New York City, the mythical wonderland

By Renee Tomcanin
February 28, 2002

This time last year I had just gotten back from a wonderful weekend in one of my favorite spots, New York city. It had been awesome. I saw a Broadway play for the first time (Rocky Horror with Joan Jett as Columbia), toured NBC (not Conan’s studio but close), and saw Times Square (big Coke sign and all). It was so much fun and one of the best weekends of my life.

To me, New York has always been mythical. Living eight hours away, it seemed like it was so far away, like it did not really exist. I heard stories about the punk scene at CBGB’s where two of my favorite bands, the Ramones and Talking Heads, got their start. I heard about the beat scene and great writers like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. I always wanted to go there. I read my diaries from middle school and high school, and I laugh because I wanted to be classified as a “New Yorker.” It was an obsession with me. I often pictured my life, living in Manhattan, riding the subway, becoming lost in a swarm of people during the morning commute. To a girl living down the road from a dairy farm in Western Pennsylvania, it seemed ideal.

My mother and sister went on a trip to NYC when I was a sophomore in high school. For one reason or another, I was unable to go and therefore insanely jealous of them. They came back and showed me pictures and told me about Macy’s and the shows they had seen and Rockefeller Center. It was another story to fuel my imagination and my dream of getting to New York City. I read “The Bell Jar” that year too. Esther Greenwood had a journalism scholarship with a magazine, something I always wanted. In spite of her insane downward spiral, I still wanted to see New York. I watched “Late Night with Conan O’brien” every night and decided that I would make it to New York to write for him.

I came to Cabrini in 1999. It would be another semester before I would make it up to the city, but being as close as I was was thrilling within itself. My friend Kelly, who lives in Northern New Jersey, invited me to come home with her one weekend in May, and we could go up to New York for the day. It was amazing. I rode the subway for the first time. I saw Greenwich Village and got roasted nuts from a street vendor. I saw FAO Schwarz and the Plaza Hotel. We went to the Met, and I walked into Rockefeller Center. It was great. I still have the photograph of me standing next to a picture of Conan O’brien hanging up in my room. I had finally made it to New York. I spent the next year deciding how to get back.

Last February, I went back to New York for a conference and saw everything that made it great. I remember walking down passed the Ed Sullivan Theater, where David Letterman works, and deciding that this is where I had to live at least part of my life. I saw the New York Times and was amazed by it. For a journalist, it’s like visiting Mecca. I still have the wonderful memories of that trip to this date.

Then came Sept. 11, 2001. I remember waking up at 9:00 a.m. and seeing the two planes hit the Twin Towers. My mythical wonderland had been hit. I was not as shocked as most people, I think, but I knew that it would not be the same. It made me want to return to my city even more, especially after the Ramones and Talking Heads made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.

For spring break, I’m going up to New York for a few days, just about a year after one of the best weekends of my life. I don’t know what to expect. A few people I know have been back there. They describe ground zero and the city as a whole, and I find it hard to believe that the pace has slowed that much. It’s six months later, so I think everything should be back to normal. I have heard that tickets for shows are pretty easy to get now since everyone panicked and cancelled. I expect it will be surreal. I’ll be in the city I love so much surrounded by people I love very much, but I will still feel a sort of awe at the whole thing. I want New York to be back to normal and full of life, but I don’t know. I’m sure this next trip to New York will be memorable, and hopefully, it will be for the same reasons as the last time.

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Renee Tomcanin

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