Midwest State of Mind
I am what is called a New York City transplant—I live here, but I’m certainly not from here.
I am the cliché: the starry-eyed Midwestern girl who journeyed to the Big Apple in search of fame and romance, destined to make all my dreams come true. My cozy little Shoe Box, a nickname for my studio apartment which is only slightly bigger than an actual shoebox, is truly an Upper East Side haven, steps away from the Metropolitan Museum of Art and nestled among the classic and quaint brownstones that NYC is famous for. That must be what my jaw-dropping rent payment is for—quaintness.
Though I have seized my little slice of urban paradise, I can’t stop myself from pining for pine trees, longing for a lakeside retreat and ailing from a good old fashioned case of homesickness.
In a place that writer Kurt Vonnegut so aptly penned as ‘Skyscraper National Park,’ there are things I love about the Glove that you just can’t find in a New York state of mind.
1) My shoes
For those who assume that New York is chucked full of stiletto-clad Manhattanites, able to leap tall buildings and miles of sidewalk without so much as a flinch, think again. This island is an island full of walkers. Back when I had the luxury of getting behind the wheel to reach my destination, I was four inches taller for ten hours a day, seven days a week—and loving it. While I have to curb the cringe, I witness more businesswomen in Chanel suits and Nike cross-trainers than I care to mention. (The trick is to don your Choo’s steps before you reach your office building with no one but your doorman the wiser.) Truth be told, even if I could miraculously find myself numb from the ankles down, I don’t think I could impose that type of physical toll on my footwear. They’re all a single girl has in this city.
2) Unpredictable Michigan weather
Congratulations, universe, you win. Never did I think I could learn to like, let alone lament the need to have access to an umbrella, ski boots and sunblock at any given moment. However, I was not at all prepared for the unimaginable, over-powering humidity in this city, the kind that short-circuits air conditioning units and thrusts the city-dwelling masses ocean side every weekend. A typical weather forecast - 85 degrees, 85 percent humidity. I thought I was in Manhattan, not Miami. Bring on the end-of-days-style torrential downpour, blast of hot sunshine and frigid witching hours, I say. That’s just a typical Michigan Thursday, after all.
3) Good old fashioned solitude in nature
I’m reminded of a moment I had a few summers ago at Donegal Bay beach on Beaver Island—waves gently lapping against the sand, a steady breeze rustling through the brush on the dunes. Ah, serenity. I knew this type of tranquility would be a challenge find in my NYC metropolis so I turned to Central Park, in its entire glorious green splendor, assured that it would be good medicine for Michigan girl missing her wilderness connection. Sadly, it’s just not the same. Amid the out-of-towners crashing into curbs on their rented cycles, the wafting aroma of manure from horse drawn carriages, throngs of runners, joggers and walkers, and every 6-year-old in the city celebrating their birthday with a dozen of their closest friends, a peaceful Saturday afternoon picnic quickly evolves, like the rest of the city, into chaos. I live for those little fleeting moments where I can steal away down a side street or take an early morning stroll—before my Zen is interrupted by an ambulance racing to the Lenox Hill Hospital.
4) Cheap eatin’ and home cookin'
New York is a foodie’s fantasy—culinary masterminds from all over the world open up shop here. Because of this, I’ve been forced to be more adventurous with my palette, and with my budget. But darn it all, I miss the “Dollar Menu.” I miss my favorite little Thai restaurant in Dearborn that serves up the meanest bowl of hot and sour soup you’ve ever tasted. I miss my mom’s chicken and stuffing. Not only is it tricky to eat cheaply, but getting bang for your buck is another story. There are thousands of Chinese take-out venues in Manhattan, which means you have to go through a few dozen before you find one worth writing home about. And, boy oh boy, that’s a lot of bad Chinese.
In Manhattan, I can spot them from a mile away. (They’re usually wearing a Big Ten t-shirt or some type of flannel.) It has to be said that, in my experience, New Yorkers are not rude and unapproachable; they’re just in a hurry. Catch one anytime outside of rush hour and they’re more than happy to give you directions or help you with the train schedule. But there’s just something so warm and recognizable about someone hailing from the Mitten, or any Midwest state. I recently had a conversation on a street corner with someone from Grand Rapids about the “Big 3” and it took everything I had not to reach out and lock them in a bear hug.
New York may have endless opportunities, but it’s definitely lacking in the bonfires, barbeques and miles of open highway department. Living and working in a city made of steel and glass, marveling at historic landmarks, breathtaking art and world-class entertainment has made me grateful for the journey that led to me to where I am.
It’s also made one thing abundantly clear—there’s no place like home.
Michelle Martin is from Michigan but recently moved to New York City to pursue her writing career. She is also the creator of "MyNy," a blog about the Manhattan experience from a Midwest perspective. You can reach her by email or through Twitter.