Janet asked: In a recent comment, you identified strongly with New York City. What characteristics of that city are most appealing to you?
I spent my first 2 years in Queens Village. Queens is part of New York City, but the subway stop says “To the City.” Most people mean Manhattan when they refer to New York City. I grew up in Uniondale, a small suburban town on Long Island, about 20 miles away.
Many of my earliest memories are trips to Manhattan with my aunt and uncles. My mom’s younger siblings weren’t married and treated me like a cherished little sister. Aunt Joan took me to see Cinderella, my first movie; she took me to the Hayden Planetarium, which seemed magical. My uncles took me to baseball games. My parents took us to the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Museum of Natural History. I was hooked.
My best friend Anne and I started going into the NYC when we were 13. We each babysat every week; two week of babysitting money covered the cost of the bus and subway and a Broadway show. Six hours of babysitting at 50 cents an hour covered the $3 ticket price. We usually could not afford the commuter railroad; instead we took two buses and a subway for a fraction of the cost. We were already experienced bus riders; I don’t remember any anxiety about riding subways. During all high school holidays, a group of my friends planned a day in the city with a restaurant lunch and a show.
From 1964 to 1981, I lived in Manhattan, first on the Upper West Side and then in Chelsea. For reasons I have never fully understood, we impulsively moved to Bangor, Maine in 1981. My daughter Anne, who has worked in over 70 world cities, claims any of them have more in common with NYC than Bangor does. When we decided to come back two years later, we could not possibly afford NYC, having foolishly given up a fantastic, affordable apartment.
So we moved to Long Island; I now live about 4 miles from my childhood home. Our years on LI have been good; the girls got a fine education. I have enjoyed being so close to the beach; I learned to love gardening. But for years I mourned leaving Manhattan and welcomed the chance to work there. I vastly prefer trains and subways to driving. I only learned to drive at age 36 when we moved to Maine. I am a good driver, but I have never enjoyed it.
I doubt I could now adjust to cramped apartment living. When we now pay in mortgage and taxes for a 4-bedroom house, with a basement and attic for unlimited storage, might get us a small one bedroom apartment in NYC. I am only a short train ride from the heart of Manhattan; I always get a seat. I love commuting into the city three or four days a week to help take care of my grandson. When people ask where I am from, I usually say New York City. Thirty-eight minutes from the Empire State Building is as far away from Manhattan as I ever plan to be.