New York, New York …

Some of my favorite photos that I took in New York City over the past decade or so, including that early-blooming (or dying) tree in Central Park and the ubiquitous Nathan’s French fries fork.

I have been thinking a lot lately about New York City, mainly because I’m going there in a few days for the longest amount of time I’ve ever spent in the city (a full week), but also because the greatest city in the world is never far from my mind.

There was a time, in my later teens and early twenties, when I thought I could live there, but those days are long gone. Now, almost in my dotage (I jest, but only partially so), I look at NYC as a fond vacation spot, but a city in which only the young or very rich can live. It’s too loud, too frenetic, too busy and expensive for me, but I love it for a short burst of time. There is no other city like it.

I first went to NYC almost 45 years ago, in 1971. I went for a comics convention with my brother, and although there was a giant con there just this past weekend, I prefer to visit the city now without any work-related encumbrances (although I still love visiting comic book shops there). When I first went to the city, it was for only one day, and my brother and I spent that entire day inside the convention, the 1971 New York Comic Arts Conference at the Statler Hilton Hotel (which is now the Hotel Pennsylvania). We stepped out to grab something quick to eat on our way to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and our bus home, and that was it. But the con-going became a regular Fourth of July tradition for us, at least for the next few years.

And as I grew older, the city itself started calling me, and I ventured out and about into it. I saw things in the ‘70s that I will never forget, many of them, thankfully, that don’t exist anymore. I still remember the seared-in image of a young girl laying in a doorway on Eighth Avenue, beautiful and quiet, filthy dirty and strung out on something … she may have even been dead for all I know. I remember the places on 42nd Street I shouldn’t have gone to but went anyway. One memory: Being in a place near 42nd and Eighth (which shall remain nameless) and hearing someone yell, “He’s got a gun!” That’s probably the quickest I’ve ever moved.

Eventually I started going to New York just for New York, because there was nothing like it. I would fly up for a weekend from Pittsburgh on People Express, a budget airline that made you feel that being a cow led to the slaughterhouse train was a preferable travel experience. I fell in love with the lights and energy, the bookstores and museums, the theaters—movies and plays—and so much more. A lot of what I loved is gone, particularly bookstores (Coliseum Books at the corner of 57th and Broadway, Doubleday Books opposite Trump Tower, Rizolli Books in two different locations, but now in a third—and from what I hear somewhat diminished—new place … yes, all bookstores. That’s how I roll.). Over those 45 years since I first visited the city, I think I’ve been there close to 40 times. Since the mid-90s, I’ve pretty much gone every year, even in 2001, after that horrible event that changed the city—and the rest of us—forever.

There are still simple pleasures for me there. A long walk through Central Park. Bryant Park, a lovely little oasis in the middle of midtown. A Nathan’s hot dog and krinkle-cut fries, with the ubiquitous red pitchfork poking out of each serving. And the bookstores … new favorites have replaced old missing ones. I’m a huge fan of The Strand, which I discovered later in my trips there. McNally Jackson. Posman Books, which sadly closed in Grand Central, but is still part of the amazing food place, Chelsea Market, down next to the High Line … and, of course, the High Line itself, an incredible re-purposing of an abandoned elevated rail line, still evolving and growing. The constant presence of Forbidden Planet, in one form or another over the years and its current form, its best incarnation yet, as one of the great comic book stores in the city.

I live in a city seemingly without seasons, so I especially love fall in NYC, even though the leaves are slow to change these days (another side effect of climate change, I suppose). There is one early bird changer in Central Park, which I always stumble upon each year (see photo at the top of this post), and I’m grateful for its beauty and fiery appearance. And one of my favorite things to do in any city is to find a coffee shop or a small restaurant and just sit by the window and people watch. New York offers more than ample opportunities to do that one simple—and cheap—thing.

I’ll be in New York next week, as I type this, and I look forward to cool temperatures, early sunsets, and wearing an actual jacket for at least a little while, but especially for being transported to a different world, one filled with culture, energy, lights, and—for lack of a better word—power. I love my little laid-back life here in Southern California, but once a year, every year, I need that energy boost that only a city like New York can provide. I’ll never be too old for that feeling.

Follow my Instagram account next week for new photos from my 2015 trip to New York City!

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