I went to New York City when I was 12. I saw a confusing Broadway musical, watched the Yankees win in the bottom of the ninth and ferried around Ellis Island and the French lady. I eyed the chess matches of Central Park and rode the sweltering subway when they still used tokens. My parents did not allow me to partake in the city's never-sleep lifestyle, but I remember hearing a clamor of noise from my window each night when I fell asleep. At the end of my visit, I watched a Joffrey Ballet School performance in which my sister played a beautiful tree to near perfection.
I will return to the great city tomorrow for a five-day vacation, staying with a good friend who crashed at my place for Carolina's homecoming.
"Come up to New York sometime," he said last fall. Thinking about going places is not my thing, let alone actually going to them. I told him I would consider and then forgot about it. But sometime in May I realized this kind former hallmate of mine lived in Spanish Harlem, a place named with reverence in my favorite Elton John song.
My girlfriend and I bought the plane tickets a month ago and planned our entire schedule today. We agreed on most things except for the television show tours. She wanted Sex and the City; I wanted Seinfeld. We both surrendered and substituted with the Empire State Building observatory and an unofficial visit to Monk's Cafe. To be fair, I should shop for lady shoes with her and think aloud 'Meanwhile, near the Upper West Side, Sophia and J.B. were learning to do a little compromising of their own . . .'
Sophia is a Libertyville friend who went to New York for a banking job after graduating from Princeton in 2006. In her better days she helped me study for high school English classes. She is like many of my other Libertyville friends in that I have almost completely lost touch with her for no good reason.
"Hello?" she mustered into the phone yesterday with uneasy hesitation like she had opened her front door to a guy wearing a ski mask and holding a bouquet of flowers. Maybe she thought Teach For America killed me. I hope to see her and Sergio again as two of the busy bees in the hive that some lovingly call New York City.
"And now I know
Spanish Harlem are not just pretty words to say.
I thought I knew.
But now I know that rose trees never grow in New York City.
Until you've seen this trash can dream come true,
you stand at the edge while people run you through.
And I thank the Lord there's people out there like you.
I thank the Lord there's people out there like you."