(most images in this post are from my personal instagram feed, but are hosted on flickr)
It's been four months since we turned the key to unlock our new home in NYC. I still feel new here, and yet I already have favorite places in my neighborhood. I have been very blessed with finding work entirely through word of mouth, and I'm so grateful for all the opportunities I've had to get started right away. There are more photographers in this one city than perhaps all the other cities I've lived in combined, so I don't take any opportunity for granted.
I really wasn't sure I was up for another round of starting my business over again in another new city. Some days I'm still not sure I'm up for it, but all it takes is looking at the alternatives to help remind me why I continue on this path that isn't always easy or predictable- nothing else appears to offer the same personal freedom and creative expression. I'm not going to make light of the challenges involved- there are many good reasons why people don't survive very long in creative small businesses- it takes guts, determination, and sacrifice to keep on keeping on. Especially here in New York City where so many people are out chasing their big dreams, where time operates on a completely different speed, and where connections are spontaneous and fleeting.
Unlike other moves, I decided to take a step back from rushing to put myself on the market right away, and instead decided that I really wanted to spend more time getting to know this crazy city and how it operates, since it's unlike any other place on the planet. I've turned most of my unbooked weekends into adventures in and around the city, making the most of still owning a car, and finding out where and when a car is more of a burden than a benefit. I've been surprised by the number of places that are accessible by train and public transportation, but I've also found a lot of gems off the beaten path.
I've also been taking random adventures inside the city to help me learn the neighborhoods, become familiar with landmarks, find the hidden gems, and become better aquatinted with the public transportation options. One day I decided I was going to walk the entire perimeter of Central Park on its winding paths. I started around 11am, and while I did make it to some of the lesser known parts of park, I only made it about 3/4th of the way around before it got dark and I needed something substantial to eat (speaking of- why are there not more quality food options in Central Park? Let's trade some of those pretzels, hot dog, and ice cream carts for more veggie & fruit carts!) Another day I decided to bike the perimeter of lower Manhattan and was pleasantly surprised with how easy and friendly most of the pathways were.
Of the things that people would put on a "NYC Must See" list, I've crossed most of them off by now, but there are still a few outstanding items on those lists like a game at Yankee's Stadium, the 9/11 Memorial, and Coney Island. The amount that you can accomplish in one day is pretty incredible when so many things are within walking distance. For example, I decided to take Alex on a one night walking spree to all of the major NYC holiday retail displays, and we even checked out the Winter Village at Bryant Park, Rockafeller Center Christmas Tree, FAO Schwarz, and Grand Central Holiday Market and Model Train Exhibit along the way. In about five hours of walking, we managed to see it all, including a very colorful Empire State Building celebrating Nelson Mandela. If you follow my Instagram or Facebook feed, you've seen a lot of my adventures along the way, except for this little gem of ridiculousness at Barney's, where they've set up a virtual sleigh ride roller coaster photo booth…
There's certainly never a shortage of things to do here, unlike other places I've lived where the adventures needed to be more of the DIY type. With an endless list of things to do, it can be quite overwhelming at times, and in those cases, we tend to choose events of a personal nature, like attending a friend's art show, or a colleague or student performance. On nights when we don't have a special invitation and really just want to get out, but don't want to spend much, I've come to love sites with listings for free or promotional events like TheSkint.com and NYCGo.com to help me narrow the choices, and my friends with kids especially love MommyPoppins.com.
So, after living here for a third of a year, I've managed to accomplish experiencing quite a bit of what this iconic city has to offer. As for all of those things I can't experience here and now, like what Manhattan used to feel like or how the neighborhoods have changed over time, there are plenty of movies and documentaries made in and about this city every year to help me catch up and recognize those iconic New York City ghosts and shadows of the past.
As winter takes its hold on the city, I come to have a new appreciation for things which are not so pleasant in the summer, like how warm the subways are underground and the hot blasts of air shooting up sidewalk vents, how the smog's thick moisture actually softens the winter air's dryness, how quickly the parade of dogs peeing on sidewalks in the morning helps melt the snow, how the city smells a lot less like urine thanks to the bitter cold keeping it low on the ground, and how a dusting of snow makes all the trash siting on the sidewalk just look like feather white shrubbery rather than unsightly rubbish. When I return to NYC after visiting family for the holidays, I'll definitely miss the gentle smell of evergreens from the sidewalk Christmas Tree sellers, the festive holiday lights, and the chestnuts roasting at hot dog stands, but I definitely won't miss Times Square when the ball drops on New Year's Eve- not just because I can see it happen anywhere in the country on TV, but because I already spent 6 hours in the cold waiting for that famous sight once 13 years ago, and I can attest that the experience is much nicer from a warm living room. ;-)