I am finally writing about New York after many years and experiences I will share a few of them in this post
In 1968, as a sophomore at Dartmouth College, I ventured down the NJ Turnpike with our football team to play at the University of Pennsylvania. That was my first sighting of the NYC skyline. Even as a boy who grew up in the redwood forests, I was overwhelmingly impressed. Two days later, we stayed the night in Times Square before driving back to the granite of New Hampshire. A teammate’s father was CEO of the Boston Celtics…They played the Knicks that night in Madison Square Garden. I went to the game and was escorted through the Celtic locker room afterwards. Quite an introduction.
After graduation, I returned to California, only to get a job at Columbia University. I packed my car and drive the 3000 miles east, never to fully reside again in the Golden State… I met my wife and started my life’s adult journey in New York. We initially lived in a small studio apartment with regular cockroach visitors, and orangish water that came out of rusty pipes. The recently coronated Mrs Bear and I moved to a much nicer apartment overlooking the Hudson River and Ulysses Grant’s tomb, leaving the cockroaches behind. But we had no money for furnishings, making due with a bed, desk, and carpet remnants. We lived in the City for two years, occasionally venturing out to Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center for concerts. I was impressed with the 24 hour stimulation, lack of necessity for a car in the City, and the fast pace. Nothing in California moves at half the speed of the Big Apple. And the people pride themselves on having an asshole edge…My favorite New York example occurred one afternoon walking down Broadway. Sidewalks in New York have lanes just like the highways. This day, the sidewalk was three abreast each direction and no real ability to pass anyone…Wall-to-wall pedestrians. Suddenly, an old lady, seventy or so, materializes in my lane walking the wrong way. I had no time to change lanes or utter a warning, so I just stopped walking. She hit me head-on, and I saw her eyes role back in her head as she became disoriented. Luckily she found her balance and didn’t fall. As her head cleared, she looked up at me and shouted, “Why Don’t You Look Where You’re Walking !!?!”
Medical School and education programs took us across the river to New Jersey and we gradually lost touch with this part of our heritage.
Our educations and careers took us to Texas, then back to the right coast and North Carolina. One daughter followed my education path to Dartmouth and the other went to high school in Maryland. Occasional visits to my wife’s family brought us to the NYC suburbs, but visits were few.
Our final relocation to Central Pennsylvania came with advantages. Like our former home in Chapel Hill, State College was a great spot to make weekend trips. It is roughtly four hours from Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Buffalo, AND New York. We began to frequent the City again…This time, the draws were museums and Broadway. We fell in love with the musicals and plays of the Theater District. During the day, we could walk north to Central Park or south to Greenwich Village, find great places to eat along the way, and be back for “Theater,” with time to spare
This month, Mrs Bear and I met our entire extended family for two nights of shows. While everyone else took in a Harry Potter twosome, I was free to set up my own agenda…I was lucky enough to see the revival of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” the first night, and “Kinky Boots,” the second. In between, Mrs Bear tested my knees by walking me from the United Nations to Central Park.
We both agreed that NYC had captured us… This startled me because in our younger days, I had accepted the City, but looked forward to the day when we could escape. And then I realized what had changed… I had grown up !!! I had a lot more money !!!
New York is way more cool when you have the money to, let’s say, buy Hamilton tickets !
As a last comment, I will quote a song which offerred advice to graduating collegians:
Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you too hard… Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you too soft.