This afternoon I attended Manhattan’s Annual Easter Parade and Bonnet Festival. Each year, 5th Ave. closes to street traffic between 57th and 49th streets, as masses of people wander about admiring “parader’s” bonnets-some of which are decorated in the theme of Easter with bunnies, pastel eggs, and spring flowers, and some that simply display the wearer’s creative abilities, like one woman whose hat was built out of foam lego-like blocks, and another whose head was topped with a miniature model of a carousel. There were also street performers, from swing musicians to break dancers, that festival-goers could enjoy between snapping pictures of those in costume. It felt a lot like Santa Monica Blvd. on Halloween in West Hollywood, without the alcohol or partial nudity.
As this was my first ever Easter alone, it seemed ideal to spend it in an enormous crowd. You see, I relocated to this city exactly one week ago today from Los Angeles. In some ways, I’ve always wanted to come back to the coast I was born on, but the idea to actually go through with it has only been brewing in my head since last January. I had been conversing with a New Yorker at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, and when I mentioned my pursuit of a career in music journalism, he suggested I seriously consider coming to New York. I had graduated from college about six months earlier, and had almost no luck finding paying work that even slightly resembled my desired field in my hometown, so his comment definitely stuck with me.
When I returned back home, I started contemplating all the reasons why at least trying New York might be a good option. As an Angelino with no car, the thought of public transportation running 24/7 was almost enough to make my decision, but there were other factors that had me constantly day dreaming about New York. I had been writing about mostly East Coast bands since graduating, so it didn’t seem far-fetched to assume New York might have a better music “scene” than Los Angeles. And despite the fact that part of me will always love the City of Angels, I was in desperate need of a change of scenery after 20 years.
At the time, my family was also beginning to deal with some serious financial problems. My mother had just been laid off, and we began to face the threat of foreclosure on our house. Clearly I couldn’t rely on her for financial support much longer, and since we would need to downsize to a smaller place soon anyway, it seemed like the right time to try to find a way to leave the nest. (My family has managed to stay in the house to this day, but without some kind of miracle, that may not be the case much longer. My mother may be the strongest person I know, but I know her fight can only buy so much time.)
My first search of online New York job boards was what really sealed the deal for me. Even in the current economy, the amount of media jobs in New York (at least relating to my personal career goals) far outnumbered what was available in Los Angeles. So with no idea of how exactly I was going to get there, I declared to my friends and family that I was going to move to New York.
I knew a cross-country move wouldn’t be possible immediately, so I decided on the goal of getting there by Spring of 2011, and began to apply for editing and music industry assistant jobs as I tried to save money for the move. (I’m sure some of you are wondering exactly how I was able to afford to move to such an expensive city if I couldn’t even land a full time job in my own town. I was lucky enough to at least land some temporary gigs, including an editing position at the online calendar for my alma mater, UCLA, and had some money in savings that was promised as a graduation gift, intended for a car. It wouldn’t have been enough to purchase anything that wouldn’t have needed more work put into it, so New York seemed like a better investment. And no, there is no way in hell my mother ever would have let me put that money toward saving the house-even if it had been enough to make a dent in what we owed.)
I never heard back about the many positions I applied to, but I remained convinced that New York was where I needed to be. My mother suggested I try to find a place to stay in the city, since I would have a better chance of finding a job if I were immediately available for an interview. I started to look for places to sublet in January of this year, but was blessed with an incredibly lucky opportunity shortly after beginning my search. Out of the blue one day, one of my mom’s East Coast friends decided to get in touch with her. When she mentioned my desire to come to New York, she offered to let me stay in her Manhattan studio while I looked for work, since she wouldn’t be there in the spring. It may have been the most perfectly serendipitous moment thus far in my 23 years on this planet.
The next few months flew by in a surreal blur, until I finally boarded a red eye flight to JFK at exactly 11:11 p.m. on April 16th. I fell madly in love with this city before my plane even touched the ground, when I saw the skyline the next morning. As a writer, I could not have picked a more perfect spot to be able to people watch. From seeing toy sail boat races on sunny afternoons in Central Park, to viewing an opera performance worthy of the Met in an F Subway Train station, my first week in New York has been more mentally enriching than my last six months in Los Angeles.
In spite of their reputation, I’m starting to find that New Yorkers are some of the nicest people I have ever encountered. They are incredibly helpful when you need directions, and many actually smile at you in passing on the street (something that is extremely rare in Los Angeles). This isn’t to say that New Yorkers aren’t tough, though.
On my first trip out after settling in the apartment, I heard an elderly woman yell “Screw You!” at a car trying to turn left into a group of pedestrians, who clearly had the right of way. (Though there is far more sidewalk traffic here, being a pedestrian in New York is a lot like being one in LA, in that crossing the street is like playing a real life game of Frogger. But New Yorkers are more like those poisonous rainforest frogs or horny toads, in that they’ll actually fight back.)
I have yet to experience the New York music scene since my move, but did pay homage to my latest musical heroine, Patti Smith on my first day, when I took a trip to the Whitney Museum of American Art’s gift shop. I insisted on not going any further because I wanted to be reminded of her and Robert Mapplethorpe’s museum dates in Just Kids, where only one of them would visit the exhibitions and later describe them to the one waiting outside because they could only afford one ticket.
I also have yet to land any media related job interviews, but I was lucky enough to become partially employed as a hostess at a restaurant in the Flatiron District, thanks to some connections from when I last lived on the East Coast.
Overall, I would say that my first week in New York was better than I could have imagined. I have had an amazing time exploring the city, I had awesome friends to reconnect with, a place to crash in a wonderful neighborhood, and I have a means of income while I look for something full time. Essentially, I landed with my feet on the ground. That doesn’t mean that this experience hasn’t taken an extreme amount of adjusting, though.
I knew I was lucky to have my friends and family in Los Angeles, but I didn’t realize just how lucky I was until it was time to leave. I made an incredibly risky decision coming here. I had to do something drastic if I wanted to pursue a career even close to my twelve year long dream of working as a music journalist. But it would have been easy for everyone to tell me I was naïve, or that this was a bad idea. Instead, I was met with an abundance of love and support from those closest to me. When I started to doubt myself in the weeks leading up to my flight, my friends and family reassured me that I was going to succeed. They restored my faith in myself, but still, it’s not easy to just leave those kind of people behind, even if I do have great friends on this coast too.
If it were up to me, I would have packed them all in my suitcase. But since that wasn’t an option, I will be updating this blog to keep everyone back home in the loop of my new life in New York. It will be a challenge, since I’m not exactly a fan of writing about really personal topics, but I know I would be a bad writer if I always stayed in my comfort zone. If you’re reading this and I don’t know you, I hope you’ve enjoyed my rant of personal issues and random observations. And no matter who you are, I appreciate it if you’ve made it this far in my semi-organized piece, as I get used to the style of blogging.
Oh, and I know the title probably seems like I just got lazy, but it actually comes from my last conversation with my boss at UCLA, when she happily exclaimed, “Natalie in New York- it sounds like a movie!” I will do my best to update this weekly, but for now, I can only guarantee that there will be bi-weekly stories. So until next time, Happy Easter and Passover to everyone celebrating, and good vibes to you all!