New York Is Very Much Alive

August 29, 2020

Like many New Yorkers, I escaped the city for a while and spent the last two months in Northern Maine, a place inhabited by wealthy hippies who raise chickens and name their pigs Pancetta. I needed the serenity and beauty of this place and I am thankful for it.

Now it is time to go back. It is getting cold, and I am starting to miss the city. I miss the museums, the streets, the markets, fresh orange juice at the deli, Astoria, and the MET museum. I also miss the people. The one thing that makes this city so great is our ability to start over from scratch, reinvent ourselves, and persevere. Starting over is why people came to New York in the first place.

This Spring was hard, the hardest in our lives. I can’t remember ever feeling so depressed. It was like we were in a war. The city was so quiet, quieter than it has ever been. The streets were abandoned, except for the homeless and the drug addicts. With all the traffic halted and all the usual noises reduced to nothing, all we could hear were the ambulances’ sirens and the birds singing innocently in the trees, unaware of the horror. Once, when I was walking in Chelsea, I heard church bells. I had no idea the churches in the city rang their bells.

Every day at 11:30, we listened to Cuomo’s grim accounts of the horrific death toll. Then at 7:00, we came out on windows and balconies to salute the medical workers. We all lost friends and acquaintances.

People we loved.

In May, suddenly, there were flowers everywhere. All the gardeners in the parks were coming back to life. The volunteers quietly got out and started working in our beloved parks again. That gave us hope. The numbers started going down, and we were encouraged, but also knew that we had to be smart, wear masks, keep a distance.

This week the MET museum is reopening. I already have my ticket. Some performance spaces are also reopening for concerts without an audience. Schools are also starting again on a significantly reduced schedule. Most teachers are choosing to teach online. My kids are eager to return to something resembling normalcy, but we are prepared to go to 100% remote learning if there is a second wave of the virus.

I was annoyed to read articles in the past few weeks, declaring the city dead. That’s ridiculous. The city is not over because Neiman Marcus closed. If you are a Barbie doll who moved to New York to live in a luxurious apartment and eat 200 dollar salads, maybe the city is dead to you, and yes, perhaps you should move to New Jersey, but that’s not why New Yorkers choose to live here.

As a friend of mine put it: the city and I, we have a relationship. It is personal!

Becoming a New Yorker is a choice. Unlike Paris, London, or even Sofia, you don’t need to be “born and bred” here to fit in. You are welcome.

John Lennon was a New Yorker because he wanted to be a New Yorker. He, too, fell in love with the spirit of the place. He loved everyone here because we fit in together in a beautiful cacophony. Woody Allen once said, “when you first move to New York, you notice that people walk on the street while talking to themselves. You become a New Yorker when the tourists start looking at you because you are the guy walking on the street and talking to himself.”

Most New Yorkers don’t feel like we have to explain or defend the city. We don’t. You don’t like the rats on the subway? Get a bike. You don’t like the crowds and the tiny apartments? Fine. Leave. There are too many of us here anyway.

In two days it is going to be September. The best time to be alive and the best time to be in New York.

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Gloria and Isabel are the writing pseudonyms of Bulgarian pianist, teacher and concert presenter Lora Tchekoratova, based in New York City.

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Gloria and Isabel

Gloria and Isabel

Gloria and Isabel are the writing pseudonyms of Bulgarian pianist, teacher and concert presenter Lora Tchekoratova, based in New York City.

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