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  • Jennifer

...Big City Girl (excerpt 2 from "this is not a memoir")

The below is my second blog installment from my newly completed book called "this is not a memoir." I am thrilled to share it with you. It is a snippet taken from chapter 10 of this 21-chapter book. This book focuses on the comedic misadventures and triumphs of a "forty-year-old spinster writer." (Guess who?) I am on a fun (hopefully fun!) mission to get this book published.

chapter 10 - b.c.g.

Anyway, I became an adult in New York City. Outside of my language, philosophy, art history and other classes, I learned about arts & culture on the streets. And in my rez hall, I learned how to do laundry. And out at restaurants, I learned how NOT to drink both red and white wine in the same night. Yikes. I started paying some bills on my own – like my monthly phone bill, extra food, and school books. I also had an on-campus job (part-time) with one of my university’s assistant deans. I loved it. I’m still friends with this assistant dean today. Though I had worked a bit in high school, this college job meant something to me because I got to interact with both students and faculty – people whom I respected. These people were ambitious, intelligent, polite, and kind. A lot of them also had a sense of humor. Example – one term I had a professor who let our whole class out early so we could go home and watch the Academy Awards show on TV (our version of the Super Bowl). This lady knew her audience. We were an antsy (and artsy!) group of shenanigans gearing up for the big night. What’s more, she was just like us. She was rushing home to watch the show, too! I saw early on in my New York days a certain kind of vibrant idealism – folks didn’t care where you came from as a kid, where you lived in the city, or how much money you or your family made. Rather, greater value was placed on who you were as an individual at that very moment. (No worries, no childhood family karma can drag you down here.) Then, emphasis was placed on how smart you were outside of the classroom – what were your hobbies? Say anything. Chances are the person across from you is going to be interested and want to learn more. Finally, emphasis was placed on who you could BECOME. What were your natural talents? Could you cultivate them in the city? What were your dreams, aspirations? New York City had a big, brave, welcoming, idealistic, and pixie dust spirit that drew me in instantly. It helped me to tap into parts of myself that, with the exception of my creative writing, I had thus far only seen brief, oblique glimpses of growing up. New York City brought so much of me “to light.” In rare moments, I wonder what my life would be like had I not gone to a New York City college. I actually shudder. Now it’s not that New York City didn’t get me down. I had my tough moments – standing next to a smelling, mentally ill person on a crowded subway (subway travel thankfully a rarity for me since all my classes were in the building next door to my dorm). It’s also never fun to get drenched in the rain because all of the cabs are taken – and those ubiquitous umbrella sellers who ALWAYS seem to be there when you don’t need them have somehow mysteriously disappeared. Ugh. It can be hard to get around New York. It can be loud, dirty, crowded, smelly. On top of that, it can be expensive. It’s all of those negative things you see and hear about – and more. (Turn back to the opening of this chapter. New York City can be a fertile breeding ground for neuroses, right?!) But, I suppose the question, like many things in life, comes down to weight – “Does the positive outweigh the negative?” For me, it did.

I used to love going to thrift shops and developing my “vintage” style. I loved uncovering old record stores. I loved discovering the boroughs and sampling different ethnic foods, or simply walking through a neighborhood and hearing five or six different languages being spoken. I went through a stage freshman year (when I discovered my love of Barbra Streisand) where my roommates used to say about me – “She wants to be a Jew.” My one roommate promptly took me to Brooklyn to meet her Italian family – reason being they were living in a neighborhood that was turning predominantly Jewish. That same day, we also strolled around Ms. Streisand’s old Brooklyn stomping grounds from the 1940s and ‘50s. They were so close by. How perfect. Everything in the city interested me, and I quenched my thirst for knowledge every day. I went to poetry readings for Karen Swenson, Honor Moore. I helped to coordinate an event for Nobel Prize-winning writer Derek Wolcott, where I also got to share a “wine and cheese” session with him. I then jetted over to see feminist Gloria Steinem speak in a bookstore. I then stopped off for a quick Starbucks – a new coffee shop franchise in New York at the time – before heading home. It was amazing to go to college in a city where history was alive on the streets. And the future was alive on the streets. And the present moment was so frenetically fleeting that you grasped it and enjoyed it as best you could. The energy of New York was palpable, tangible. It encouraged me to dream, but also to MAKE those dreams a reality – and to do it all here. You never had to leave the city limits if you didn’t want to. (Chapter 10 to be continued in upcoming excerpt 3...)

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