Finding My Place in NYC (via the Perfect Coffeeshop, Bar and Soulmate)
“NYC existed with or without my approval, and quietly contained a treasure trove of amazing places and people waiting to find their amazing counterparts.”
I was 26 years old when I moved to New York.
I was so excited to finally be in the greatest city in the world, and I knew it would be AMAZING. Right away, and forever.
It… was not.
For the first few months, I didn’t know where to go or what to do. I had no friends. I was living in a windowless room in Brooklyn with two random roommates from Craigslist.
And it didn’t help that I was working a hundred hours a week but failed to connect with my coworkers enough to want to hang out with them beyond that. I threw myself into work, and waited for New York to become amazing.
A year went by. I made a work friend. I tried aggressively meeting with some friends of friends I knew (everybody knows somebody in New York), but nothing ever really lasted beyond one or two hangouts. So I stopped trying so hard to make the city amazing, and just started living my life.
One of my favorite things to do was, and still is, to ride my bicycle around to explore the city. One day, while exploring a neighborhood I was told was “sketchy” (I thought it was lovely and quiet), I found a cute coffee shop a short riding distance from my apartment.
Or rather, I found a coffee shop with a cute girl behind the counter.
I started going to the coffee shop as often as was possible without eliciting a restraining order. I always hoped the girl would be there, and she usually was. After a couple of months, we managed to have a conversation beyond my coffee order, and we started seeing each other outside of the coffee shop. It became a beautiful and strange relationship that included professing our love for each other and making out on rooftops in Bushwick, but also more disappointment than either of us had probably ever felt in our lives, for various reasons. Through all that, I was still a fixture at the coffee shop, because by then I’d befriended everybody who worked there.
One day, I noticed that the hair salon next door was not a salon anymore, but a bar.
I went in and asked the woman behind the bar for a lighter. She said she only had a box of kitchen matches and looked at me suspiciously.
I asked if I could have one, and that I would bring the pack back to her. She said it was ok, but looked very wary. I took the pack, and then, as promised, brought it back, minus one match, after lighting a cigarette. She looked surprised.
Somehow, the days turned into weeks turned into months, and I had a routine of spending my free days at the coffee shop and then going next door to the bar. I’d sit down and the woman behind the bar would put a cup full of half-sour pickles and a quart container of ice water in front of me (I really knew how to party back then).
The woman behind the coffee counter eventually went out of my life the same way she’d entered (slowly and somewhat painfully), but the woman behind the bar became my best friend and soul mate.
The characters from the coffee shop would also often migrate to the bar with me, and we would joke that it was like our Cheers bar. The woman behind the bar (now my bestie) would tell and re-tell the story of the suspicious woman who came in to steal her matches (me).
It was my favorite bar, and I told everyone I knew about it. People would come have a drink, and they liked the bar, but I didn’t understand why they weren’t quite as obsessed with the place as I was.
And then, before I knew it, New York was amazing.
I realized I’d approached it the wrong way, assuming that it was just sitting there waiting for me to take advantage of it, when in fact it existed with or without my approval, but quietly contained a treasure trove of amazing places and people waiting to find their amazing counterparts.
I moved to London, and then to Paris, but always missed New York.
I moved back to New York, just in time for my best friend (the woman behind the bar) to tell me she was moving to San Francisco. I was crushed. A few months after her departure, I planned a secret trip to San Francisco to surprise her. I landed and called her. “Where are you?” I asked sneakily. “You’ll never guess,” she said, equally sneakily. “Um…” I said, a bad feeling in my stomach. “Where?” “I’m in New York! Surprise!”
To be fair, we were both surprised.
The bar is still there. The coffee shop is still there.
The neighborhood, over the years, somehow metamorphosed from a “sketchy” neighborhood to an up-and-coming neighborhood to now a somewhat desirable neighborhood.
Most of the people I knew from the early days aren’t there anymore, and new restaurants and bars have popped up, but I still remember the early days when those lifelong friendships were forged, and all those stories were told, and that bar and those people are what I think of when I say, with complete conviction, “New York is AMAZING.”
Where I found my place in NYC:
Sit and Wonder
688 Washington Ave
b/t Prospect Pl & St Marks Ave
686A Washington Ave
b/t Prospect Pl & St Marks Ave
Kwon Zacapa also asks you to try not to fall in love at these four bars in Brooklyn.