Bright Lights, My City

I'm not 15 minutes out my front door, not yet across the Triborough Bridge and still within sight of distant downtown skyscrapers, and already I miss New York.

I'm only leaving for a week, but, as the bus pulls away, even seven days feels too long. My heart aches for the familiar smells of West Side Market and Upper East Side flower stands, for the hustle and bustle of the Times Square subway station and 9th Avenue at brunch on Sunday morning.

Bus took an hour. Arrived at the airport. Security line is far shorter than I had expected. My bags are loaded on the conveyer belt. Sandals off, laptop out and pockets emptied into the gray TSA bins. Step through the body scanners. Arms up and stare ahead. Go through security to the gate. Sit and dream of New York and stare at the tarmac, a sea of brownish concrete. Ten minutes from the bus stop to my gate. That's New York efficiency.

I'm surrounded by fellow travelers, people reluctant to leave -- or, hard as it is to admit, eager to escape -- the hustle and bustle. Off to Miami, where the sun shines and beach-goers wear bright colors, where neon signs stay lit through the night, where the world slows down and a coffee order isn't a 10-second affair, but a languorous ordeal.

In the land of endless sun, humidity and the beginnings of the zombie apocalypse, I find myself missing the persistent buzzsaw droning just below my bedroom window at all hours of the day and night. I miss feeling alone, together, in a crowd swarming, stopping, jolting, running into itself. I miss the never-ending noise: early morning trash trucks and the percussive subway symphony, like an amateur metal band. I miss the silence that deafens even in a crowd of people. Suddenly I'm nostalgic for the abuse: high demands, low pay, expensive cocktails and the most honest honesty you'll ever know.

I've never met a person who didn't have an opinion about New York. This place is magnetic, whether it pulls you close, or repels you. The city takes no prisoners, and to make it here you practically need to sell your soul. To earn riches like Gordon Gekko and achieve notoriety like Norman Osborn, you must be in bed with the devil, or at least have bedded your boss' daughter. Short of that, you might as well lay aside your dreams for the time being, young ones. Accept the wage job and hope, like Jon Hamm, that one day you'll become Don Draper.

A week in the Miami sun, playing in the warm waves. This would be paradise, if it weren't for memories of New York.

Seven days after my bus trip, I load into the car headed for the airport and mourn leaving the land of zombies and sun. Going through the terminal doors and to the end of the security line, I already start to itch for the everyday foot race in New York.

In a flash I'm back to the city, with a renewed sense of purpose, yearning for my morning caffeine. My 10-second coffee is a joy, a bit of glitter on my cheekbone the night after a fabulous soiree. It's a lovely reminder that New York wants you to succeed, but demands that you never stop working for it.

Bright Lights, My City