Updated: Sep 29
The past few monthly blogs have found me intermittently waxing rhapsodic over numerology; for some reason, I found the number 30 to be meaningful. Mainly because the year 2023 marked the 30th anniversary of my first-ever, completely-unexpected season in Martha’s Vineyard.
But now, as I’m preparing an imminent return to NYC, I realize the same 30 year anniversary applies to my life in the Big Apple. I finally made good on my self-promise to one day live there in the fall of 1993.
Seems like this might be a good moment to reflect on that odyssey as well…
Had I known how hard it might be to find a suitable apartment in Manhattan prior to loading up my car, it’s possible I’d still be spending winters in Boston now. But, as is the case so often with me, my own ignorance of reality served me well. I thought I’d simply walk around and find something - which is, almost immediately, exactly what happened!
Much of this is written about in detail in the story “A Route to New York” from my collection “These Stories Are True”, but I’ll share a few random thoughts here nevertheless. For one, I’d always assumed I’d eventually live in Greenwich Village (don’t ask me why!), but while taking a cab to my friend’s apartment by Duke Ellington Boulevard (I believe somewhere close to 106th and Columbus…), I saw a glimpse of a gorgeously lit Lincoln Center, which intrigued me to no end. And seeing as I’d become a much more regular runner on what I’d believed would be a one-time season on Martha’s Vineyard, I suddenly loved the idea of living close to Central Park. So that first morning found me waking up with a brand new plan: the Upper West Side was the place for me!
(And thanks again, Tim Hairston, for putting me up those first few nights!)
This brand new, would-be-resident put on a black sports jacket (I used to wear one at the time) and casually started walking around.
And here’s where unbelievable NYC luck first graced my life…
I almost absent-mindedly entered an upscale realty place across from the Museum of Natural History. Perhaps because of my deep island tan and spiffy attire, the well-dressed saleswoman rushed over to greet me with great attention. She asked me all sorts of questions: would I need a doorman, is an elevator an urgent amenity, how many rooms was I looking for, was a view of Central Park included in my list of desires. Eventually she seemed fine with my simple wish of a studio or one-bedroom apartment anywhere even close to the vicinity we were presently situated.
And then, finally, she asked about my price range.
She did her best to hide the dismay from her eyes over my answer, though I felt the effort was completely unsuccessful. I’d reported that I was looking to spend no more than one thousand dollars a month.
Dutifully, seeing as we’d already invested close to a half hour of time into this meeting, she glanced over the listings before her. We both knew this was a hopeless endeavor.
But then her eyebrows arched.
“Actually,” she said, “here’s something that just came in this morning… An apartment for $850… And it’s a one bedroom!”
I tried not to appear overly shocked. “Where is it?”
She seemed far more amazed than I. “It’s only one block away from here! 78th and Columbus!”
I wasn’t even aware of being on a street called Columbus Avenue at that moment, but I could see the sign for 79th street from the large store-front window.
“It’s a basement apartment, though,” she warned.
I smiled. That would be absolutely no problem whatsoever.
We took the three-minute walk over for a quick tour, and though time-consuming obstacles were still to come (I’d need to be approved, I’d have to come up with the realty fee of 15% of one year’s rent, I’d be forced to find someone to co-sign the lease…), this turned out to be my NYC moment.
I’ve been living on the Upper West Side ever since.
(Although not at that apartment… Read more of “These Stories Are True” should you be interested in more information.)
The upshot: a well-known banker had been renting out a place underneath his own brownstone for some time, but he realized the space was not legally habitable, due mostly to the fact of having only one means of egress. The couple presently renting had recently informed him of their plans to move.
I happened to wander into Corcoran Realty on the perfect morning!
(And as a side note, that couple would then reach out to me, asking for a chance to extend their stay one additional month. I figured I should find a way to dole some of this good fortune out and they were extremely pleased over how I was able to accommodate them. And so, very unexpectedly, I then vacationed the entire month of October away with family and friends in Burlington, Vermont!)
To list the highs and lows of the following 30 years would take far longer than I’m prepared to commit to now. But I often scratch my head over the many things I’ve seen, the variety of people I’ve met, and the numerous job opportunities that have come my way. I made the brave move one winter of remaining jobless so I could finally record all the songs written during the first half of this stay (which can now be heard via your choice of streaming platforms; ask Siri to take you to the five collections comprising “The Never-Ending 8”!). And I’m still a bit in awe over how the first year I decided to spend a summer in the City, rather than return to the Vineyard, happened to be 2001. My new favorite summer thing to do was to roller-blade along the Hudson River all the way to and around the World Trade Center and back. I even watched a couple of night-time movies there, marveling at how beautiful those two buildings appeared while sparkling like diamonds in the night. And then 9-11 happened. I was working evenings at the steakhouse Dylan Prime, just blocks away…
Well, I’ll be retuning for this upcoming 30th year in a couple of weeks. I remain grateful for all the experiences, both good and bad, I’ve had. Hopefully my energy will remain positive, because I’m sure there will be many memorable moments to come.
By the way - Diane Feinstein passed away today. She first entered the Senate in 1993.
30 years ago…
Interesting how everything seems to connect somehow…
1993 was truly an amazing year - and I’m profoundly happy to reflect over 2023 still having three months to go!