My New York, your New York, I love New York, New York State of Mind…. To wake up in a city that never sleeps. Famous words, famous lyrics, home to many, understood and revered by the avid theater-goer, the devoted restaurateur and wine connoisseur, the lover of art and architecture, and the aficionado of some of the greatest fashion in the world.
When you think about some of the most exuberant cities on our colorful and cultured planet, Paris, Rome, London, Prague, Tokyo all easily come to mind… and of course New York is always at the top of the list. To live there, isn’t for everyone with its bustling traffic, narrow streets, snowstorms, and honking and swearing taxi driver’s but its charms far out-way its lack. If you can live there, or better yet have a calling or even more ardently stated, you have a, “passionately fated duty to enter into a right of passage to become a Yankee” then you will be born again into someone new, someone changed. Even the natives know that, they may complain about the daunting snowstorms, but to step out onto your stoop, in the crisp winter air on the Upper West Side with the view of the park in immaculate sight and see the city barley touched by the first snowfall is a divine experience. One in which, is sure to leave a unique visual print in your mind that will last a lifetime.
“The City” as most call it, seems to take on a life of its own like a character in a novel if you live there long enough. As Carry Bradshaw stated on a particular episode of Sex in the City, “I have a date tonight with the city”. I remember the moment that “the city” became infused in my heart…. I was twelve and my father took me to see A Chorus Line on Broadway. I came out of the theatre on fire, singing ‘One Singular Sensation’, I was hooked, cooked, sign sealed and delivered. I remember thinking, “When I am old enough, I want to move here, I want to be on Broadway or Saturday Night Live”.
So that is exactly what I did. When I was 22 years old, I was living in Dallas, TX where my mother’s side of the family has lived most of their lives. I was in college, but had spent part of the early summer before the school year with my father and my Italian side in New Jersey. I had this internal shift or voice that said, “It is time to move here, to live here in New York, to grow and be artistically fed here.” So, I registered for school, I found a place to live, and put in a transfer with the restaurant chain I was working with down south. Then I went back home and dropped the gauntlet on friends and family. They were saddened but not in the least surprised, they saw it coming and were just wondering when the time would come for me to courageously embrace my fate.
I lived in Hoboken, when it was still affordable to be right off Washington St. I shared a two-bedroom apartment in the West Village with 2 other aspiring artists, but my favorite diamond in the ruff I found, was a ‘rent controlled railroad apartment’ in the up and coming (at the time, 2002) Hell’s Kitchen area of the city. That’s right, ‘rent controlled’ at the ridiculous monthly price of $480 a month! I know, your next question is, “What! How did you find that?!” I was auditioning for Smokey Joe’s Café at the Equity lounge in Times Square and they had a callboard of classifieds. I walked right up to it after my audition and found the ad…. “Small studio apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. Need to sublet for a while as my mother is sick and need to move back to Jersey”.
It was perfect, small but big in New York standards, vaulted ceilings, exposed brick in the kitchen, and the owner was leaving it furnished. The best gem of all was that she was a theater teacher and she was leaving her two huge ceiling to floor bookshelves full of theater and art books for me to peruse. I had died and gone to a heaven as a character in a Neil Simon play. Every time I left the apartment, I could embrace a different part of myself and utilize all the wonderful joys of fashion and costume I had learned from not only the theater but also just the unequivocal presence of self-discovery that is so adamantly shared by all New Yorkers. Fashion sense is not about snobbery though. Learning fashion, ‘New York’ style, is to pair up a Valentino sweater with a vintage Halston skirt and maybe some boots from the sixties that you found tucked away in your Grandmother’s closet. It is fun and freedom and about finding your joy in expression and after a while it takes the venerable journey from ‘fun in fashion’ to a sacred ‘art form’.
There are so many great stories in my heart and being, some tragic (I was there for 911), some hilarious, some bizarre, but never without a doubt, not completely magical and charming. If the enthralling electricity of this enchanting city runs through your body and soul, as a native, a visitor, or maybe a far away admirer, then you are part of a special group and you are privileged to love a place that embraces all people, creeds, colors, sizes, and genders. Our sacred New York: a unique slice of the world on a small, fashion-forward island, uniquely built by immigrants from around the globe seeking solace and to dream. I love you New York, my home, my town. No matter where I go you rest in my heart.