Both of my novels take place in New York and the city is more than a backdrop; it becomes a character in itself. My love affair with NYC began as a kid, although I don’t remember exactly when. Maybe it was when my father took us to Macy’s on Black Friday or when I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with my mom. The details are not as important as the feeling I got, marveling at all the people—a cornucopia of colors, ages and styles—so different from the mainstream community in my hometown. Both Nora Deschamps in Uptown and Down and Mia Lewis in Lagging Indicators grew up in places that, though nice for kids, wouldn’t cut it for the adults they wanted to become. This sentiment echoes my own and I guess that’s why I infused my characters with that same sense of longing.
Anything is possible in New York. The city is filled with the energy and resources to suit every desire and ambition. Recently, some have criticized the current state of affairs in New York, lamenting the loss of edginess and creativity in favor of wealth and gentrification. I’ve also been guilty of those thoughts and can wax lyrical about the New York of my youth, a place where I would linger at vintage bookstores on the Upper West Side or sit at a Greenwich Village café with a pen and a notebook, struggling to look like a serious writer! I’m old enough to remember when slaughterhouses permeated the Meatpacking District, not hip restaurants, shops or hotels. Nevertheless, those electrical currents of possibility, that tingling sensation in my stomach when I see Manhattan through an airplane window or drive in from my hometown in upstate New York, still remain. I cannot wait to get my feet on the pavement; to hear that distinct New York accent (mine comes out as well); hail a cab and have it screech to a halt; then go to my old stomping grounds and feel like a local.
Yes, New York is a tough place. It can chew you up and spit you out. There are decadence and excess, dark elements that can consume you if you don’t keep things in perspective. Tension and conflict are built in the city’s DNA, making it the perfect canvas for characters to succeed, fail, grow, regress, fall in love, get rejected, lose their way, find themselves, descend into a downward spiral, rise up… A writer can juxtapose glamour and grittiness; intellectualism with frivolity; culture with commerce; openness with oppression. The city’s diversity allows us to create characters that are unique—quirky, provocative individuals symbolic of a world in flux. Hard rules don’t apply and New York is still the place for those who want to reinvent themselves and defy convention.
I will never get over my love affair with NYC and here are some postcards from my visit to prove it!
My sister treated me to a performance of Romeo and Juliet and I was transported to another world by the artistry and athleticism. Storytelling in movement and music! I love the cultural atmosphere of the Upper West Side and Lincoln Center.
Isabella Boylston and David Hallberg conveyed the love and angst of Romeo and Juliet with so much depth and emotion.
My last NYC address was on the Upper East Side and I still stay in that part of town whenever I visit. This time I booked The Lowell on East 63rd Street. Very cozy hotel with a beautiful library/club room, Majorelle restaurant, Jacques bar and lounge.
I always try to get together with old friends and these two have been in my life since I was fourteen years old. I think we were the loudest ones in the restaurant!
I woke up after a good night’s sleep—much-needed for my jet-lagged bones—and went out for an early morning walk in Central Park. What I love about NYC is that no matter how early or quiet you think it is, the streets are always bustling with cars, dogs, runners, delivery people…
I bought coffee at my favorite cafe, Sant Ambroeus, but stopped at a trusty diner for a Western omelet after my walk. Quick, easy and delicious!
Back in Sweden, I really crave black and white cookies. They are quintessentially New York for me and I couldn’t resist buying three at William Greenberg. They are the best!
Then I was off to the International Center of Photography with my college roommate to view the Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibit. I’m most familiar with his Parisian series of photographs so it was very interesting to see the work he had done in India, Pakistan and the US (Pittsburgh). They were multilayered and more than the pretty pictures I usually associate with his oeuvre.
I love how I was able to spend time Uptown and Downtown. The contrasts are important to me and provide different kinds of energy and inspiration. This restaurant, The Butcher’s Daughter, in Nolita was super cute and delicious. Perfect outdoor dining on a warm and sunny day!
With my dear college friend—a photographer, writer and cultural critic. We reminisced about our student years and discussed where we are in our lives today. I love how our conversations touched on everything from high to low!
I still have a host of things I want to see while I’m here and hopefully I’ll get a chance to do them. The Heavenly Bodies exhibition at the Met and the new André Leon Talley documentary are top of my list. In the meantime, here are some more snapshots from my favorite city—creativity and stimulation captured from just walking down the street.
What’s your favorite city?