Dear New York City,
Being able to call you home has been a dream ever since I first met you. The way you contrast the bland environment of New Jersey suburbia through a variety of classical and experimental theater, eclectic restaurants and fashion, museums, art galleries, and outdoor markets, piqued my curiosity and made it a goal for me to one day call your dear old dirty streets home. After years of admiring from a distance, that dream was finally achieved upon matriculating to NYU this fall.
And let me just say, you have lived up to my every expectation. From gallivanting around historic St Mark’s Place, snatching Mamoun’s falafel at midnight; to late-night runs to Joe’s Pizza; to walks in all my favorite parks with all my favorite people; to vibrant conversations with random street artists; you have refined my spirit in a way that I never thought was possible. You have gifted me the priceless gift of culture, the pedagogy of some of the world’s most acclaimed acting teachers, the best food scene on the face of the earth. You’ve humbled me and inspired me. You’ve exhausted and exhilarated me. You continuously form me into the person I am and will become.
To go from living you, breathing you, loving you, to merely watching you from a distance has been a jarring shift of reality. Your barren streets, closed doors, and stagnant energy has left me gasping for the soul of the city I love. I pray for the restaurants I frequented, and for all the ones I am yet to try. I pray for Astor Place Hairstylists, for Blue Bottle Coffee, for Strand Bookstore. For the inspiring atmosphere of The Rose Main Reading Room at the NYPL, the birthplace of some of my favorite writing. I pray for my Drama studio, for theater, and all those indie art houses studded across downtown. I pray for the artists who -- every day from 9-6 -- set up little stands in Union Square; the lady with the pigeons, I pray for you too.
Just yesterday, you achieved a miserable milestone: a higher death toll than that of 9/11. This is a time of unprecedented calamity. But what makes my city so special is, in the face of hardship, its force of incomparable resilience. NYC is defined not by the surgence of chains and franchises but by artistic dynamism manifested in independent stores, restaurants, theaters and art houses; the places most vulnerable to the economic downturn.
The few weeks ahead are going to be tough for you. But I am confident that the gentility, the emissions of character, that spew from your spirit will be enough to revitalize the soul of the most irrepressible, inspiring place on earth. Like the chocolate muffins from Ole & Steen, you may be hard on the outside, but on the inside you’re warm, soft, and supple. If anyone can rebound from this hardship, it’s you.
I miss you, my dear old dirty town. Stay New York Strong.