There are certain cities that I have either lived in or frequently visit that each time I return to evoke similar yet unique feelings. I love that city can create such different emotions in me (although emotions are not something I am generally lacking).
1) New York City: There is no other city I have visited that creates such strong feeling of excitement in me as New York. Each time I visit, no matter how much I claim to be “over it” or annoyed with it, I get butterflies. Now that I am older and almost married I get less excited by “night life” but in NYC I feel ready to embark on an adventure when I go out at night and there is this unique potential about an evening out where you feel as if something unpredictable could happen. There are different smells and feelings of NYC based on the season. In the summer I inhale cooking meats or roasting nuts, thick air (often exhaust from buses), sweetness from good-looking New Yorkers perfumes (where are these people during the winter?), and I am used to getting dripped on by AC units suspended from people’s windows. In the winter the crisp air smells different and perhaps cleaner, although the slush on the streets is not pretty. My favorite moment of a trip to NYC is that rush of emotions I get stepping off the train in Grand Central and being whisked away in the movement of the city. Now that I got engaged in Grand Central I feel even more filled with joy just walking through. Before you get on the street and have to figure out which way you are walking (and quickly or you will get plowed over) there is this moment where I take it all in. I glance at the ceiling (quickly enough not to look like a tourist) and smile to myself. I particularly love this routine when I am alone because there is something particular fun about having time to wander around NYC alone. It is that same exciting feeling as when you got to college as a freshman and realize you can can do anything you want. I feel like I have been unleashed and I know the city well enough where I don’t feel nervous or lost most of the time and I can just explore. It is particularly rewarding to not feel like a tourist, but to not feel like a jaded local. After a day or so in this side this excitement subsides, but nothing beats that initial rush.
2) Washington, DC: DC provides me with a different and “nerdier excitement” I lived in DC for 6 months alone and have some fun memories, many professionally rewarding memories, and some terribly lonely memories. DC feels so approachable and friendly to outsiders that it almost seems not quite real. If you have a few things down such as, never stand on the left side of a metro escalator, you need to insert your metro card in order to exit, and can name a few of the main restaurants/bars, you are pretty much set. DC never felt like home to me, but felt like an enriching life experiment. Most of my feelings there are in awe of the lifestyle people lead there. The currency is names of members of congress and the social scene feels incredibly small. Every time I visit I feel surprised that I lived there and got to lead this stimulating life and imagine what life would be like there. This usually involves inserting myself as a cast member of West Wing (C.J. to be exact). My imagination runs wild with what my life could have been like and wondering what the people around me lives are like. DC is filled with secrets, stories, and knowledge you can never grasp enough of. It is clean and almost sterile and my biggest complaint is the lack of a “cute neighborhood.” At the same time it is welcoming and easy to find a place. It is my favorite city to wander a museum in alone because it is easier to be invisible in the crowds of international tourists who lack the pretension of New Yorkers wandering the Met. In DC you are rewarded for being nerdy and instead of in NYC where I feel excited about what the night will hold in DC I feel excited about learning more, meeting more interesting people, and about what each day holds.
3) Miami: I have been visiting Miami at least once a year for the past ten years. The city has changed as I have changed. However, over the years there is nothing quite as sweet as walking off the plane and breathing in the thick sunny air (yes I have decided air changed when it is sunny out). I have a routine of stripping off the layers from the plane and immediately putting on my sunglasses and flip-flops while I wait on the curb to get picked up from the airport. I peek through the airport garage walls to spot the sun and palm trees. Miami gives me a feeling of freedom and foreignness. There is no outfit too gaudy, no pace too slow, no voice too loud, and no language unheard. In Miami my walk feels different as if I could just float down the street with my feet more free in flip-flops. I stare more in Miami whether it be at the beautiful busty models walking down the street in minimal clothing or the fact that the view from the boardwalk seems so perfectly cliché it could be a postcard.
4) Boston: As I am writing this I am staring out my window in Boston (more accurately a city right outside of Boston) and watching snow pile up so high I am convinced I am not going to use my car until spring. It is so cozy and peaceful out and it feels like we are all part of this magical weather trick. Boston feels like home in a way I didn’t expect. As I was making chocolate chip pancakes for Shaun this morning I told him it is so strange that I have become a “Boston girl” and have so firmly settled in this place, which I never expected. I am not sure where I expected to settle, but it still surprises me that I have adopted this city as my own. Boston makes me proud of its understated charm. Boston makes me feel comfortable and at ease knowing that no activity here will invoke the stress in me it does in other places. In the winter Boston is cozy and at times sterile and grey forcing me to remember what I love. It is an honest relationship – not always charming and perfect, but forcing you to endure the ups and downs. In the summer Boston is alive and beautiful with its joys hidden. As a local we can do touristy things with ease (smiling at the tourists taking picture of squirrels in Boston Common or wondering how the tourists do not find our duck boat guide infuriating) or we pick the activities off the beaten path and feel like we are part of a secret club and other people are suckers for not knowing about it. The Freedom Trail and the Boston Public Garden are open for everyone to see, but the other beauties of Boston feel like discoveries and force you to find them. The feeling of Boston is a feeling of finally belonging and being at home somewhere.