I first came to New York when I was 22, right after college. I couldn't wait to get there. Sure, I was apprehensive. I'd heard stories about all the cold, rude strangers. My older sister had spent a few years in New York and warned me that it wasn't a good place for a single girl from the Midwest. But for a young actress and singer, New York was the place to be.
I arrived in the middle of August when the city was deserted and I was still beside myself with excitement.
That was more than 60 years ago.
The city has changed a lot since then. So have I. Over the years, we've both had some rough moments. We've both gotten stronger from them.
I guess that I'm not really a New Yorker anymore. I lived there from 1948 until 1974. Then my husband and children and I moved to Los Angeles because at the time there was more work for me in television than on the Broadway stage.
I still live on the west coast but now I get to New York as often as I can. I come for the shows and the museums and to see my old friends but what I love most about the city are the people. I don't know where all those cold, rude New Yorkers are, the ones my sister once warned me about I mean.
People are always so nice to me in the city. They are so helpful.
Even complete strangers.
Maybe it's because I'm an old lady who walks with a cane. But doesn't that tell you something. I mean, don't you have to be a pretty decent person to want to take a moment to help someone?
The feeling I always get in New York is a feeling of community. Maybe that sounds strange in a city with so many people who don't know each other. Maybe it doesn't make sense, but it's how I feel.
Back in the 1960s and early 70s, my husband and I lived with our sons on the Upper West Side. Back then there was a lot of crime in our neighborhood. People were mugged in the lobby and on the elevator of our building. Apartments were routinely broken into. Our building didn't have a doorman so some of us organized a building association and took turns sitting in the lobby to make sure our neighbors were safe -- and hoping nothing happened to us.
We organized a block association and had a block party so we could all get to know each other. That made our street a little safer. My husband, who was a sound and music editor, borrowed a movie projector and a copy of Casablanca. Everyone across the street from us hung white sheets out of their windows to create a movie screen and we projected the movie from one of our windows and together everyone watched Bogie and Bergman and ate popcorn another neighbor made.
Now, when I'm in New York, I sometimes feel as if we're all part of that block association.