My first year anniversary in New York City is around the corner (August 15), and it’s a big day for me. While an obvious temporal marker, it is also an opportunity to reflect on my time here. As the day gets closer, I can only pause and reflect on where I started to where I am. Over a glass of wine, natch.
In the twelve months I’ve lived in New York, I’ve lived in a staggering number of neighborhoods: The Lower East Side, Harlem, Upper East Side, Prospect Park, Williamsburg, two weeks (each) in the West Village and Ridgewood, and finally, back to the Lower East Side. Extenuating circumstances (mostly, not having a job) exasperated my nomadic sleep patterns, and squirreling away my pennies necessitated walking home in lieu of taking the MTA.
So, given the above, it should be no surprise that I cried a whole lot. Like, everyday. Hot, wet, pathetic tears.
A few weeks before Christmas, I landed a job at a wine shop, what would become my now-current position. Simultaneously, I quit my cafe job in glorious fashion (think the equivalent of pulling the emergency slide of a JetBlue plane), while also dealing with a drug-addled roommate and witnessing various instances of domestic violence in my Harlem apartment. After I vacated in fly-by-night fashion, a dear friend and saint put me up on her UWS couch for a month, while I got settled into work. I had just enough daily change in my pocket to afford train fare. Though on the UWS, I happily commuted to my 15 hour-a-week job at a Brooklyn wine shop, but fuck, it was better than the alternative: hunting rats for protein. I sustained myself on generosity and an hourly pittance; such is life in NYC.
The wine that reminds me most of these tribulations is a wine I tasted shortly after starting work at my wine shop. Up until this point, I only enjoyed a glass here and there of two buck chuck (from Magnums, of course). The Niepoort Twisted Douro, a Portuguese red not unlike a dry Port, was the first “good” wine I could afford, and I needed the treat. Upon first scent, I was enveloped by a sense of warmth, a comfortable kind of earthiness. With a bouquet redolent with spicy-sweet cinnamon and vanilla, the wine smelled of hearth and home. On the tongue, the Twisted told me it would all be alright: the ripe flavors of cocoa mixed with soft, amber honey, poured on top of macerated raspberries and dried, richly-spiced prunes was my first time experiencing a bear hug vis a vis wine. I drank in the scents and flavors deeply, and for the first time since moving to New York, began to relax. “Yes. It will be better.”
And here I am, months later. I have a roof over my head, a job I more or less enjoy, and the promise of New York City entering my lungs, day in, day out. We all have bad days, and as I hope I’ve illustrated, New York’s bad days are infinitely worse. A crucible for the spirited, the young, the cocky, this city hardens hearts, maybe, but also steels souls. As I consider my life here for the next year, maybe five, or even decade, I remind myself: Drink it in.
Just drink it in.