On missing a place while you're in it

I miss Manhattan

I’ve been in New York throughout the entire pandemic, and yet many times in recent weeks I’ve found myself thinking: man, I miss New York so much. But how can that be when I’ve been here the whole time?

This week I started watching some of the new Fran Lebowitz/Martin Scorsese show Pretend It’s A City, which features tons of footage of Fran walking the streets of Manhattan, among other tributes to New York. Watching her walk around the city, even in places like Times Square, really stirred up all the feelings.

One of the things I used to love most about New York was that it felt like you had the whole world at your fingertips: there were thousands of restaurants and shows and museums and things to be doing all of the time in the five boroughs, and you had easy access to all of it through the subway. Living in pre-pandemic New York meant you could traverse this whole huge city every day. You thought nothing of taking the subway to a meeting uptown and then back downtown for happy hour, of going to work in the Financial District and then meeting friends for dinner in the West Village and then going back home to Brooklyn.

The pandemic, of course, shrunk our worlds; many of those who had the privilege of working from home stopped taking public transit and stayed home as much as possible. So in the past year, I’ve stayed in Brooklyn 99% of the time. My experience of what it means to live in New York has radically changed: I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been into Manhattan in the past year. I have only taken the subway once since March 11th of 2020. I wrote earlier this year about how this shrinking of our worlds made me learn to appreciate my neighborhood more. But the flip side of that is: I miss Manhattan so fiercely, even though it’s still only a few subway stops away.

I miss rowdy bars in the East Village and dark little restaurants in the West Village. I miss the trendy but stupidly-expensive corridor of restaurants around 20th Street. I miss how when you walked around at nighttime it was dark but still incredibly bright from all the lights everywhere. I miss cocktail bars tucked away in hotels. I miss the crushing masses of humanity at the Union Square subway stop. I miss lingering in coffee shops and going to my favorite wine bar where I knew all the staff. I miss that rush you get when you arrive at the subway stop and your train pulls in at that exact moment and you realize you timed it perfectly. I miss the weird not-a-neighborhood neighborhood around Penn Station. I actually miss the rush of Penn Station! And Times Square is annoying as hell, but walking through Times Square to get to a Broadway show while complaining about the slow-walking tourists is a pastime I realized I took for granted.

I am well aware that this is a privileged problem to have: I am so fortunate to be able to stay home to ride out the pandemic; my problems are small in the grand scale of it all. I can’t complain when there are people who have it far worse than I do.

But this is not meant to be a complaint, really. It’s more of a love letter to the island that feels so close yet so far away. Manhattan was once a place I went to nearly every single day for seven years. It’s a whole part of my life that’s now missing, even though it’s still right there.

Good things to read

Why it’s time to stop telling women to be more confident, New Statesman.

A quite possibly wonderful summer, The Atlantic. What a feeling to read this: hope!! Optimism!!

Covid doesn’t discriminate. But people do, Eater.

The boredom economy, New York Times.

What was The Wing?, The Cut. An obituary of sorts for the coworking space/community that was everywhere during the Trump years.

The age of peak advice, The New Yorker. On the advice column boom.

In praise of cold-calling your friends, Gen/Medium. I’m a fan of phone dates but because I am Type A I usually schedule them. I love the chaotic energy of this idea.

Against loving your job, In These Times.

Two minutes to midnight, Tank Magazine. A meditation on deadlines from Lauren Oyler.

Playing Kerri Strug, Marie Claire. New short fiction from Kiley Reid!

Beyond burned out, Harvard Business Review. When “burnout” is not a strong enough word.

Chloe Zhao’s America, Vulture. An excellent profile of the sought-after director of Nomadland (which was very good btw!! Highly recommend!)

Good things to cook

Things I made this week: One pan enchilada skillet. Tofu and green beans with chili crisp. Mediterranean steak bowls. Buffalo chicken zucchini boats.


Where to donate to support Asian American communities affected by growing racist violence. And where to donate to help those in Texas affected by the extreme weather and power outages.

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