Today marks my 10th anniversary in New York City.
I graduated from Colgate on May 18, 1997 - witnessed by my parents (surprisingly), Maria, and Aunt Joanie and Uncle Jack (who aren't really my aunt and uncle). Maria stayed the night, which allowed me to take her to the Hour Glass downtown and introduce her to old hookups and all the people she'd been hearing about but never met. The next morning, she helped me load the truck I'd rented.
We drove back to Syracuse that morning and picked up our friend Tim, who'd volunteered to drive down to New York with me. I remember heading south on Route 81, inexperienced in driving at all, much less such a large vehicle, and veering off to the side a lot, startled by the rumble strips which are designed to keep truckers from falling asleep. I kept saying, "I have complete control of the vehicle" (a tipped hat to my father), but in truth, I didn't. I didn't know what I was doing.
By the time we got to Paramus on Route 17, I was really freaked out. I was terrified of driving through the Lincoln Tunnel, and Tim was kind enough to offer to switch with me and drive himself, through the tunnel, through Times Square, down Third Avenue to my new home - the NYU dorm building Third North.
When we got there it was thunderstorming terribly, so we had to unload the truck in the pouring rain, the rumbling of those big gray rubber bins matching the rumbling above our heads. I was moving into a familiar location - another dorm, just like the one I'd left behind in Hamilton, only this one had air conditioning, cable TV and security.
Tim stayed overnight and I put him on a Greyhound bus the next day. On our way to Port Authority, when we'd walked all the way to the west side because I didn't know how to navigate the subway system, we saw a crazy homeless preacher guy, whose absurdity totally made Tim's trip worthwhile. But when I put Tim on that bus, I realized I was all alone.
His parting words were that I should walk the city streets - particularly at night - with a key in my hand, that I could use as a knife if attacked. For months I followed that advice. I don't really remember when I stopped. Or when I stopped being scared on the streets.
But now New York is home to me. I was just away for a week - combination of Upstate vacation and business trip to Miami - and I was so homesick by the end I couldn't stand it.
They say the 10th wedding anniversary should be celebrated with Tin or Aluminum. I thought about getting a bunch of people together in a bar or something but instead I had dinner alone at Rodeo Bar after I got back from Miami. At some point I think I don't want to dwell on how long I've been here or how old I am or any of that nonsense. But I do feel accomplished. And far less scared than I used to.