Just after I turned 18, I left my home on Long Island for college in Virginia and have never considered moving back. Despite choosing to leave my home state, bad mouthing it often and now living over 1000 miles away, there are some very good things about New York. Unlike the famous slogan, I do not love New York, but there some things about New York that I love.
My family and friends: They are my backbone, my strength, my roots to this world and the number one reason I visit home time and time again. I appreciate their honesty about my attitude, my weight, my career and my relationships; the kind of brutal frankness that could only be delivered by a New Yorker. There is no such thing as passive-aggressiveness in a typical New York household, something I know it has taken my loving husband time to get used to. Everything is direct and delivered with enthusiasm. Arguments are loud, grief is all-consuming and joyous times are celebrated. Highs are high, lows are low, we love, we hate and there is really no middle ground; we like to refer to this characteristic as “passion.”
Jones Beach:The smell of salt water, sound of crashing waves, feeling of the sand and the boardwalk under your feet, taste of Manhattan Clam Chowder and big ice cream cones and sight of umbrellas and sunbathers dotting the never-ending strip of sand; a visit to Jones Beach is a feast for all the senses and summer does not feel the same without it.
Yankee Stadium: Even with the renaissance in classic stadium construction, nothing compares to the House that Babe Ruth built. Often referred to as the “Mecca of Ballparks,” entering the hallowed field is a moving experience even for those who are *gasp* Boston Red Sox fans. Whether it is the massive size of the stadium, the memories of historic moments on the field or the passionate fervor of Yankee fans, there is something for everyone to experience in the ballpark and I mourn the day our boys in pinstripes play on a new field.
Food: Many of the best five star restaurants in the US are in New York, but those are not the focus of the eating binges that dominate every visit home. It is the little places, often tucked away on side streets or hiding in a strip mall, that offer the best local dining. No trip to see my family would be complete without a slice of Alfredo’s sausage pizza, King House hot and sour soup, an everything bagel with cream cheese or a black and white cookie. Bringing and empty suitcase is always necessary to return with several loaves of Cardinali meat bread, Gabila's Knishes, hot Italian sausages, Wise garlic and onion potato chips, Sabrett Onions and Cake Mate festive fixings sprinkles.
Delis: The concept of a good deli is lost anywhere but the Northeast. Where else can you go and get a newspaper, 6-pack of beer, pint of potato salad, hot heros, lighter fluid, tampons and ice cream all in one little stop. I love visiting the Ed Woltmann Deli in Carle Place and screaming my order for a Pepperoni on a roll over the counter and getting a sandwich that is filled with a pound a meat piled high. Couple that with the best German Potato salad on the planet and you have yourself the quintessential Deli meal.
Christmas: New Yorkers love a good party, and nothing gives them more reason to have fun then a big holiday. While every holiday, from Easter to Columbus Day, is cause for celebration, nothing brings people together like Christmas. It really is the only time of the year to visit New York City; a walk down Fifth Avenue is a treat for young and old whether your best friends are stuffed animals at FAO Schwartz or diamonds at Tiffany’s. Christians and non-Christians alike are impressed by the beauty of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and nothing says Christmas like the tree and ice-skaters at Rockefeller Center. Everything in New York is done big and over the top, and this permeates into everyone’s home. Walk into a New Yorker’s house around the holidays and you would swear you are entering the Christmas Display at Macy*s.
Shopping: While most marvel at high-end stores like Prada and Tiffany, the real enthusiasts know New York is the best place to bargain shop. Whether you are looking for deals on high end merchandise at sample sales or Century 21, or knock-off purses in back alleyways, you can fill up your suitcase with great items without emptying your wallet. New York is also the place to find rare items or odd stuff. Our favorite place to look for random things is Fortunoff. We always said if you couldn’t find something in Fortunoff, chances are it didn’t exist.
The Bronx Zoo: After visiting the San Diego Zoo, which is often touted as the best zoo in the world, I still stand by my conviction that the Bronx Zoo deserves all the prizes and accolades. It is the premier facility for wildlife conservation, saving more endangered species then any other zoo in the world. The habitats are amazing and offer visitors, young and old, the most intense and amazing educational experiences. Part of the draw is the juxtaposition of this beautiful zoo with its incredible landscapes against the backdrop of New York’s “toughest” borough. Living my earlier years just blocks from the Zoo’s entrance is a major factor on my love and passion for animals.
Broadway: I can hardly sit through a 2 hour Hollywood blockbuster, but would see a Broadway show every day of the week if I could afford to. Nothing beats the theatre for true entertainment. Thousands of talented actors pour their hearts and souls out for audiences daily without the fallback of the re-take or benefits of magical editing. I will remember the power of “Phantom of the Opera,” the hilarity of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” and the music of “Rent” long after I have forgotten the latest major motion picture.
Camaraderie: The rest of the world was amazed at the kindness, strength, spirit and determination displayed by New Yorkers on the wake of September 11th. The images and stories captured by the media are the people I know; those who would jump into a burning building to save someone, would offer their couch to a person in need, would pull over to give a stranded motorist a jump (even if they are a Met fan) and would drop everything they are doing to help a child in need. New Yorkers have a rough exterior to survive the difficulty of living in a city that has survived it all; crime, pollution, corruption and terrorism to name just a few. At their core, New Yorkers are the most generous and thoughtful people you will ever meet. It is hard to crack their exterior and fully gain their trust, but once you do, you have a friend for life.