I’ve been watching Gossip Girl lately, which is possibly not the best thing to be doing while in my current nostalgic funk but I’m kind of afraid to take a trip home, not only because of the price of the plane ticket. I’m afraid to see how much has changed.
The past twenty years of my life have been passing through my memory: places I’ve lived and sometimes-questionable things I’ve worn, haircuts I’ve had but this program, with its smash cuts of Manhattan streets I walked and stores I shopped at, delis I grabbed soup & sandwich combos from, and martinis I drank just hit home in a new way with an episode shot outside the bar beneath my onetime home in Brooklyn.
That apartment is now a landmark building in an ultra-hip area. The bodega across the street where we could only afford one sandwich for dinner to share, with the kid who used to make our salami, cheese and pickle sandwich into a poor man’s Cuban by placing it under the Pyrex coffee pot on the coffeemaker is gone. It’s now someone’s fancy-schmancy apartment. The Macy’s where I bought two pair of Converse one-stars (one pink suede and one mint green pearlized leather) for ten bucks doesn’t exist. Instead of bodegas, there are boutiques. Instead of bodegas there are more renovated brownstones. It’s not the same. The things I loved about the neighborhood—the amalgam of classes, the Goodwill and the sushi joint, the arab deli, the salvage warehouses and the housing project—have undoubtedly been cleaned up. Gentrified. Pushed out to make way for chic shops filled with things I once again cannot afford.
The midtown Manhattan where I worked has been Disney-fied and green-ified—the falafel cart in front of my office building shooed away in favor of green bike lanes, the Thanksgiving parade route altered. I’ve even heard you can get cell service in that once-upon-a-time place where no one could reach me—the subway.
The restaurant from which I got the best burger in Larchmont after running the NYC Marathon has closed, my friend from the burrito joint has moved to Belgium, one of my best friends is painting her house to ready it for sale. If I go back, she might not be there.
Living in this place where some things haven’t changed in thousands of years, it often feels like I could wind my watch back three years and be right back where I was. But I can’t. I made choices. I’ve changed. My apartment is filled with someone else’s furniture. My job no longer exists. I won’t fit there anymore.