When I first moved to Manhattan, folks told me that you may start calling yourself a “true New Yorker” only after living here 10 years. It was always said with such conviction that I never questioned it. As a newbie, I just assumed it was a given fact that everyone understood. I imagined that upon my 10th Anniversary there might be some ceremony in Tompkins Square Park where the local homeless guy/artiste awarded me a special accomplishment badge from the Girl Scouts (now Foursquare). That’s when I would have enough Big Apple experience under my belt to share common ground with my fellow citizens. But recently, I’m not so sure I buy the decade argument after all.
Any time I meet a recent immigrant come to set-up shop near the Great White Way, I’m reminded that it’s that energy, enthusiasm and passion for this city that makes it buzz with excitement. It’s that shared sense of awe for all that is possible in New York that bonds us.
Last night’s New York fresh meat was Jono from Australia, whom I e-met through our dear mutual friend Katie. He moved here to open Hyatt’s new property Andaz on 5th Avenue, and since I have an instant crush on anyone with an accent from Down Under (I have the Sydney Opera House tattooed on my arm, after all), it wasn’t a hard sell to arrange for get-to-know-you drinks.
The rooftop bar at Kimpton’s new ink48 property on 11th Avenue and 48th street was the perfect place to exchange observations on Manhattan. Sometimes, I worry about spots overlooking the Hudson River because once the sun sets, you’re stuck looking at, well, New Jersey. But ink48’s locale, a tad bit off the beaten path, gives it a spectacular new perspective on the city—the bar looks back fondly with unobstructed views over the Midtown Manhattan skyline. Unless you own an apartment on the West Side highway, you probably haven’t seen this view. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, and floor-to-ceiling windows letting you take it all in. Just know the hotel strictly controls the number allowed up to the 16th floor, but you can always wait in the groovy lobby lounge.
Poor Jono, when I meet someone new, I have a habit of behaving as if I have my own talk show. I think at first he was a little overwhelmed by the amount of questions I peppered him with about life in New York and at the hotel.
“Has your family come to visit?” is one of my favorite questions, the answer revealing a multitude of sins—everything from how the subject gets along with their parents to what they showcase to visiting relatives.
And then quickly the tables turned.
“What do you love about New York? What keeps you passionate about this city?” Jono asked.
I sat looking at him awed at his ability to take the upper hand in my interview. Like a terrible guest, I was silent, stumped. But like a good host, Jono vamped to fill in the gaps.
“You either love New York or you hate it. And if you hate it, you get out. For people who have stayed, like you, there must be a passion for it. What’s yours?”
I smiled. As a caring and helpful host, he had given me a wide opening to plug my book.
“Well, Jono, as I wrote in Alphabet City, New York is a place where anyone can move and follow a dream. You can leave your baggage behind, and with ambition and talent, you can reinvent yourself.”
He nodded in agreement. I smiled pleased to have hit my message point, and remembered one more.
“I like to think there’s a little bit of Mary Tyler Moore in all adopted New Yorkers.”
With that, we raised a glass to MTM, and toasted all the opportunities in the Big Apple. And I decided that it’s not the amount of time you spend in New York that determines if you can call it home, it’s your attitude that earns you that right.