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Re-biting the Big Apple... - By Rebecca Wicks

Baz Luhrman said in a song a few years back: “Live in New York once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in LA once, but leave before it makes you soft”. I sort of understand the first part. Spend too much time in this hectic city and its pace could drive you crazy. People push, people rush, people chatter in your ears, people shout, people laugh, people mock, joke and poke at you until eventually, you become immune. You take it for granted. You harden and then become oblivious to all the amazing reasons why you moved here to begin with.

Being back in New York after two and a half years away is like a giant hand just reached down from the sky and shook me from my slumber. What a wake-up call! I didn’t even realize how much I’ve missed this amazing place, until I landed. I blocked it out and carried on. I didn’t think I’d left before it had hardened me. But perhaps I was hardened after all.

The streets still smell the same; they slap my nostrils and stir up a thousand memories. Hotdogs, pretzels, coffee and cigarettes. And attitude. Broadway bustles with workers on cellphones, twenty-something’s wrapped up warm in hats, scarves and furry boots. The wind picks up my hair and cold grips my suntanned fingers like a vice.

Walking alone in NYC, you’re as invisible as you want to be. Punks wear pink and parade with piercings in their faces. Men dress as women. Women dress as fairies and walk three dogs at once whilst sipping latte and chatting to their girlfriends. You’re also as visible as you like, but scream in the street and no one will bat an eyelid. Being crazy is encouraged. Bartenders chat about their lives as you prop up their bar, sipping a beer where no one needs to know your name � “I’m an actor from Maine, this is only a part-time job...” Promotors stop you in Times Square � “Buy a comedy ticket for 20 bucks, that’s half price lady� hey, where ya from? Your accent’s kinda awesome!”

Men stop you struggling up the subway steps and offer to help carry your suitcase. Waitresses call you “cutie” as they serve you iced water that you didn’t even ask for. Taxis speed and screech, dodging people. People speed and screech, dodging taxis. Sirens wail 24 hours a day, piercing your brain with a sense of emergency that emanates throughout the entire city � blink and you might well miss something. Stay awake. Stay focused. Crossing the street is a game of patience. When the lights are red, cross the other way. Follow the grid till you reach your destination. Stay awake. Stay focused. Take a cab if it’s raining. The driver will talk whether you want him to or not. Pictures of his family litter the dashboard, his coffee spills precariously from a cup, perched in its holder � “Tom Hanks was in here last week, I took him to the theatre� hey, where ya from? Your accent’s kinda awesome!”

Carrie Bradshaw once described New York as a loveable boyfriend, and walking up 5th Avenue, coffee in one hand, camera slung over my shoulder just waiting for the action to find me, I wonder why I broke up with him after our little fling. New York was strong and tough like � he taught me to stand up for myself, to fight my corner. But he was loud and demanding, scared me and scarred me. We had some amazing nights, staying up late, cultivating dreams and schemes. He gave me a lot, but he took a lot away. Perhaps I was a little too young, a little too na�ve. I should have known New York would move on without me eventually.

Our fling was beautiful and left footprints on my soul. To this day he makes me giddy. With miles and years between us, he’s still the ex I can’t get over and my heart picks up the beat of Manhattan as though we never ever left each other. My love is just a strong.

I wonder now from afar, what Dubai is like � what he brings to our relationship. He dirty, that’s for sure. A little disheveled and also very loud. He’s a dreamer but he fights admirably to put even his wildest plans into action. He’s bright with a sunny disposition and buys me an extravagant lifestyle. He takes me further than New York and lavishes me with promises for the future, but I get a little lost sometimes, wondering what he wants from me really. He’s hard to read. He’s difficult. But like my ex, New York, he’s teaching me brand new things about myself, every single day.

Sitting here in my friend’s apartment, hours behind Dubai and a whole world away, I realize I couldn’t have loved and lived in two more different cities. I wonder, perhaps Baz Luhrman should write a new song: “Live in Dubai once, but leave before it makes you ungrateful.”

Posted: 16 November 2008

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