For whatever reason, New York has always remained in my line of vision and someday I hope to live there. Who doesn't have that dream? Midwest to Manhattan is an ongoing series here on the site, dedicated to folks with connections to both the Midwest and Manhattan.
Last month, Eileen Moores shared her story and this week, it's my turn. I spent this past weekend in New York and it was everything I wanted it to be and more.
There's no feeling in the world like the one you get when you're in a cab, driving down Lexington Avenue, peering out at the people and buildings passing by. From behind the window, I can speak from experience when I say that the city feels absolutely endless, a maze of people, billboards, and sky.
Joan Didion wrote a wonderful collection of essays entitled Slouching Towards Bethlehem and this paragraph resonated with me deeply the moment I read it,
“...quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean “love” in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again. I remember walking across Sixty-Second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage.”
There's something comforting about expectations being met and dreams coming to fruition. I think New York has embodied those twin sensations for many years and its come to symbolize possibility; a glittering apparition of hopes and dreams.
In many ways, going to New York City does feel like you're coming out of the West and reaching a long-sought after mirage. And unlike many mirages, this one lives up to all of your expectations. It's good to know some things in life are as beautiful as they appear to be. It's good to know that some mirages remain when you reach them.
I know that visiting New York is much different than living there, but its streets are intoxicating whether or not it's home. That intoxication also makes it difficult to leave. It made me ask inane questions like if New York is the mirage, does that mean Des Moines is somewhere in the metaphorical wilderness? No, Evan. Not quite.
Throughout my visit, I was reminded that being within the mirage makes it hard to see outside of it. When I was walking around New York and my mind wandered back to Iowa, I felt somewhat despondent. But while the glamour of it all clouds your vision at first, it also makes you dream a little bit bigger. You see the possibilities there and you wonder where else can these things happen? If it can happen in New York, that means it's possible anywhere, right?
New York feels full of opportunity, but I've found that Des Moines actually is full of opportunity. Being in New York only made those opportunities more apparent to me. I'm thankful this is home for the time being because I have spectacular opportunities here that wouldn't exist in other places.
Yet even though I'm full of gratitude for this place at this time, the mirage of New York persists in my mind.
I think Joan's essay was about those places we hold in high esteem and how when we go to those places, they give us hope. They remind us that things can be as good as we hope them to be and they remind us of life's endless possibilities. New York will always be that to me.
But now I've reached another mirage and this one isn't New York. This time, the place I hold in high esteem is home and it's real. I still think about New York and wonder if that glorious mirage is flickering about the sky.
I know that my view of New York is based on being there a mere four days, but I've made my peace with having a romanticized view of it.We all have different mirages we look to in our lives and it's okay if one of those mirages remains perfect and untainted.
Des Moines is a wonderful place to live and to dream, but when I need to feel intoxicated by possibility, I can leave this mirage and go to that other one out East. It's good to know it's just a plane ride away.
p.s. a brief rundown of what we did while were there:
Vegan food at By Chloe, coffee at the now-shuttered Ost Cafe on 12th Street, Japanese clothing at Muji, and cookies for breakfast at Levain Bakery. We stayed at this hotel ($110 a night through Expedia!) and spent large amounts of time inside of Uber's because I couldn't figure out the subway system.