from my apartment), the Irish Rogue (one block away) and Nook (five blocks away). It finally dawned on me that this was that place — that place where I always said I wanted to live — the “If I lived in New York” place. I couldn’t believe it. It was all coming together.
When I saw how close I was to the Rogue, my first instinct was to email Chris. I told him I was moving to the city in an apartment at 45th & 9th, just a block from the bar where we had met. I heard back from him later that day and couldn’t believe it when he said we’d be neighbors — he, and the friends whom I’d met the same night, lived just a few blocks way at 47th and 10th.
Life has thrown some curves, and while my current life is not exactly as I pictured it about a year ago, it is exactly as I pictured it from the time I was growing up, dreaming of the day I’d be a career woman in the Big Apple. I did start dating Chris again, along with a handful of other charming, successful men. Lisa is still in Erie living out her own dreams and we had dinner together last time she came to the city.
The best part of this story is that it’s still not over. I’ve been here for almost a year and every day, something is different, something changes. I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for listening to my heart and following all the signs that pointed straight towards New York, or — more specifically — towards 45th and 9th. And I just re-signed my lease. I’m here to stay.
|9th Avenue Photo by Carl Mikoy, courtesy of Flickr|