I blame Carrie Bradshaw. Sex and the City was my generation’s Game of Thrones. The series, so shocking at the time, was based on four goddesses living in a magical faraway city. Or so it seemed to me. The fashions influenced my crippling shoe choices. Carrie’s fairy footsteps still called to me decades later.
Yes, in 2015 when I found myself stuck in Toronto disillusioned with a dodgy job lead, the thought of renting a brownstone in New York popped into my head.
Insane as it was, the thought would not budge.
The sensible thing to do was to fly back to the UK. Seriously, I really needed to find a job or a new client. But I had my ESTA as I’d flown through JFK and done a whistle stop tour of NYC on my way up to Canada.
I had (I have now come to understand), lit a touchpaper.
In less than a week of the initial idea I was retrieving the key to my brownstone from my AirBnB host’s lock box. It felt ridiculous. It felt fantastic. It felt like my clumpy cowboy boots were stepping in Carrie’s dainty footsteps.
Stepping into places you never thought you’d be is powerful.
In my mind it was Carrie Bradshaw’s place. I wasn’t her, I don’t have the legs. But with my notebook and pithy soul searching entries I was certainly a Sex and the City hatched chick.
And my, that trip was yahhh… the full story is in my book ‘The Secret Girl’.
The irony of this Sex and the City inspired venture is that one day I was schlepping around Greenwich Village and happened to land on the actual street used as Carrie’s in the series. It was late in the day, I was freezing but how could I resist? I had to wander down it, feel the fantasy to the full.
I was ready for flashbacks and dialogue excerpts and the urge to giddy spin in the street humming the theme tune.
But I’m sorry to report, nothing like that happened. Nothing. Not a twitch. Nada. No fabulous vibe, in fact no vibe at all. Which is odd when you think about it. I was as wired as you could be for it, gagging for a bit of giddy.
I stood there holding a stick with no balloon on it.
At the front of the building, as a deterrent on the stoop, there was a sign and a chain to repel visitors due to the nuisance they’d caused in the street. Bus tours. I can imagine. You don’t need to be fighting your way through a spinning sea of menopausal women on your way to work, do you?
The point to this story is: make your own shrines.
MY brownstone had a kickasse Gospel church next to it. Whilst it took a bit of getting used to initially, it was like living next to Stevie Wonder. The Haitian restaurant opposite was a sort of community hub I have no memory of in Sex and the City. My host’s attempts to fix the toilet were funnier even than Aidan’s handyman struggles in Sex and the City, which is saying something.
My brownstone venture became better than Carrie Bradshaw’s Sex and the City version. This often happens on a venture: you chase one thing and end up with another. And often it’s a better result.
If you are up for the brownstone venture, I do have some tips (of course!):
1) Checkout your location if it’s not Greenwich Village
On my first NYC venture my AirBnB was in a largely West Indian influenced area with Jamaican styled eateries and attitude. Passing the time of day with older generation members sat in deckchairs on the street was the norm. In late autumn. A year later on my second venture I stayed in what could not have been a more Latino area, maybe ten minutes from where I was before. Both ventures were mind-blowing but as different in tone as visiting Mexico is from Barbados. Do a bit of googling before you pay your deposit.
2) Stay alert to the locality; you are not in a movie
One day when I was goggle-eyed at being a Brooklyn resident I made the mistake of not reacting to a potential rumble. My focus was on taking a photo of the Malcolm X wall mural, not on the guys shoving each other about nearby. I was determined. They thought I was logging them and threw their rage my way. I don’t blame them.
Please don’t be that giddy – move on and take your photo another day. On both my ventures that was the one and only issue I had. Brooklyn was one of the most welcoming places I have ever been in the world and I would live there in a heart beat. But naivety can add to a complex mix when issues like gentrification hang in the air.
Be cute, be savvy. Appreciate that however ‘at home’ you may feel, you’re not.
3) Master bodega living!
Bodegas and delis and corner stores are not at all the same thing in NYC! It took me two ventures to work this out, seriously. Bodegas often don’t stock the basic fresh items you might expect from a corner store in other parts of the world. Maybe milk, maybe cheese. But essentially these stores offer tinned and dried items and a skinny cat. Certainly anything resembling a ‘range’ of fresh is a definite long shot, even in most delis.
Carry a shopper and collect fresh items as you nip around Manhattan during your day. I’d often hop off the subway at Washington Square Park because just on the edge of Greenwich Village, actually in Sex and the City land, was a super fresh veg supermarket.
OK, I have to admit, Carrie Bradshaw may have had better grocery options than my brownstone locality.
But I wouldn’t change those free ‘Stevie Wonder’ concerts for the world.