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New New York

It always takes me a second to get back into the groove of New York, and when I find the rhythm, it's time to leave.

Been here for two weeks now and it'll be one more week until my flight leaves for Shanghai Tuesday night. The jetlag is over. I'm saying my hellos and goodbyes, and “see-you-soons.” I'm wrestling with the thoughts that just another expat on the move has before the next adventure.

What else will be set to change in my city over the next two years?

Who else is going to be left when I am back?

Will everyone be in the same space?

The change between what New York was then and what it is now is absolutely incredible, almost unbelievable. I mean, I saw some of it coming... I saw the construction and development years ago, but I never thought New York would be as filthy stinkin' rich as it is now... It seems like a whole lot of effort is being placed into attracting the chasers of "cool." I love cool stuff as much as the next person, but I'm not sure that that's what New York is/was about.

I'm keeping the travel spirit alive and trying to live something new every day, so I walked to the Greenwood Cemetery the other

day. I had heard that there were revolutionary war heroes buried there. Even though I live quite close to there, I never actually explored the cemetery. Something too spooky about tiptoeing around the spirits of the past, but I didn't feel that way now, having climbed over the cramped gravestones of the heartbreaking Santa Cruz Massacre in Timor-Leste, after having learned about the communities of people that have no option but to house their families in cemeteries in Asia.

I remember the Brooklyn of the past, of adolescence. I drove around and around outside the graveyard gates with my dad when I got my permit because the areas was the only place in Brooklyn with almost no traffic and congestion, “ideal” for learning how to drive in the city, besides almost carving out a few sideview mirrors of double-parked cars on street sweep days.

When I parked the car and stepped out, my shoes would often meet the needles just below. Trash was everywhere. THIS was not a place you'd typically go to to relax. Going there on foot the other day, I stopped and paused. A sign posted outside with details of what was upcoming. Meditation in the park at sunset?!?! A concert with one of the legends of the blues movement in the Graveyard Pavilion??! Another sign, "What's Happening on the Hillside?" What the hell, New York?!?! Was this not a graveyard, but instead, the latest "happening" spot? What used to be a place of darkness, once neglected, has been reshaped and recreated to match the aesthetics and tastes of those who have moved in on the territory.

Brooklyn is beautiful and bright. I don't see the people I once saw on my street, but I am personally acquainted with the people who are just trying to get by.

I wave and say “hi” to the guys changing tires at the auto shop on my way to subway, just like I always did when I was in high school. The owner finally made enough to live right to his shop in this neighborhood. This time that I've been back, I even see that he's renovated the store. Sammy, who always hangs out in the neighborhood and on people's porches, has his shopping cart in tow behind him, full of knick knacks. I see him from a distance, and I give him “dap” to say hey.

“Where you been, lady?”

I explain to him, smiling, for the third time, that I've been working abroad.

“Your family still there. I see ya dad sometimes.”

Yeah, of course... You know.

“I remember you when you was this little. You grown now, but your face looks exactly the same, just like how I remember it. You ain't changed a bit.”

Some days, we wave and say hello. Other days, we greet each other, chat for five minutes, and then say goodbye with a hug. It would seem that the craving to connect with each is more present these days.

New Yorkers, we've got more technology, free wifi, and places to charge our phones on the street, the raddest things... Soccer fields on pier 5 against the Manhattan skyline, old railroad tracks converted into green space flying high above the streets. We've got beautiful graffiti, that double as ads from multinational companies?!?

New York, I know that I am still of you. I am that girl/woman perfecting her cartwheels and aús on the grass. I am weird... I remember during the high school days, using my hands around my mouth as a makeshift microphone to project. When I saw those double-decker, hop-on-hop-off buses full with tourists, I would yell as loud and vulgar as I could.

"Go back to where you came from!!!"

I think I wanted to give them a real New York experience. And I didn't give two fucks about the tourists staring at me. Not all grown New Yorkers participate in these shenanigans, laughing, falling, and rolling on the park lawn, but of those that would, I'd like to believe that they'd give even less fucks than I do. I like to think that New Yorkers plant the seeds for a few stray tourists to come to our side, to dream of leaving behind the suburbs and expectations from neighbors and families. New York used to be less self-conscious, less tied to the things that didn't resonate with them, and UNAPOLOGETIC.

A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

​​Whether transplant or born and raised here, every New Yorker's experience of New York is unique and special. I know you'll never be the same, NY. I know that I got to keep looking forward.

Here and in the now, I accept that I have always been between places.

I am not Park Slope, nor am I Sunset Park. I'm in between, in South Slope. This was the name that realtors gave to my neighborhood to “develop” the area, in the hopes of gentrifying and fancying it.

I live on the avenue between the buildings of industry, between the factories where my mother used to work and sew clothes for pennies on the dime, and Prospect Park, where the yuppies jog along, pushing their kids in thousand-dollar, maneuverable strollers designed for niche city life.

My dreams for the future are between the oceans and the mountains. I am not made of privilege, but I am surely privileged. I am global citizen, as much as I am active participant in the environments that I interact with.

Somewhere between Asian and American, woman and human, survivor and struggler, I intuit New York and vibe SoCal, and when I walk these streets, my gaze is no longer avoidant, nor downcast.

I will greet you, transplant, with my eyes in the street because I want you to know the New York that I used to know, I want you

to know the people and places that have carved a place in the heart of this city, and I also hope to know you. After all, you are this city now.

I am between owning nothing and having everything. What I own is me, my mistakes, my happiness, my choices.

I'm not a part of this play. I'm moving as a whole. New York, see you soon. Shanghai, hello.

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