Saturday, August 28, 2010

Winding Down

Once again, it has been awhile since I have written (crazy New York life tends to get in the way of enjoyable activities such as blogging) but I just wanted to wrap up my New York arts & society blog with a post that sort of summarizes my experience here over the past year and three months. It is very difficult to completely incapsulate my experience as a resident of Manhattan, but certain encounters, images, and places have stuck with me and inspired me a great deal. Here are some of them:

When I first moved into my new apartment in the Upper East Side, I was approached by a woman walking dogs. We were both interested in the set being filmed across the street, which was apparently the set for a movie starring both Harrison Ford and Rachel McAdams. We struck up a conversation and I remember thinking how friendly she was for a New Yorker. She owned a dog walking business and had many stories to tell about the various people (including celebrities) that she met while walking dogs all around the city. Her enthusiasm for living in Manhattan truly energized me and made me excited to be there in that moment, despite my anxiety over being completely alone in a city of eight million people.

My walks around the reservoir in New York will be missed greatly. I found the reservoir to be one of the only places in Manhattan where I could calmly collect my thoughts and unwind. The great expanse of the city before me always took my breath away. During my walks, I remember feeling so proud that the city beyond the lake was my city- that Central Park was my backyard. While living in New York, it is a comfort knowing that it is possible to escape the chaos of urban life and find refuge in nature, even if it is man-made.

One of my favorite weekend activities in New York City was, of course, shopping. I never had enough money to buy much, but this never stopped me from browsing the myriad of beautifully decorated, fully stocked stores such as Bloomingdales, Seven For All Mankind, BCBG, DKNY, French Connection, etc. Although I have always seen fashion as a somewhat shallow sector of the world, I truly came to appreciate the artistic qualities of clothing while living here. Fashion is, above all, an art form. New York ingrained that in me.

There is such a spirit of eagerness in New York. Throughout this past year and few months, I have met so many people who have been so alive with ambition- ambition that is both frightening and inspiring at the same time. Countless people have come here to not only break into their respective industry, but rise to the top, and there is certainly an unparalleled energy to be found on every corner. One night in the winter, I went to a party with a group of people from Spain at a loft in Soho. The owner of the loft came to America to establish himself as an artist. Both his clothing and apartment left me in awe; from his large screen mac to the sketchbook lying open on his desk, his surroundings were his canvas. During a party in a loft overlooking the New Yorker building, I struck up a conversation with a freelance writer and we exchanged business cards. He excitedly explained how he had his own online publication and hoped for it to gain popularity in the city. I never had business cards until I came to New York. My aunt made me a set for my publishing program and I still carry them with me, even though they are handmade. This city has taught me to be always be prepared and to never lose that fire. I believe that to get too comfortable with anything is a mistake and will carry that belief with me everywhere I go.

What would New York be without its food? Well, to be quite honest, it would really be very bland indeed. Living here on a budget has made it difficult to fully experience the cuisine, but I am confident that I have tried a large portion of the restaurants that I was interested in visiting (mostly due to generous guests), which is a satisfying feeling. The best brunch I have had here, surprisingly enough, was at Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill on fifth avenue. There are a few places that tie for best dinner. Il Buco, a cozy, rustic Italian restaurant decorated with pots and pans is definitely one of my favorites. I also loved the Thai restaurant Kittichai for its unique presentation and bold flavors. BLT Prime Steakhouse has the most delicious Steak I have ever had and Maya has the best Mexican. I also really enjoyed Rayuela, a Latin American restaurant with flavorful cocktails and zesty seafood dishes. One of the things that sets New York restaurants apart from the rest is atmosphere. Each of the restaurants I mentioned has a romantic, sensuous vibe and is filled with beautiful people. Dining out in New York is truly indulging for all of your senses. Apart from all of the restaurants, there are so many small cafes to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee. The abundance of Starbucks around every corner makes one truly appreciate the privately owned coffee shops, where the ambiance is actually relaxing and the coffee is freshly brewed. Coffee and bagels are an art form here, similar to just about everything else. Unfortunately, my favorite coffee shop, which was located in the Upper East Side, closed recently. This is how many private businesses end up, due to the intense competition. Moving on-It is nearly impossible to mention food without mentioning drinks. The Blind Tiger was my favorite bar, hands down. They feature a wide variety of micro-brewed beers that can't be found anywhere else in the city, let alone the nation as a whole. The interior gives off a comfortable basement-like feeling. I found the bar Rare on Lexington to have the most beautiful view of the city from the rooftop.

As I sip the last of my coffee, I wrap this blog up with a few final thoughts. My time in New York has been precious and awe-inspiring. I have become so strong and independent; I have learned to truly defend who I am as a person. Over the past year and few months, I have grown a sort of thick shell that will be hard to crack. This doesn't mean that I have changed completely, because I haven't, but it does mean that I have been exposed to many things that have broadened my horizons and thickened my skin. When you live here, you are in survival mode and I dare anybody to disagree with that. There has been beauty in this experience, though. Living here has made me appreciate the simple things- conversations, glances, smells, sounds- peace. I find it ironic how living in such a lonely city makes you at peace with yourself. I also find it ironic that being immersed in such a materialistic city can make you want to don sweat pants or jeans every day for the remainder of your life- (hah!) It all makes sense, I guess, but it is an interesting phenomenon nonetheless. Ultimately, the glamour of New York is stripped away when you become a resident here. Brief moments will fill you with the awe of a tourist (such as those breezy, windows-open cab rides home at 4 am) but these moments are only fleeting. Transience is abundant here, but its affects are permanent. Living in Manhattan changes you forever, in many ways, both good and bad. I suppose It can be summed up in one sentence: New York leaves an indelible mark.

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