We Miss Dollar Slices, Rats, & LaGuardia Airport: 18 Love Letters to NYC

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Spending eight weeks inside an apartment brings new meaning to what Billy Joel called “a New York state of mind.” Last week, we posted a call for your love letters to New York, and assembled a small collection of them below. The idea of universality feels pretty front-of-mind at the moment, as the world together confronts one obstacle, and so it was comforting to find strains of universality in something less frightening, the details that recurred in your notes to New York: befriending strangers in your neighborhood, whether via fire escape or buying Orbit gum over the counter at the corner bodega, seeing familiar faces on a subway commute, sharing the Metropolitan Museum with everyone else while also feeling like it’s all yours, experiencing a rite of passage as a rat runs over your shoe, the serendipity of running into a friend on a street corner and knowing it wouldn’t have happened if you’d taken a left one block earlier, the glee of landing at LaGuardia Airport (before you’ve remembered that they’ve overhauled the whole ground transportation system and it’ll take you at least an hour to get out of there).

Leaf through the letters at your leisure below, and feel free to leave your own in the comments section.

“After our fourth failed adoption, I was devastated. My husband and I ate sushi on our bed, watching TV and unable to move. But, the next day, I got up and took the A train to 14th Street. I walked to the East Village and spent the next six hours with my headphones in, blasting Kelly Clarkson and P!nk while singing from the top of my lungs. Sometimes I danced, too, shuffling-and-ball-changing down each narrow street. One person commented along the way, “You do you!” But he was the only one. Only in New York, in the East Village, could I let loose, scream, and feel anonymous, but also deeply connected to myself and to my surroundings. The East Village is the place where I fell in love with Manhattan as a high school student from Queens. It’s where I lived right after college, finding strength in the cacophony while healing from a debilitating illness and an intense heartbreak. It’s where my husband and I fell in love, over mac ‘n’ cheese at B&H Deli and pierogies at Veselka. And it’s where I “did me” after our last failed adoption, far from my grown-up, professional, put-together self. I love New York because it allows me to find myself among the noise and craziness. Now, stuck at home, I miss it so much.” —Rachel

“New York, I love you & your clarinet floating up through my window, your bagels & boxing rings & umbrellas opening when it rains. I love your museums, your couches on corners, your dollar slices, your parks where I got endlessly lost & rained on. Mostly, New York, I love your people—your yelling, crying, laughing, insane, beautiful people: the baby on Astoria Boulevard gumming the octopus leg; Marcia at the cash register with her pink nails; the gentleman on the F train holding a scarlet macaw without a cage. Thanks for the time I cried on a street corner & a stranger handed me a tissue & a cigarette. I just can’t quit you—you & your rooftops, your cursing, your crazy. New York, I love you so much I even love your rats.” —Raisa

“I miss the New York coincidence. Getting tickets to the same disco as my therapist. Finding my ex’s old book in a used bookstore (and buying it). Looking out the L train window and seeing my friend on the opposite Manhattan-bound train already waving to me. Getting ghosted on Thursday and my friend accidentally going to brunch with that guy’s new girlfriend on Sunday. Recovering from your Timothée Chalamet crush and then meeting his old roommate on the Metro North. Sometimes, too, I miss walking through Washington Square Park, crying because I’ve been dumped, and hearing a gathered crowd singing the last lines of “Bohemian Rhapsody.”” —Chloe

“There’s only one place in the world where bodegas feel like second homes. Where there’s always something to blame (the subway) if you’re running late. Where you can witness a policewoman on horseback sharing the same traffic lane as a yellow taxi cab. Oh, New York, you saucy minx.” —Harling

“Like many New Yorkers, my daily step count has always been a point of pride. I walk everywhere and never want to stop moving: 15,000 steps is a normal day, 20,000 a pretty good one, and my walk down Broadway top-to-bottom end-to-end was a personal best at 38,114. The loss of all these phantom steps has left me yearning for movement, and has led me to create a new, riveting game I play at night called: “walking my apartment,” which is exactly what it sounds like sounds exactly as it’s named. I make sure to wear a pant with a pocket, then I put my phone in said pocket and walk from one end of my small, 600- square- foot apartment to the other. I walk from one window in my bedroom, down the long hallway, through my kitchen, loop around a chair in the living room and head right back. It’s 50 steps round trip. If I do it 40 times, I can just about get the same number of steps in as my morning jaunt to the subway. I recently asked my husband if he wanted to go for a “walk” with me, and he obliged. We looped our arms together and started on the only path through the apartment. As we walked by a framed sketch on the wall of the restaurant, Dante, I earnestly said, “Oh that place used to be so good.” To which he replied, “Yeah, it was, but then it got too crowded.” And there we were, just two New Yorkers out for a stroll, complaining.” —Rachel


“Oh, to be on a buzzy summertime New York street corner. Nothing feels quite like those intersections of human interaction, those splits in direction. Where I’d meet a friend or part ways with one. I think of the thrill of stepping off, a moment too soon or too late, and a rushing cyclist leaving my heart pounding with the clanging of their bell, somehow filling that childish “ding” with vehemence and vendetta, and a holler to match. Of that summer day, sticky from the sun, walking alone across 10th and A, and the confident man on roller skates who stepped off and out into the street with an ease that filled me with air. I bought a pair of roller skates last week, feeding off of that memory. I can’t wait to use them on the streets I love, in the heat, on the corners, off and out.” —Natalie

“I love your dollar slices. I love your restaurants with impossible reservations. I love the first nice days in spring when everyone beelines to restaurants with sidewalk seating and dresses in their seasonally inappropriate summer best. I love the uptown/downtown rivalry with the imaginary 14th Street border, which everyone swears they would never cross. I love the feeling of rushing to the theatre when you are sure you are going to be late and they’re not going to let you in, but you aren’t, and you push through to sit next to a stranger and you mutually have decided to experience this other world that is Broadway together and you cry silently together because it’s just so beautiful. I love a whiskey on the rocks at the spot of my first date with my now-husband and turning 28 again everytime I walk by that place. I love being asked by a tourist on the platform “Is this going to Times Square?” I love knowing that the New York of Bemelman’s exists and even if I never go, I love that place and I could go, if I wanted to. I love the unspeakable bond that lies in the eye contact of New Yorkers on a subway together when something goes awry. I love avoiding the streets of SoHo on a Saturday, and I love dreaming about a Peter Luger steak, and I love waking up early and taking a walk on the West Side Highway when I can’t sleep and I am jet-lagged but I just want to be out in the New York City air. I love walking 47 blocks and two avenues home from work just because. I love the warm summer nights when the sun sets after 9 p.m., and there’s a feeling in the air that anything could happen. I love the feeling of pride upon a plane landing, knowing I’m back, my heart beaming, “This is my city. I live here. I can’t wait to be home.”” —Christina

“I feel like a wimp for hiding out on Long Island while I wait for you to reopen. I keep you open on my TV—causing frequent dreams of bodega cats and the coffee shop and the bagel chaos of Tompkins Square. There’s a moment when I’m walking to work across that park, diagonally from 10th to 7th Street, when a quiet sneaks in. You can still hear the construction on Avenue A but the yells of construction workers have lowered, and the bird chirps come to focus. Sometimes the sun hits and warms me up, too. So now, while I roll out of bed and sit at the desk next to it to clock in, I think about how the whole city probably sounds like this right now.” —Kylee

“Things I miss from pre-quarantine New York: the old lady on the bus blaming de Blasio for heat wave subway failure, the old ladies on the bus in fur coats, when the bus driver floors it and the bus goes 40 MPH up 3rd Avenue, the bagel-makers at Bagel Express who gave me a free coffee, the 51st Street downtown 6 subway platform which has the highest rat-to-garbage can ratio I have seen, poking my head through the bars around Gramercy Park to see some really nice lilacs, going on a date to an electric light show and secretly making my best friend come with me, going for a second dinner and a beer with my best friend after the date, extremely confident pigeons, complaining about New York but loving it so much I would scream louder than the 7 p.m. cheers if they made me leave.” —Julia

“I can almost smell the bitter aroma of the lone coffee cart on the corner of Lexington in Midtown, the scent lingering with me until I step foot in my office lobby. I can recall my routes, the innate path my New York city-dwelling feet continue to take. The cross streets I will always turn right at. The avenues I find comfort in. The beloved familiarly mysterious apartment windows. On the corner of 1st Avenue and St. Marks, my favorite window sits plainly on the third floor of a red tenement building. Late at night, the stranger sits by his window, perched on his fire escape. One more than one occasion, we’ve locked glances, exchanging a magical wave. How I long for my familiar strangers, who are my New York.” —Jessa

“I moved to New York alone just days before my 18th birthday. Every so often during my year in the East Village, I would look up and marvel at the fact I was even there. The New York I miss was one I barely knew, but one ripe with possibilities. Every movie theatre I went into for solace offered community in its anonymity, as groups of strangers would gather together to take in what was playing on the screen. I found hints of romance at the Sunshine on Houston and IFC, and more stories to keep me company at the Strand. As I would walk across Washington Square Park, the sheer excitement of it all would have me smiling at nothing the whole way home. The New York I love leaves you feeling full, even when there’s no one to share it with but yourself.” —Julia

“I live across the street from a funeral home. Until recently, I rarely noticed it. In the time before, sometimes I’d cross the street carrying laundry to the laundromat and walk past people dressed in black. Sometimes the combination of the grief and mundanity struck me. Now, it’s commonplace. Last month, a refrigerated truck parked next to the funeral home. Beside it appeared tents stamped with the name of an ice sculpture company. When I walk my dog late at night, all the lights are still on there and I can hear the phone ring. Yesterday, I went outside in a batshit outfit with my hair unbrushed and got stopped by the local news. They wanted to know my opinion on living across the street from a funeral home. I hesitated, but my mask made me care less about being on camera. I said that we needed to remember that the funeral home workers are essential. Later that night, I read all the Yelp reviews for the funeral home, all five stars. One review mentioned the owner’s quiet little dog as a source of comfort. I looked at my own little dog, not quiet, and felt a wave of tenderness.” —Abigail

“My first day off in a little over two weeks, but I’m out the door just as energized. Dollar pizza as I descend down the subway, careful not to drip the holy grease on my carefully selected Burberry peacoat, purchased after a guardian angel nudged me into the 72nd Street Goodwill. It’s a long ride underground, but the few empty orange seats smile at my extravagance on an otherwise dull Tuesday morning commute. I emerge in a different world and hurry west a few avenues, as I begin to scrounge through my wallet for every quarter still unspent on laundry and bodega coffee. Any guilt of having to use the Pay-What-You-Wish option at the Met dissipated once I remembered how much I paid to live in this city. Following my memorized route to my favorite room, I am nothing short of enchanted when I find it completely empty. I let myself sit to look upon the Turners as if they were my private collection.” —Emily

“Cabbages, cabbages, cabbages. I miss you, New York sidewalk cabbages. How you line the sidewalks I walk as I pick up my sad desk salad (containing local cabbage) and trudge back to my office cubicle. I will never trudge again, I promise you, Upper East Side sidewalk cabbages. I will walk lightly, skipping and jaywalking across your streets. I will not groan waiting at the subway platform during the New York City summer heat. I will embrace the summer veil of humidity and wear it proudly with my sweat soaking through, if only you let me return to you.” —Alisha

“I lived in NYC from 2010-2014, then moved to Amsterdam for five years, then returned in February 2019. The first couple months of my return, I kept a note of quotes from around town to savor my revived city love. Here are fragments of that note:

A band and their manager sitting next to me. One bandmate: “If you ever want to know what planes I have been on, just run your hand along the armrest and feel for the indentations of my fingernails.” – Cafe Reggio, 2/21/19

The girl next to me on deciding what part of New York to hang out in: “It’s like figuring out your blood type.” – Butler Coffee, 3/9/19

“This is a tongue stretch called lion mouth, which was very popular in the 1970s. The idea is that it’s psychosomatic—all the words that you never say get stuck in the back of your throat.” – Equinox yoga class, 4/2/19” —Laura

“It is 7 p.m., and there is a man outside my window playing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” so loudly I can feel it on my skin. Under the music, you can hear the roars of our neighbors celebrating the work of front-liners all over. Sometimes, this cheering feels self-indulgent, like we are just trying to feel like we are helping the situation even if we aren’t really. But today, it feels like my neighbors took New York into their arms, gave her a kiss on the forehead, and told her they love her.” —Nadia

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