New York City vs. The American West -Which of the Two Do We Like Best?

By Patricia Giniger Snyder

After two months of being east of the Mississippi River (for our international readers, that means the eastern U.S.), we crossed our nation’s great divide again and returned by air to the American West. Since we began this untethered journey, we’ve traveled across the country multiple times, and interestingly, there are deep emotional, physical and spiritual changes that happen when you go from Big Sky to Big Skyscrapers or vice versa.

Let me first explain that Adam and I are New Yorkers by birth. In fact, we lived in the same apartment complex (Stuyvesant Town) in Manhattan the first two years of our lives. We joke that we saw each other in our baby carriages and said, “See you in 20 years!” Until three years ago when we became citizens of the world, we had lived in the State of New York for decades. And although we don’t live anywhere now, our “stuff” still “hangs out” in a storage unit there!

After spending last summer and the fall in the Rocky Mountains, we headed to Manhattan for six weeks to see family, friends and doctors.

From the great western expanse we downsized into what was billed as a 1 bedroom, 1 bath, 650 square foot (60.6 square meters) apartment. In truth, it was a high-end studio turned into a 1 bedroom with sliding doors, a temporary half wall with open plexiglass windows, and probably more like 500 square feet (46.5 square meters). It was like living in a hotel room, something we had always imagined to be fun…hmm?!

The rent was extremely reasonable, and the neighborhood (near Columbus Circle) gave us access to almost anything by foot, subway or car. On top of that, the building had unbeatable amenities, like rooftop lounges with expansive views, an indoor pool, sauna and steam room, a fully-equipped gym and really nice doormen who made us feel like we lived at Downtown Abbey. A dear friend living in the building was icing on the cake.

But the apartment was tiny -- totally okay for one person, but teeny-tiny for two. So what do you do to adapt to cramped space after living in extraordinary homes in the majestic mountains of Colorado and Utah?

To be honest, we (especially me) complained a lot! But our life choices have made us extremely flexible, and we can adjust, for example, to having only two mugs in an Airbnb just as easily as having a dozen or more!

So Adam and I figured out how to carve out two private corners for our clothes and things, and kept the clutter to a bare minimum. Also, because we both work out of our “home,” one of us would go upstairs to the lounge where we could write and/or edit video while looking out onto the Hudson River or over Central Park...not bad, not bad at all.

We also took full advantage of NYC’s arts and culture and culinary delights, spending way too much money to expand our hearts, minds and stomachs. A $20 bill burnt a hole in our pockets each time we stepped outside the door. But we still had a blast! Here are some favorites:

The new Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) and the Museum of Art & Design. I loved the special MOMA exhibit by architect, Sou Fujimoto, who says, "Architecture is Everywhere." Check out what he means with the tiny guys on the potato chips!

Our favorite play was a lesser known, least loved Shakespearean drama/comedy called Timon of Athens at one of our favorite theaters in Brooklyn, the Theater for a New Audience. A family friend, John Rothman, had a starring role which was a surprising bonus. Adam’s favorite movie was Queen and Slim ; mine was Pedro Almodovar’s Pain and Glory, which we saw at 11 p.m. in a movie theater we had to ourselves on New Year’s Eve!

We went to a Latino Jazz concert at Symphony Space on the Upper West Side, and at the 11th Street Bar in the East Village, heard a terrific band, Canción Franklin & Fam. They played driving blues, rock and roll and classic country, and it’s lead singer is a good friend of our son’s, which made the experience especially remarkable.

Speaking about family, tops on our list was spending time with them and with dozens of friends. Breaking bread and sharing “bubbly” at our apartment and friends’ homes was a special delight!

Thanks to our foodie amigo Merrill Brown, we also ate like royalty. Favorite restaurants were: Chinese, Pig Heaven; Vegan, Blossom on Columbus; Japanese, Yakitori Totto; Italian, Malatesta Trattoria; Turkish, Aba; and an American diner, Tops in Newark, NJ.

Like others who visit NYC or other urban areas from small cities and towns, country villages, rural farms or foreign soils, you do change your emotional psyche while there. What you see is raw and real, sometimes beautiful and many times not. You have to create space for personal calmness. Adam found his at one of Manhattan’s few cigar bars, a secret place called the Carnegie Club. If you’re willing to spend money on a drink or two, you, too, can be a member of this not-private club!

And so after six weeks in the Big Apple, we welcomed our next adventure to Nevada, where we are living in a huge 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom place. It was great to be moving fast forward and being bombarded with anything goes. Though nothing can compare to family, friends, culture and the frenetic/fantastic pace of the East Coast, it was a relief to look out the plane window and see the Grand Canyon at its grandest and return to the solitude and majesty of the American West.

Adam and I very fortunate to be living life untethered and have the freedom to access to both worlds and not have to pick a favorite. So let’s just leave it at that…

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