I grew up in New York City. No matter where I've lived since then, I will always consider myself a New Yorker. My father taught English as a Second Language at night and introduced me to his students, people from every part of the world. It is probably what started my travel dreams.
I did not grow up in Manhattan, but in the more affordable borough of Queens, part of the "bridge and tunnel crowd." Going to Manhattan as a child meant an exciting ride on the subway to "The City." Turning around and putting my knees on the plastic seat, I gazed out the window as the neighborhoods flew by.
Rockefeller Center, in the heart of midtown Manhattan, was always a place of magic. A place to watch people skate, to look into store windows at holiday time, and to eat a hot dog, a gyros sandwich or a bagel. Not all was happy, though, because New York has always had its share of people without homes.
Today, New York is led by an old friend and colleague, Bill de Blasio, someone who cares deeply about how people live. Before he became Mayor, he lived in Brooklyn, a member of the bridge and tunnel crowd, too.
At 19, I took a break from college and drove one of the omnipresent yellow cabs on the graveyard shift. Early one morning, I came home at 5am to find my father sitting at the kitchen table in front of a mound of cigarette butts. He had a worried look on his face because I was two hours late. New York, then, was not as safe as New York now. Me, in all of my nineteenness (and New York accent) looked at him and just said "Whaddyaworryinabout?" Then I fell into bed, dreaming of flying over the Brooklyn Bridge.
My vagabond shoes have taken me away from New York to more than 60 countries. But the very heart of me will always have a part there. New York, New York.
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