So, three guesses where I am right now. I just flew in late last night from a weekend in San Francisco, and am SO HAPPY to be back! I try to get to New York more often, but it doesn’t always happen like I plan (I had a trip booked for May, but ended up canceling, which broke my heart). But that doesn’t change the magical way I feel when I get here.
This week, I’ll be posting a bit more randomly, and it may be about books, or it may be about the city (or it just might be about something totally random). The posts won’t necessarily be scheduled (I haven’t yet figured out how to do that on my iPad yet – the app just doesn’t seem to work well in the scheduling department), but they will be more in the moment, and a little more personal… maybe fun for the long time readers. For those of you who like schedules and plans (I get that, I’m one of your tribe) I’ll be back to posting normally next week (by Wednesday). And, of course, our Read-a-Long post will be up on Friday as always.
Back to New York. I’m actually staying not far from where this picture was taken (do you love this photo as much as I do?). And I didn’t stay too far from this place the very first time I came to New York, which was when I was seventeen. I was supposed to make it here ten years earlier. (Some of you who have been reading for awhile know a few things about my personal life, but I can’t remember if I’ve told this story.) My dad, Gene Yovetich, was an advertising executive. He was on (what I call) a schmoozing trip in British Columbia (with top executives from his firm and presidents and CEOs from some of their biggest accounts) when they had an accident on the Chilko River while rafting. From BC he was supposed to come and get my brother and me for our last couple of weeks of summer vacation; he was taking us to New York City for our first time. He didn’t make it home, and we didn’t make it to New York. I spent the next ten years thinking it was the Promised Land; the place where if we had just been able to make it life would have been different.
Ten years later, I made it here; my mom brought us to the city. I loved it. We caught a play; Anne Frank (starring Natalie Portman), we explored, she told us stories about living there with our dad right out of college. It was everything I hoped it would be.
A few years after that, when I was 21, I moved here for the summer to do summer school at NYU. I went with a friend, and I had a few others who were living here at the time. We lived near Union Square and could walk to school every day. I missed grass and trees and vegetation, but I loved the anonymity. I loved that on one corner there would be someone in a bright red Hanes sweatsuit and on the other would be a fashionista; but mostly I loved that nobody blinked an eye at it, everyone was free to be whoever they wanted to be. I liked that, sometimes, when we walked home late at night from a bar, it would feel a little dangerous because we’d be walking in an area that wouldn’t have existed anywhere else I had lived, and I liked that I was always just a little bit homesick because this city life was so foreign to me. I’ll never forget being on the top of the World Trade Center on July 11th (exactly two months before the tragedy of September 11th) and watching a plane fly so close that it made me want to throw up. I remember turning to my friend, Summer, and saying how it felt like that plane could have easily crashed right into the building – and asking her if she could even imagine how scary that would be. Two months later we’d be back in California (having left New York just weeks earlier), in our safe sorority house, where we would get the news that my over-imaginative mind had unfortunately come up with a true scenario.
I’ve been back several times since. I have a particular friend, Tira, whom I grew up with and moved to New York that same summer I did (but stayed for ten more years), whom I used to stay with. Since then, it’s usually the case that we are here at the same time (which isn’t hard considering when she’s not in the state she lives in now for her husband’s job, she’s in New York – which will always be home to her). Now, I associate New York with her, and other memories and experiences and people. I still think of my dad when I’m there, but I also think of my mom – who moved from living her entire life in Kansas to being a new wife (at 21!) and teaching in the city. And I think of all of the publishing houses, and all of the ideas going through the offices above my head as I walk around. I think of the history, almost all of it that has nothing to do with me (John Adams Read-a-Longers, I can’t go to the city anymore without also thinking of the American Revolution, and trying to wrap my brain around what the city was like back then), and the dreams and deals and world changing decisions that have happened here.
I’m not trying to romanticize this city, it does that on its own. I imagine I’m not the only one who sees ghosts around every corner; personal or historical. I swear, every time I’m up in the 80s on 5th, I see Jackie Kennedy Onassis leaving her apartment to slip into the Park without anyone noticing. Helene Hanff usually disappears around a corner of her neighborhood before I can catch up with her. My parents, young and new to the city, are walking around exploring. Myself, at 21, wondering why people are staring at the blonde girl who wears pastels and smiles at them (not knowing the rules of the city just yet). My uncle, in the 60s as a young law student, and my brother, over a decade ago taking his first acting workshop not knowing the path that lay ahead to get him to where he is now. Also Patti Smith and Joan Didion; I just know that someday I’ll bump into them, hopefully at The Strand, hopefully with a pile of books in their arms (if only so I can see what they’re reading these days). And always Tira, knowing the city like the back of her hand, and having the kind of relationship with the city that really would be worth writing about. (Nudge, nudge.)
Anyway, I’m here. Talk soon.