A New York Love Story

June 26, 2012

My best friend Nancy left New York in the beginning of June and I’m pretty devastated.  I temper my devastation with the knowledge that Nancy and her family (Danish husband Dan and two beautiful children Oskar and Olympia) are currently on an epic cross-country pilgrimage to find the right place for them to live (maybe someplace like Decorah, Iowa).  Nancy is blogging about their adventures at The Great Skedaddle. Today I want to share the story of the beginning of our friendship.

I moved to NYC in 2004. I was 25 and living in a rental on the Upper East Side I had sublet from a wanna-be actor who had moved to LA. What can I tell you but there were mirrors and headshots everywhere. Mirrors over the bed, in front of the bed, behind the bed and I couldn’t open the closet or dresser without a smug photo of the guy popping out.  

It was cheap and it was safe but I was lonely.

I remember walking home to 92nd street from my office at 42nd Street because I didn’t have anywhere to be or anyone to see.  I would stop into Bloomingdales at 59th street and ride the escalator just to be with other people. It was also around this time that on weekends I would walk to the Metropolitan Museum and just sit in the wooden benches in the Great Hall. I wouldn’t go into the actual museum; I don’t know if I didn’t have the money or the energy or maybe both.  I didn’t seem to have a way into the delights of this city; I was an outsider on the outside, an observer.  I did a lot of people watching.

Then, my sublet was up and I was looking for another affordable room.  I trekked all over the city; I remember the nun-like woman in her 40s who smelled of baby powder in a beautiful but sterile two bedroom in Yorkville.  I remember a sort of grease-y guy looking for two roommates on Orchid Street downtown. He took notes the whole time a couple of us looked around his dark apartment with narrow windows like something you’d find in a castle.

Then the miracle happens.  I read Nancy’s craiglist ad for a room in basement of her carriage house.  You could see a sliver of greenery through the window in one of the photos. I was hooked from the first. There was only one hitch: she lived in Brooklyn.

I want to impress upon you that at this time I was pretty overwhelmed by the size of the city. In six months of living in NYC, I hadn’t traveled to the west side of Manhattan. This was the time before smart phones or if there were smart phones they were waayyyyy out of my budget.  So I would print out a map from Yahoo before I went anywhere new and cut it down to the 5 inch by 5 inch little map that comes at the end of Yahoo directions and keep it in my wallet for when I inevitably got lost. I didn’t know a single person who lived in Brooklyn; in fact I only knew one person in the city.

So think about what it meant for me to go see an apartment in Brooklyn when I didn’t travel west of 5th avenue, let alone leave Manhattan.  It was an epic leap of faith; of desperation; of the universe guiding me onwards.

I remember the walk from the Court Street station in the snow. It was dark as I walked down Pineapple Street and then down Cadman Plaza.  The lights of the city glowed across the river; it was magical; it was terrifying.  I slogged past the Watchtower building and knocked on a grey door with the paint peeling.  Nancy opened the door into the garden courtyard.  The lights of her row house were a beacon behind her.  I’d never met anyone quite like Nancy. She was so certain of herself, so confident.  Not only had she been in New York since she was 19 and therefore knew the city like a native, but she was a seasoned traveler; an adventurer. She’d meet the love of her life, Dan, on a boat in South East Asia.

She made me tea; we talked for a long time about our dreams. She was studying to be an acupuncturist after leaving a lucrative corporate life on Wall Street. I had forgotten I had dreams until I sat on her pinstriped sofa with a cup of tea. She showed me the room she had to rent – it was double the size of the room I was subletting and not a mirror in sight.  It even had its own bathroom and a washer dryer we could share.  This was unimaginable luxury.  I emailed Nancy later that evening saying I’d love to rent her room.

So much unfolds from that first evening and conversation on her couch; my decision to apply to graduate school; this blog was born in that basement room.  No more walks home with a stop off at Bloomingdale’s to ride the escalator.  As is true with many things, our friendship took time. I looked back over our emails and in the beginning there are a lot of polite exchanges about Fresh Direct orders.

However, Nancy and I were destined to hit some big milestones together and our friendship grew. A few months after I moved in, Nancy’s boyfriend Dan moved from Denmark; a few months after that my boyfriend Tim moved in too.  We’d gone from two to four. All our relationships deepened and Dan and Nancy got married in May 2006 and Tim and I got married in July, with Nancy in the wedding. Along the way there was Grimaldi’s on the roof and vacations together in Vermont and dinners all over the city; at Capsouto Freres, at Souen, Peter Luger, Relais de Venise, The Vinegar Hill House. The four us grew to six when Nancy and I got pregnant in the same week in 2008 and delivered our sons two days apart in 2009.

I guess I could say I met Nancy and then my life happened.

{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley June 26, 2012 at 10:09 am

Incredibly touching and well-told, Abbey. What a wonderful portrait of a friendship.

Becca June 26, 2012 at 11:36 am

What a lovely tale! And so lucky for you to be connected just because of a little post on Craigslist!

Katherine June 26, 2012 at 1:11 pm

Abbey, I absolutely loved reading this. It’s so hard to feel connected to NYC, to feel like you have a place. What a difference even one friend can make! You are so, so right.

Paige June 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Isn’t it amazing to look back at the trajectory of our lives? You truly never know what is around the corner. Bravo to you for taking chances, being brave, and allowing all those good things to come into your life. This story made me tear up (especially the last line). So amazing.

Stefania @ Revitalize with Stefania June 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Aww, this was sooo sweet.

Tokyo Jinja June 26, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Abbey, love this post, it touched such a chord with me, with the exception that I was the leaver to my best friend, who was the stayer. The magic of true friendship is unsurpassed! So good to see you back on your blog too!!

Alana June 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm

What a sweet story 🙂

Nancy June 26, 2012 at 8:49 pm

ABBEY! I’m so lucky to have you as my best friend. I got all weepy reading this. You mean the world to me.

evencleveland June 26, 2012 at 11:55 pm

I think you two were meant to be. What a beautiful story (with more wonderful chapters to come, I bet.)

Abbey June 27, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Thank you thank you for the nice comments! I hadn’t written this to be a tear jerker but I guess it is; I’ve certainly been teary since Nancy left.

Abbey June 27, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Aw Nancy — right back at ya!

Abbey June 27, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Tokyo Jinja I took a break from the blog to get my head more organized — I felt the blog had gotten a little ragged around the edges; but I’m back now and am hopeful to get in a good routine with it. xooxox

CIA @ foldedcranes.com June 28, 2012 at 10:06 am

Just found your blog today. Loving what I see so far. And this story… wow. Seriously, there need to be more friendships in the world like yours and Nancys! It’s so awesome that you value your friendship so much. Living on the other side of the world, far away from my friends back home, in a foreign land which sounds, looks, feels so different from what I’m used to, I can relate to what you shared about how it’s hard to make friends in a new place, it sure takes time. It’s taught me more than ever before the importance of valuing those important in your life where you are from, and where you are now. Thank you again for sharing this beautifully written and heartfelt story.

P.s. There’s a street in Brooklyn called Pineapple Street? Seriously?! I have to get there the next time I am in NYC!

alina June 28, 2012 at 10:34 am

i know that exact feeling of being an outsider in nyc. what a beautiful story and a beautiful friendship! best of luck to both of you!

MLA June 28, 2012 at 10:54 am

I’ve lived here for three years (on east 92nd street, too) and your first six months are like my first three years…and counting. What a beautiful story of friendship. Maybe all good things begin in Brooklyn?

Cate June 28, 2012 at 6:41 pm

Abbey, this is lovely. Isn’t it incredible how one person can be the keystone to your arch? It’s a heartbreaking and wonderful thing at the same time. Much love to you.

Angela June 28, 2012 at 10:44 pm

What a beautiful story.
And I love your red pants 🙂

abbey June 30, 2012 at 11:50 am

MLA — I totally totally know how you feel. And, maybe all good things do begin in Brooklyn…. good luck!

Abbey June 30, 2012 at 11:50 am

Angela — those are my favorite pants, in the world, they are gap from two years ago and they are getting threadbare. so sad.

Kayla @ Exquisite Banana July 2, 2012 at 9:55 pm

So beautifully conveyed, abbey! You two are lucky to have that.

Annie July 3, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Good Lord, I am all weepy reading this. Beautiful friendships make the ‘spices’ in life.

Abbey July 4, 2012 at 10:45 pm

Oh thanks everyone for the sweetest comments I could have ever wanted. Annie, Kayla, Cate — thanks!!!

Paurvi July 10, 2012 at 4:39 am

A beautiful story about a great friendship. I know her moving away is difficult. I met my best friend when her and I were both attending college in California. I ended up staying in California, and she moved back to NYC, and even though we are on different coasts, different time zones, facing every day challenges — the one thing that has remained consistent all of these years is our friendship which I truly treasure.

Natalie July 22, 2012 at 5:38 pm

after seeing you today at hudson’s party i decided to catch up on your blog and i’m so glad i stumbled into this post! about halfway through i realized i was so caught up in this story that i could actually SEE this apartment for myself with my own two eyes! what a beautiful story, and what a beautiful storyteller. thank you for posting this! i adore it!!

hope to see you and alex again sooner than later!
natalie (& huck!)

ingrid July 24, 2012 at 11:51 am

wow. such a moving story. exactly what I needed to read this morning. Love it. Good luck to Nancy and her family.

Laura September 6, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Such a sweet story and beautifully written. 🙂

Annie September 7, 2012 at 12:50 am

What a beautiful story! You could write movie script based on that!

Nancy September 24, 2012 at 10:55 pm

I got this in my email inbox a couple more times recently, on days when I felt so grateful for the connection. Love you and our magical friendship. It’s everything.

Mandy December 13, 2012 at 8:28 pm

Hi Abbey,

Thanks so very much for sharing this story. I felt like I had a new start in Brooklyn, too, where good things started happening to me. Also, thank you for your blog — I really enjoy it!

Best wishes,

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