the high school orchestra trip i took as a freshman violinist to nyc sealed the deal for me: i decided that when i grew up, i wanted to move to new york. i still remember getting back from SFO airport on the school bus and experiencing this overwhelming sadness. i felt i had been changed forever. from the hole in the wall diners to the jazz show in some random house in harlem to seeing rent on broadway, i couldn’t wait to live that sleepless life in the city of rough edges, unapologetic counter culture and raw creativity.
le tigre and yeah yeah yeahs were my heroes during high school. they embodied the life i wanted—unafraid to speak up about inequality and the things that pissed them off.
i took a detour and moved to london and LA before finally making my way back to new york in my mid 20s. i was there for 7 years—i struggled, i grew, and adopted a new york street cat.
i landed in brownsville, brooklyn when i first moved to new york because i was a dumbass and didn’t know anything about neighborhoods so i spent the first year commuting to practically the end of the 3 train a few stops before new lots avenue. i worked random jobs while freelancing photo gigs when i first moved—working a tiny coat check in a speakeasy in chinatown (shoutout to phil, the funniest door dude who would give me a ride home every night when the bar closed and we’d swing by dough in bedstuy at 4am for free donuts), stuffing envelops at a student loans place in flatiron, and photographing restaurants and live music.
i didn’t know what i was doing with life and i burned out at the startup i was at in LA so i just wanted to y’know, live and figure it out later. you have the rest of your life to work a job you hate so what’s the rush? as “la vie boheme” from rent goes:
To riding your bike (la vie Boheme)
Midday past the three-piece suits (la vie Boheme)
i turned down two full time “career” jobs and opted to just hustle (rip sleep schedule) until i found what i wanted to do; i wanted to be intentional about what i chose to do with my life and figured nyc was the absolute perfect place to explore that if i was down to
struggle errrrr…i mean work.
those early days were rough but i went to so many shows from living room house shows to barclays center and always had a group of friends to hang on rooftops with. 4th of julys were always special—there’s nothing quite like new york during the summer. there were nights where we laid flat in the back of a truck driving through brooklyn laughing and watching fireworks go off in the sky or that time we hugged each other watching fireworks to the backdrop of manhattan and frank sinatra’s “new york, new york” playing. everything felt perfect in those moments.
i eventually hustled and ended up working right in the center of times square for my “dream companies” at the time. commuting into times square 5 days a week was far from being a dream though but i was able to enjoy even more of the city not to mention work parties from the 42nd floor of broadway overlooking times square. things weren’t perfect but i experienced so many bucket list items which i’m eternally grateful for. i photographed so many of my favorite bands including the drums on a roof in times square to bloc party in central park which happened to be the last concert i photographed in new york.
i’ve thought of moving back to LA off and on for years but i was finally starting to really love the life i had built for myself in nyc. hell, i even finally bought patio furniture cos i thought i was staying for keeps. i didn’t expect to move back but 2020 showed me that i didn’t really have a reason to stay in new york either. i stuck with new york through the roughest personal experiences. i stayed even though i really wanted to leave new york after my best friend died in 2015 and everything in the city reminded me of him because we were each other’s stand in partners. i stuck with new york through the apocalyptic start of the pandemic. i suffered through getting covid and clapped for healthcare workers down the street at the hospital.
i don’t regret my decision to buy a place in LA and move back but as the semblance of normalcy starts to reveal itself with the vaccine, it pains me to see nyc stir again. it pains me to be away from the ones i love but i’ve accepted that i will always ache for different places. living between the united states, china, england has shown me that a part of me will always love and ache for those places and the people who changed me no matter where i am. i’m forever grateful of how new york has shaped me irrevocably the past 7 years and for the irreplaceable people i’ve met.
i ate a stupid bagel today and it was mediocre and brought to the surface this wistful longing. a fucking bagel and i’m in tears.