New York City is a place I never imagined I would ever live, at least when reflecting back to my youth and distant speculation when people were so curious about what my future held – I had all sorts of notions but none of them involved the East Coast. My Dad once said that if he had to live in a city it would be Manhattan – which struck me as odd since he was so happy living in the country as we did, and seldom spoke highly of any place where more than 10 people congregated. I could tell it was something bigger than him, something that held his interest, and that was intriguing to me. Fast forward a decade or more, there I was residing in Manhattan just on the outskirts of Central Park. And he was right – it was a wonderful city, worth striving for. I took up residence there in 2006 and didn’t leave until my daughter was nearing her first birthday. We always moved on or near Halloween, which in New York is a strange day even for the initiated. Our last apartment was my favorite, hard won by true grit in the pursuit of what little there was to grab in the ‘upgrade’ category – it took me over 50 viewings before I found that gem. Finally detached from the agent I scoured the side streets whose confluence was Central Park West, until I found an unflattering building just steps from the fabled park with a poorly placed sign advertising pending vacancy. I don’t recall who answered, but it was standing under the french windows of the 2nd story unit, directly across the street from Lennon’s former residence at The Dakota that I knew I scored my first real New York victory. I managed to slip into the building and walk through the vacant space, ecstatic of the potential. The price was a bit high for what I wanted to spend, would they consider less, perhaps my price point? Sure, why not, this was New York during The Great Recession, even rent was negotiable.
I built my career from that apartment – my daughter was born while we lived there. It was where we watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade lumber by mere yards from our windows and where my Bear Dog took his last breath. It was the last place we called home before we left Manhattan in an inevitable but perhaps begrudging retreat to a more realistic place to raise our daughter. And let’s face it – Manhattan was on the come back in 2011. Rents were back on the rise and even the Financial District was regaining popularity. Our time was up and it was never to be forgotten. What I learned in New York should be the title to a memoir when I’m far older than now, during a time when I can even laugh at what I’m thinking and doing at this age.
After New York we stayed on the East Coast for a few more years until I was able to get back west. The opportunity came to pick a new landing zone for our young family in 2016 and we chose Seattle. We were relocating from Providence, RI so the move was pretty simple, really – just hop on I-90 and head west until we ran smack into I-5. And it was a great move, one that has allowed us to finally set roots and remain comfortable to plan for the next chapter(s) of our lives. Seattle has a special place in my heart which should be covered in separate telling, and especially the skiing available a short drive to the east. Back in 2001 I was on the Alpental volunteer ski patrol and discovered a place I longed to be a bigger part of, but of course that isn’t possible while gallivanting about. In fact it was my ski patrol director, Dave something or other who was traveling down a highway in Montana and ran into some friends of mine from Alaska – they saw his Alpental sticker on his car and mentioned my name and the world shrunk to manageable portions for just a moment at that gas station. It would be over 12 years until I pointed my skis down Alpental again, but I eventually got back and appreciate every day on that mountain.
My daughter was 5 when we moved to Seattle and our first winter was her third ski season but her first on a real mountain. Rhode Island offered some legitimate but clearly introduction level slopes – the Cascades were to be cautiously negotiated. Naturally we made Alpental ground zero, and although it took several trips to smaller, nearby hills we ended up back at Alpental that season, ready to tackle degrees of difficulty she couldn’t conceive three months prior. As she improved we watched the other kids from the lifts, especially the racers. Best skiers on the mountain, no doubt. By the time she was 8, she was ready to join the elite rippers.
Ski racing is completely new to me, but something I’ve always wanted my daughter to at least attempt. Coincidentally the first year she decided to give it a shot was the first year she was eligible, so we felt strong in our decision to jump right in. The program is quite involved and geared toward the totally committed. Events and training start in early October and skiing starts by December. New parents are indoctrinated with a quick PayPal transaction and the realization that soccer was such an easy commitment.
It was during the inaugural U12 parent meeting where this story comes full circle. It felt like the first parent gathering for Kindergarten, the newbies nervously working the room to find a cozy spot to schmooze without getting in the way or being singled out by the overly-confident host and supreme know all of the organization. Eventually we settled to meet the kids’ new coach and another mom whose son was about our daughter’s age. While I eagerly chatted up the new coach I could tell my wife was having a very relaxed and natural conversation with the other mom so I was that much more at ease in this group. After about 10 minutes of this cordial banter I could hear the pitch of their voices start to rise and their statements to become more factual quips as if comparing similarities like in the Parent Trap. Suddenly it became quite obvious my wife and the other mom had something unbelievable in common, which had caught the attention of my fellow conversant. Then the firm grip on my bicep, her fingers wrapped tightly around my arm. I was now being abruptly drug into their conversation and the focal point of prying eyes. “Matt, what was the address of our last apartment in New York?” came the pleading request. Christ I couldn’t remember that detail in this moment – it was 2 something, but why was this so important? While I was digging through old boxes in my memory these two were starting to zero in on crazy details that only a former resident of 7 W 73rd St; Apt. 2A would even know. The light switch in the bathroom controlled the outlet, so electric toothbrushes never got charged unless the light was on. The fireplace burned real wood. The french windows actually worked and revealed an epic street-front view reminiscent of a Parisian promenade. The old man who owned the building would use some kind of drain cleaner that only had a white cross-bones, no other label. These details kept pouring out until she asked, “wait, when did you guys live there?” Couple quick anecdotes were thrown around to gauge the years and we settled on 2008-2011. “Oh my God, you guys took that apartment over for me, I moved out in October of 2008…”
We recently attended an auction for this same organization and ran into the same mom and consequently her husband and some other folks from the east coast. Never thought I’d admit this but east coasters are really my kind of people – they’re brash, sincere and I don’t feel like they’re judging me behind my back, because it’s quite obvious they’re judging me to my face. Others had heard this story and crazy coincidence by now and were commenting on the serendipity of it all – which reminds me more of a New York moment than anything else. In New York I ran into old college girlfriends, elementary schoolmates that my wife knew and many other coincidences that would only happen in New York – but here we are thousands of miles from that city and we can’t escape the undeniable impact it had on our lives.