Journey To NYC

How in the world did I take this photo? Was I standing in the middle of the street?
How in the world did I take this photo? Was I standing in the middle of the street?

I “wanted to be a part of it” since I was a small child. I have no idea how I learned about NYC, but somehow, I knew it was different. I knew it was exciting. The taxis, the subways, and the hustle and bustle—a far cry from my boring existence in Cleveland, OH.

Not long after my 6th birthday, my eyes lit up when my mom told me that we were going to New York to visit my aunt. I was highly disappointed when I learned that she lived in New York State , Peekskill to be exact, and not New York City. It would be many more years before I finally got to NYC, but growing up I was planning my escape. I even had my pretend New York City spots in Cleveland.

The Detroit-Superior Bridge was the Brooklyn Bridge every time I crossed it. Fourth Street downtown where all the hair supply stores were located became my SoHo because of the fire escapes that lined the buildings on either side of the street. The bridge that crossed 55th Street at Euclid Ave. was my Brooklyn and I imagined a subway train crossing it before darting back underground. Strange, I know, but I was keeping hope alive.

I didn’t make it to NYC until I was twenty-four, but when I arrived, it was all that I had expected it to be. I wanted to kiss the ground and if I’d had had enough money in the bank at time, I wouldn’t have even returned home. This trip to NYC with my cousin made me even more determined to get back there permanently, which I finally did three years later.

My chance to finally move to NYC was actually a fluke. I was working at Starbucks when a girl who was in Cleveland for the summer visiting relatives began working at my store. We became friends and eventually I learned that she was moving to Brooklyn the following year and she was going to take her grandmother’s apartment after she moved Down South—and she needed a roommate! I jumped at the chance.

After the summer, my friend returned home and we corresponded and chatted on the phone for the next year until it was almost time for me to move. I was giving up my job (I transferred to another Starbucks in NYC), my $400-a-month, newly renovated, two-bedroom apartment, and my friends and family just for a chance to live in The Big Apple. I was sidetracked at first, though. I was supposed to leave for NYC at the end of September, 2001, but 9/11 happened. That wasn’t going to stop me! I put off my trip for a couple of months and in November I left for New York with only a messenger bag and suitcase.

My first week was slightly daunting, but exciting. My friend’s grandmother was out of town for the week and while my friend was at work, her cousin from out of town (who was also staying in the apartment) and I made our way around the city learning the subway system. Just as I was starting to get the hang of NYC, things took a turn for the worse.

I was at home alone during my second week when a lady came into the house and saw me there. “Who are you?” she asked. I told her that I was her granddaughter’s friend who had come to live with her. I was shocked when the grandmother said, “I told her you couldn’t come.”

A week into my NYC life, I was faced with being homeless. When I confronted my friend, all she could say was, “I didn’t know how to tell you.” And as it turned out, she had also told her cousin that she could stay there permanently too. When the cousin found out that she couldn't stay she was pissed. “I wouldn’t have given up everything to be here if I knew I couldn’t stay,” she said, before storming out.  I felt the exact same way.

The cousin took off to stay with a friend upstate, but I had nowhere else to go except back to Cleveland, so I worked out a deal with Granny to pay her $30 a week to stay there until I found somewhere else to live. Needless to say, the person I came there to live with was no longer my friend.

My mom told me that I should come back home, but I had nothing to go back to. Staying in my childhood home in my 20’s wasn’t very appealing, so I was determined to make my way in NYC somehow.

During the next month, Granny and my ex-friend became increasingly hostile towards me and many nights, I’d stay out at my favorite Coffee shop/bar until it closed at 2AM just to avoid being in the same house with people who seemed to hate me. After a month in New York, I found myself depressed and crying all the time instead of being happy like I should have been.

I knew that I needed to get a place soon, but the problem was that I had come to New York with enough money to pay half the rent in an apartment, not enough money to get my own place. Luckily, I soon discovered the NYC phenomenon of renting a room.

I found an ad in The Village Voice. One-hundred dollars a week to rent a room in Bed-Stuy. I made an appointment with the landlord right away and pleaded with him to let me have the room on the third floor of his brownstone. He gave it to me and even though I had to share the bathroom and kitchen with the couple next door, the huge room, which was the size of a small studio, was all mine. The neighborhood was a bit rough and the couple next door argued constantly, but for me it was just part of paying my dues to become an official Brooklynite.

This coming November it will be ten years since I arrived in New York. It hasn’t always been easy, but I have no regrets. I can ride the train and come and go as I please without having to worry about transportation (I don’t drive). I can walk outside my door and hear Arabic, Spanish, and Chinese being spoken before I even get to the corner. I can walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, shop in SoHo, chill in The Village, and do all the things I only dreamed about doing as a child. For better or for worse, I have no regrets about moving to NYC.

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Comments 1 comment

HSchneider 5 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

Great story Emmeaki. I'm glad you like it here. I worked in Downtown Brooklyn for 7 years. I walked for 3 days across and back on the Brooklyn Bridge due to a transit strike. Nice views but really cold on those winter days. The Brooklyn Heights area right by the bridge is very nice also.

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