Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Okay, I admit it, I do love New York

I've really enjoyed reading various accounts around the blogosphere about BEA and everyone's experiences in New York during that week. I'm sorry I've been so slow on posting about my BEA experiences. Traveling really wore me down *a lot* more than usual. I think it was the combination of completely fucking up my sleep schedule (I was getting up much closer to the time I normally go to bed on most days) and the seasonal change which always leads to sinus upheaval for me. I don't know if it's allergies or a cold, but there is a lot of snot involved and I'm very groggy. So I'm slow moving on blog entries and other catching up and perhaps not as coherent as I would like to be.

I think I already posted the best slices of knowledge I gleaned from BEA on Saturday in this entry about the Children's Author Breakfast. If you have any interest in YA/Children's lit and why people write it, check that out because I gathered some great quotes from writers who are wiser than me and added some of my thoughts about what they said.

I'll post more about the BEA experience, which was extremely overwhelming, but definitely positive either tomorrow (depending on if my WWRW interview comes through) or Thursday. Today I want to talk about New York City.... and how I've grown to love it.

This was my first Book Expo America (BEA), but not my first trip to New York City. I went there for the first time in 2005 and for the second in 2007, so I've done the touristy stuff like going to the top of the Empire State Building and to the Statue of Liberty before. This third visit was largely a business trip for me. But it sealed my affection for the city, which I must admit was hard-won.

I'm a Chicago girl. We have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder in Chicago about not being seen as good enough as New York or LA because we aren't on a coast or as glamorous or whatever. For some reason, these feelings for me have always been directed more at NYC than LA. I was enamored with LA, more because of the palm trees and the weather than the Hollywood glitter, though there is that appeal as well. I lived in LA for a semester and as much as I did love the weather and the landscape, I know I could never live there long term. I can't deal with all the sprawl and the necessity to drive everywhere. I'm a public transportation girl. And there is way too much posturing and superficiality in LA. I just couldn't handle that; it would feel too much like junior high. For example, actual sign on a hospital in LA... Really?

I don't have any interest in living in New York either. They have the same weather as Chicago, and if I leave Chicago, it will largely be to escape that. But unlike LA, where I went in with expectations to love it (and I do, don't get me wrong, I just couldn't live there), I went into New York expecting to hate it. It was partially that Chicago chip on my shoulder and partially my association of the East Coast to certain people and parts of my life that I don't like. With the exception of Baltimore (and a strange affinity for Salem, MA), I've never been all that impressed by the East Coast.

I knew after my first visit that I actually didn't hate New York. In fact, I maybe sort of liked it. And now I can say that I definitely like it and maybe actually love it... Not Seattle or New Orleans love. But it could be up there with my other favorite cities like LA, Baltimore, and Madison. The places I love to visit, but know I could not live.

I was on my own a lot during this trip to New York. The past two times I went with a friend and I was almost always accompanied by my agent, showing us around. I was also mainly in Manhattan. I saw and shopped St. Mark's Place. Went to CBGB's before it closed. Discovered my favorite dive The Mars Bar. So I saw both the touristy sights and the touristy punk sights, I guess you could saw. This time I split my time between Manhattan and Queens, where my agent currently lives. I wandered around a little bit in Queens. I navigated the subway by myself a lot. (Though I love love love my new bff Marie Hansen from the New York Public Library who made sure I got safely back to Queens on the subway my first night navigating it alone.) This made the city begin to feel real to me.

And honestly it felt a lot like Chicago.... but with a much better transportation system (seriously, as a public transportation girl, NYC is heaven)...however not as clean (they don't have alleys like we do in Chicago and the whole trash on the street in the heat thing, not appealing).

I think the biggest way that New Yorkers get misrepresented is that they've been given the reputation of being rude or cold. Now, I am not your average tourist. I'm from a big city myself and I don't like it when people come to an abrupt stop in front of me to snap a photo or pull out a map. Sidewalks in big cities have the same rules as roadways. If you are slow, go to the right so the rest of us who have places to be, know how to get there and want to get there as quickly as possible can easily pass you. If you need to stop to take a photo or consult a map, pull over. Like to an out of the way place. I'm guessing the people who complain about New Yorkers being rude aren't actually being very considerate themselves. I was as considerate as I would have been at home and on the few occasions where I did get turned around, every New Yorker that I approached was polite and helpful. So there you have it.

I really like the people of New York. I like how different the various neighborhoods and boroughs are. I want to go back from a non-business trip at some point and really explore Brooklyn, which I've heard excellent things about and try out some more restaurants. (In terms of vegan friendliness, I would say New York is also on par with Chicago. There are lots of good options, though it is not nearly as vegan friendly as Seattle or San Francisco.)

And this time it really resonated with me what a city of dreams New York is. Of course, I felt this when I went to the Statue of Liberty and thought about Ellis Island and the dreams of so many people first arriving in America. I've understood how New York has been the dream for many in theater and dance and people escaping smaller towns looking for a city that will provide them more opportunities to fit in. But going to Book Expo America helped me see how New York is the city of my dreams as well. It is the capital of publishing. I spent all of my days there surrounded by people who love books as much as I do and I can't express how good that felt. I've been published and I hope to continue to be and to rise in my field and New York is where those dreams have come and will hopefully continue to come true.

Here I am in 2007, when I first visited my editor and publisher and my first dream came true:

That brings us to BEA and I will blog about it soon, I promise. But I had to express what a truly great city I have come discover that New York is. I'm glad my business will continue to bring me back there and hope to enjoy more of a pleasure trip there soon.

What about you? Have you been to New York and if so, do you love it? Is it a dream city in any way to you?


Punk Rock Girl said...

Come to Philly! WE ROCK!

Annika said...

I think it's so funny that you compare the public transportation, because when I moved to Chicago (after growing up in New York) one of the first things I fell in love with was the awesome public transportation. BUT it is important to note that I lived in Humbolt Park, not way out where you are.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Kate, I have been to Philly and may actually be there for one day in August... will post about it on the blog when it happens.

Annika, I don't actually live way out. I'm right on the border of the West Side of the city and on two train lines, but compared to New York it just *really* sucks. While I was in NYC I never waited more than 5 minutes for a train even at 6 am or 12 midnight! Here in Chicago, I've waited almost half an hour at rush hour. The CTA is highly troubled and total crap. May have been better when you lived out here, but it has really gone downhill.