I lived in Manhattan from 1997 to 2007. During that time, I worked for advertising agencies, Internet startups, a law firm and branding firms. I dated lots of different guys from the son of a billionaire to the son of a bank CEO to an investment banker to a photographer to a writer. I lived in one apartment, an Upper East Side studio that was built in 1898.
After moving to LA, I’ve visited a handful of times, staying in the lower east side to crashing on a couch in the upper west. I’ve eaten at a vegan restaurant in the East Village and in an Austrian wolf den in Alphabet City. I’ve gone out to some of my favorite bars and visited friends in their apartments. But I haven’t wandered some of my favorite neighborhoods, taking in the city.
Until this trip.
I met an old friend, Vicious David, best known for helping me cast our office, for lunch at a chic little spot in the West Village. I took the 6, my old subway, from Grand Central to Astor Place and walked through Washington Square Park. The West Village used to confuse me when I was a young lady. I was nervous I’d get lost, but I found it immediately. It’s nice my NYC instincts came back like riding a bike (which I’ve only done once) so maybe more like Freddy Kruger at the end of the movie.
We sat in the chic Dominique Bistro, reminisced and gossiped about our former coworkers. I ate a waffle with berries and chocolate mousse because I was in New York and eating a pear salad felt lame.
After a two-hour lunch that covered the Kardashians, Los Angeles, plastic surgery, Trump, New Yorkers, Soulcycle and wingtip shoes, I walked over to the Hudson River. The High Line didn’t exist when I lived in The City. I was always too busy running around seeing friends on past trips so I was excited to finally see it. I caught a glimpse of the Freedom Tower while crossing the West Side Highway. It’s been more than a decade since I went down to where the World Trade Center used to stand and I felt no urge to do it this time.
I went into The Standard High Line and wandered around. I’ve been here before but not during the day. I took a few moments to rest and charge my phone.
I climbed the steps on 14th St and Washington onto the High Line. It’s an elevated sidewalk with flowers and greenery. It’s lovely. There are also shops at various points and I got a New Orleans burly style with almond milk at Blue Bottle Coffee. It’s my usual coffee in LA and it didn’t taste right. I don’t know why.
After a few blocks, I climbed down the High Line stairs at 18th street. As I stood on the corner waiting to cross, I spied The Park, a chic restaurant where I went to a New Years Eve party in 2001. It was one of the best New Years Eve parties I’ve ever been to: an exceptional dinner, acrobatic performers, two DJs and a chic crowd. I yelled at actress Mary Stuart Masterson in the coat check line. I giggled at the memory.
I walked along 17th Street through Chelsea. I passed where the old Barneys Warehouse used to be. Women would walk around in their underwear, grabbing dresses and trying them on in an open space.
I hit Union Square and saw Coffee Shop. I remember chic dates there that never mounted into much of anything.
I strolled through the farmer’s market and I laughed at how I used to get there at noon on weekends and felt like an adult when I bought flowers.
I passed by the W, Irving Plaza and across 14th and then down to 10th Street between First and A. I got my mom a black tourmaline crystal at Crystal Gardens. They didn’t have as many crystals as in LA nor were the prices as good. But it was there and I was there and they had what I needed.
I walked through the Alphabet and sat in Tompkins Square Park. It was not safe in the late 1990’s. I remember going to bars and the boys always insisting they walk us to get cabs and wait until we were in safely. It’s still edgy, but infinitely safer.
I walked to the Lower East Side. When I lived in the city, it was a neighborhood transitioning from Orthodox Jewish businesses to vintage shops and my former facialist, Christine Chin, who worked on Gisele, Amber Valletta and Shalom Harlow back in the day. Moby’s vegan restaurant is still there as well as many others. It’s now bustling on every corner with cool stuff with much of the neighborhoods roots swept away.
I walked to Nolita, my old favorite neighborhood. I saw my favorite bars, Sweet and Vicious and Spring Street Lounge. I looked for Karen Karch Jewelry, but I couldn’t find it. I was wearing a ring I got from her on my 25th birthday. Nolita was the place for every up-and-coming designer. Now the chic little shops have been replaced by larger chains. But that’s the thing with “up-and-coming” it’s only a best kept secret for so long before everyone else discovers them.
By this point, my feet were killing me. Like legit murder. I saw a Chinese acupressure foot massage place. A sign on the sidewalk said, “15 minutes for $15.” I’d never go into a place like this when I was a New Yorker. But now, with my feet hurting and 20 minutes to spare, I went for it and it was worth it.
I jumped on the uptown 6, got off at 33rd street, made my way to the Arlo Hotel and waited for my friend Elena in the lobby. I’d met Elena in 1998 at my second advertising agency at my second ever job. We’d stayed in touch and I’ve seen her both in New York and Los Angeles. As soon as she got there, it was like no time had passed. We went to the rooftop and she introduced me to Frose (rose frozen like a slushy.)
I hardly drink anymore, which is a vast difference from my days as a New Yorker. We took in the Empire State Building and then hit up the rooftop at the Gaansevort. From here, we walked to Grand Central and talked about all those Yankee games we went to back in the day.
It’s funny how so much can be different but it also feels the same. New York has changed and evolved. Some of my favorite places are gone (Winnie’s, Milady’s, etc) but the old is still there. Shout out to Desmond’s Tavern for surviving.
I soaked up The City and it helped me see how much I’ve grown since I lived there. I was a kid when I moved there, unsure of how to “adult.” I’m still not so sure that I really know how to “adult” now. But it was a hell of a place to stat my life as a grown up. I will always love New York, but we’re not meant to be together. Like an old lover, I remember the good. The City is in my rearview mirror, but it’s nice to look back every now and again.