Manhattan Memories

I’ve signed a one year contract to work in Korea, and as the departure date looms ever closer, I find myself trying to come to terms with leaving New York. I’ll be gone for all of 2015 which means I’ll be missing the four seasons, all the exciting (and not so exciting) stuff happening in all five boroughs, and a whole year of New York City history.

I grew up in the city’s forgotten borough of Staten Island, so by the time I explored Manhattan on my own I was seventeen. I remember it well. It was on Columbus Day when I was attending Tottenville  High School and I went with a friend of mine to explore. I can’t remember why I was there or what we did specifically but I remember having an amazing time.

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(Although we ignored the Columbus Day Parade.)

And in the ten years since then I’ve explored many nooks and crannies of Manhattan, getting to know the overpriced island well. I’ve also visited the other boroughs on my own in time, each for different reasons.

So lately I’ve been taking stock of some of my favorite places to visit as well as some that are attached to a particular memory. Warning: this post will be more nostalgic than funny, but I’ll try my best to make it interesting.

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(C’mon. Everyone deserves a little self-indulgence from time to *CHOMP*)

The first place that sticks out for me is West 72 Street in Manhattan. When I was 17 / 18 I was heavy into the Beatles music; it was all I listened to for months and even when I started listening to other bands it would be years before I’d stop listening altogether John, Paul, George, and Ringo (as well as their solo work). Although, I still listen from time to time.

Now, anyone who knows anything about the Beatles knows that John Lennon was killed right in front of his apartment building at the Dakota located at West 72nd Street. Years ago I would walk by, an eerie chill passing through me on the inside while a blank, detached expression passed by on my face.

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(Just another sheep passing a celebrity murder site. Nothing to see here.)

If you follow 72nd to Central Park, you’ll get to Strawberry Fields, a memorial dedicated to John Lennon established by his wife, Yoko Ono. Back when I was into his music (and had a lot more free time) I would hang out there and talk to other fans about him. (The last time I did this, it was with a family from England who recently went to a Paul McCartney concert.) Even though I haven’t been there since the 2000s, I hear that fans still gather there at night and play Beatles cover songs to honor him.

Also on West 72nd, right by the 1 train stop, is the store Urban Outfitters. It holds a particular memory for me, because I would go there in my senior year of high school to buy clothes for my freshman year of college. There’s still not an Urban Outfitters in Staten Island (because let’s face it, there’s nothing “urban” about the place) so when I took the trip to Manhattan I was free to buy clothes I ordinarily would not have worn. I was still trying to come up with an “identity” at this period in my life, and the clothes and attitude available at the Urban Outfitters got me excited. I wanted to dress and act “cool” when I started college in Pennsylvania.

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(Got the whole crew looking fresh)

Another area that holds sentimental value is the West Village / Union Square area. (You know, all the places that NYU owns) From 1987 to 2012 my grandmother’s brother, Dominic, lived in a 600 SF studio apartment at the Brevoort on 11 fifth ave. I used to love visiting him because he lived in such a beautiful area of the city: vibrant, clean, and bustling with ambitious college students.

I spent the night a few times at his place before he wound up selling it to move out west to Las Vegas. The earliest I can remember was when I was taking motorcycle courses in the Bronx. The course was a couple of days, and even though I passed, poverty forced me to never actually purchase a motorcycle and ride it. And today I’m older and have little interest in riding one. But who knows? Maybe when I come into some more money I’ll buy a bike.

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(Or if I have a mid-life crisis in the next 25 years.)

The other times I’ve slept over was when I would go to writer’s conferences. Specifically the now defunct Backspace Writer’s Conference in fall 2010.  I may make a post about these types of conferences in the future, but as far as this one was concerned, I have to say that it was a great experience to hop a train and head from Union Square to Herald Square in no time at all. Had I commuted from Staten Island, it would have been a 2 hour trip, so even though I had to sleep on the floor of my Uncle Dickie’s studio, the convenience was more than worth it.

The area also has the four floor mega Barnes and Noble, the Strand Bookstore (home of my spam-ridden post about it) and NYC’s most famous cupcake shop, Magnolia Bakery.

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(I am a filthy glutton and I don’t care WHAT the tourists say!)

I remember when I first came to the West Village I absolutely fell in love with the area, and at about 17 years old, I decided I wanted to live there one day. Life is full of disappointments, dear reader, so it wouldn’t be long until I learned that the West Village is one of the most expensive (read: overpriced) areas to live in. So there goes that dream.

But I still enjoyed hanging out there. I recall going to Washington Square Park (after my first nasty rejection by an agent) to cool down, hanging around the NYU campus that time I saw comedian Demetri Martin perform at the Skirball center with my brother, eating at a Chinese restaurant with my cousin, Johnny Rockets (now long gone) with my best friend, as well as hitting the bars in the nearby meatpacking district on Friday and Saturday nights.

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(Where we obviously killed it with the ladies)

I’ve got other memories too, like the time Hurricane Sandy hit and I had to stay in my brother’s apartment in Kips Bay, one that had no running water and no electricity. But that experience deserves its own separate post.

Thanks for bearing with my self-indulgence this week. Don’t worry: come Saturday I’ll be posting about something with a bit more *ahem” wider appeal.

eric-garner-police-brutality-ramsey-orta

(No. It’s not this. But good guess, though.)

That’s all for now. If you liked what I had to say please leave a comment below and as always be sure to SUBSCRIBE by email so you’ll be notified every time I post, which should be getting more frequent as I get closer and closer to departure.

Until next time,

J. F. Seegitz

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