I left New York less than a month after 9/11 and it was a hard departure. It was too late to abort my plan to move to Los Angeles, but I wanted to stay in New York and was less than sure LA would jibe with a sensibility I had cultivated for as long as I could remember.
My true aim and dream, if I really boiled it down, was to be a New Yorker. It was made more acute by the fact that I grew up 9 miles outside of the city, in New Jersey. My transformation was complete when I heckled a car with Garden State plates, and told them to, “go back to Jersey” when they splashed slush on my boots making a turn in a crosswalk. A Jersey New Yorker is like a reformed smoker, they’re unbearable in their new identity (non-smoking zealot, or former Jersey boy) and have to let everyone know about their transformation.
It was more than knowing the trains, and which car to get on depending on your stop, it was more than a mostly black wardrobe and a messenger bag. It was more than knowing people and places. It was the feeling that living in New York meant your arrival in the world. The feeling of freedom even when you hadn’t driven a car for 3 years. Walking to a movie, complaining about having to visit someone on the Upper East Side. Clubs with ethnically mixed crowds. New York was my start a tab town, Soho owns much of my credit card debt. I’m still paying interest on a roasted duck club sandwich and 3 Brooklyn lagers.
It’s not the smell of falafel, or exhaust from a bus that gets my sense memory going. It’s not even the epic “Empire State of Mind” by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z. A song so good it needs to replace Sinatra at the end of a Yankee game. I know I would need to duck a punch if I had the platform for that sentiment to be heard by more than a few.
It’s a song by a couple of Brits with a Philly pedigree, and it came out just after my western migration. It’s “Say Yes”, by Floetry. It’s a sexy song about getting it on, it doesn’t reference New York, but it feels like the way I want to remember my time there. It’s a cab ride on a wet street on your way to a girl’s place. It’s a snapshot of being able to smoke and drink in a downtown bar doing your best to look interesting, it’s digging in the closet looking for cleats when softball season is close. It’s brunch with the folks. It’s taking off the Jersey plates and putting on the Empire State’s.
Even if doesn’t conjure any of that for you, I think it’s original intent to arouse and be sexy is enough to recommend it. Have a listen.