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A Toast to NYC (Or, what Yoko Ono Taught Me About New York)

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When the good folks at the Huff asked me to write a piece for the launch of the New York page, the feeling I got was kind of like what might happen if a friend or my sister ever asks me to be the maid of honor in one of their weddings: first, delight. Then, utter dead brainwaves. Too much to say. So much to say. Can't I just submit a logo of I "heart" New York? Can I get drunk before this toast?

I have a picture of myself in high school on the corner of Amsterdam and 101, holding a cell phone as big as a bible, half-drunk in tight black pants and probably smelling like cigarettes and popcorn and woodchips, the way bars used to smell in the old New York, before they started smelling mostly of expensive stockbroker cologne (and then, well, cheap ex-stockbroker aftershave). Is that New York? Photoshop a pizza in there and a bag from a bodega, and it's the cliché autograph of the city that some of us know first-hand from the sweaty subways, lazy Susan of restaurants and almost suffocating agenda of things to do that it almost fells like theresnothingtodo- and to some it's just that place from Sex and the City or Woody Allen or maybe even Jack Kerouac: a myth, a Utopia, a bully, a golden coin or a crushing monster, whichever way you've looked at it. The funny thing is, if you've ever lived here, it's all those things.

I grew up here, went to college here, then learned to drive two years ago so I could move to LA to try to do something else, live somewhere else, do normal things like shop in a supermarket where the aisles where wide enough for two carts to actually pass by each other or buy more than one roll of paper towels at once. It didn't stick. It might be worthwhile to say that in over a year in Los Angeles, through two 90-degree summers, a rainless spring and a hike-worthy Christmas day, the most notable purchase I made as an Angeleno was a thick, black wool coat with silver-bullet buttons. Not to wear in LA, naturally, but to become my uniform in New York City once I'd moved back. Chick and slim-fit, it was the only thing I bought in that entire year that felt like me. When I wore it out my first night back home to a bar in Chinatown, I realized that what seemed "thick wool" in LA was barely a sweater in New York winter. I froze my ass off and caught a cold.

Over the past year I've covered a number of things for the Huffpost - music, politics, culture and, more often than not, where the three intersect. Interviewing a score of subjects for here and other outlets, even if we are supposed to be talking about a new album or protest song or policy, the topic somehow always turns to New York. I once hung up after a conversation with Yoko Ono after she mentioned dancing down the streets of Manhattan every day, not in her mind, but actually twirling. I initially had laughed, but then I thought about it for a while and came up with endless situations where I did the same - following a troupe of friends dressed as gypsies down Canal (true), at 4 am after 80's night at Don Hills, in Central Park, and as a little girl, leaving school on the Upper East Side in a patterned blue dress and red shoes and pigtails, like a mini-Dorothy. And then many other times, just because...

I'll be continuing that bad habit of digressing on my interviews and talking about New York, and instead of having to ignore that five or ten minutes of tape, I'll be printing it here - telling you about the city according to some of my favorite Manhattan bands and other twirl-worthy residents (if you have any requests, speak up. Want to know about where the members of the New York Dolls get their bagels? Let me know.) I'll also be telling you about the best up and coming acts fresh out of the five boroughs and where to see them, hopefully giving you a little guidance on that suffocating agenda I mentioned before.

I never thought I'd find myself quoting LCD Soundsystem, but I'm going to, so consider yourself warned. The chorus of a song goes, "New York I love you / but you're freaking me out." It's about the city's changing dynamic, how a rich mayor is cleaning things up and shipping things out, about how we all want New York to be whatever it was before. Since the song came out, things have changed again. "Maybe the plus side of this recession is that New York will go back to being the way it used to be," we're all saying. The funny thing about this statement is while we all may reminisce about a time when folk-singers played on Bleecker and not frat boys, when you bought drugs at CBGB's and not John Varvatos button-ups or when subways had graffiti and not two policemen checking your gym bag for explosives, there's nothing more New York than just living in the moment. Seeing the past, seeing the future, but mostly just Being. Here. Now.

But that's the best thing about twirling in New York. You get to see the city from all angles all at once, in a quick, dizzying furry. And maybe that's best. When it gets too much, you just sit down and look up at the skyline. Here. Now.