I started writing this post riding backwards (seems fitting somehow) on the train returning to Albany from Penn Station, so the tenses may slip a bit here and there. When I think about it, it fits with my feeling like I’m slipping and sliding between different realities.

When I first got to the city and checked into the Empire Hotel, I was put off by its ‘80s decor, the long dark hallways, and my slightly dingy room facing an air shaft. Over the days, I grew fond of its unpretentious funk and comforts. I liked hanging out on the couches in the lobby visiting with the Seattle friends who were the impetus for my trip, or sitting at the otherwise unused bar where I wrote my last blog post. And the view from the rooftop bar (mostly populated by 20-somethings) is fabulous.

The first day there, I couldn’t wait to get back to the green and the quiet. I hope that feeling will return now that I’m home. My final morning, I took a last walk in Central Park. Plenty of green and quiet there. Enough for me, at any rate, though the Sheep Meadow is closed for its seasonal rest. The carousel has been refurbished, but I recognize the brick enclosure that housed it when I was a child. The center drive is closed to traffic but you still have to push the Walk button in order to navigate across through the cyclists and skaters and horse drawn carriages. Everything is so vividly alive.

Would the ache that held my heart as I prepared to leave the city be assuaged if I lived there? I don’t deceive myself that there weren’t many times, as a child and a young woman, that I hated the noise and the crowds and the garbage (though that seems much more under control now). I hated the sticky oppression of humid summers and the icy wind off the Hudson in winter. I did, after all, choose to move out west almost forty years ago, and spent much of my childhood longing to live upstate. I know that some of it is the irrationally of love (such a dangerous seductive necessary thing). Up to a point, one can see the flaws of the beloved but they don’t outweigh the gifts of loving. Ah, but what is that point? And does reaching it keep the heart from breaking when it’s time to say goodbye, or cause the longing to cease? 

But it’s more than my relationship with the city that made these last few days so rich. It was my godson taking the train in from Princeton and going to see Leopoldstadt on Broadway with me. It was walking with him on the endlessly hustling and bustling streets of midtown, both of us surprised and tickled to be there together.

It was spending time with my Seattle friends and going to dinner with them and my oldest friend and her husband. Both these sets of friendships are decades old—the Seattle ones started in LA in the late ‘80s and my oldest friend and I met when we were eleven. It was remarkable to bring these pieces of my life and heart together. 

It was walking in Riverside Park with a high school friend whose bedroom shared a wall with my living room (or rather, my parents’ living room) when we were fifteen. Our signal to lean out of our respective ninth story windows for a visit was to knock on that adjoining wall. She remembers that we rigged up a string with cans on either end to facilitate our conversations. In the mornings, on the way to school, we’d meet in the stairwell to roll up our skirts.

It was picking up another high school friend from the Art Students League on 57th Street (the studio reminded me of Music & Art, our alma mater) where he paints every day and then going into the warmth of a neighborhood bar to get out of the rain. It was sitting across the table from him for a couple of hours and seeing myself reflected in the eyes of a man I’ve loved and who has loved me since we were teenagers. 

It was walking six or seven miles a day on the streets or avenues (very different things) or in a park. It was the pigeons outside the Met. It was the familiar Dublin House sign on 79th Street, just a few feet away from a protected Banksy. It was the lights in the pools of Lincoln Center, across from the Empire. It was the park worker trimming branches while opera from his service vehicle filled the air. It was the Canada goose with its in-your-face New York boldness but not aggression, who came within six inches of me in its quest for a handout. It was the street vendor in front of Zabar’s who sold me my beautiful new red and blue scarf, knocking five dollars off the price without being asked and then teasingly saying, when I showed him the one I wanted, “That one’ll be a dollar more.” He’s been working that spot for the past twenty-five years. “I could have made more in midtown,” he said, “but here I’m part of the community.” 

The dynamism of the city can help fill a lot of empty inner spaces. It can also make one more acutely aware of them. There are, of course, no panaceas or simple answers. But maybe the latter isn’t entirely true. I have one friend where I live now and have to figure out how to make more. I want men in my life (anyone have any suggestions for dating sites?). I suspect I’ll miss the city less and appreciate where I live more when I have connections here to share it with. And, Manhattan is only a two-and-a-half hour train ride away.

Photos by Ruth Neuwald Falcon


  1. Ruth, Thank you for taking me along with you on your visit to New York City. I felt like I was there with you. Riding backward toward home…..an interesting perspective, for sure. I love all the photos which really helped to enjoy what you were seeing. I am glad you are close enough so that you can visit your special place often.

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  2. Love the visit to NYC! I’ve only been there once with my NYBoychick hubby, but the energy is still a palpable memory! Thanks for igniting it, and best to you in your seeking for a meaningful relationship. No doubt somebody wonderful is seeking you!

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  3. You made today’s Manhattan and remembrance of your days long ago vivid. My earliest ancestors crossed from along Island via the Breukelen Ferry to Nieuw Amsterdam and the fish market that was called the Fulton Fish Market for generations, but I believe no longer exists. I believe the Sephardic Temple, congregation Shearith Israel that began with a minyan of ten men who survived expulsion from Recife when Stuyvesant was governor of the Dutch colony still stands.

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