by Troy M. Olson
Morgantown, WV — Jacki and I began the last leg of our journey driving over the Appalachians on what was turning out to be a longer drive than we had planned. We thought we could get to New York City with all of our possessions in three days. However, since we had the Penske truck for five and a very angry cat, we took the more scenic route. We took our time. No regrets at all. Because traveling further south than we needed to allowed us to see family the night before officially arriving.
D.C. Suburbs — I got see my East Coast relatives on the night of August 1st, which was badly needed. Outside of coming back to Minnesota for funerals, seeing the Jones family of Maryland has been the only time this past year I’ve seen family. While I had experienced this lack of familiar connection before during my year long deployment earlier this decade, this time it affected me more because it was self-imposed and I was always just a plane ride away from the Midwest. As Jacki and I get more and more established out here, this is definitely something we will rectify.
The next day was going to be a long one, and Harrison Potter needed some exercise. He met his nearly identical tuxedo twin in McNugget. Several mosquito bites, even more kitty hair loss, and a night spent breaking things and we were ready to get to our new home.
East Coast and Our New Home — New York City, Borough of Manhattan, Harlem.
By midday on August 2nd of last year, nearly a year to the date where Frodo was stabbed on Weathertop (oops…wrong story), we arrived at our new home in the Heart of Harlem and began the arduous process of unloading the Penske truck. I saw the road ahead and it was not pretty. I immediately called the only human being I knew at the time in New York City, my lifelong friend and co-writer of various screenplays, famous pre-mudgeon and Brooklyn film industry alum Zach Kangas. One year later, I’m happy to report I know hundreds of fellow New Yorkers now, to varying degrees. However, only Zach would help me unload a Penske truck.
Jacki and I arrived in New York last year without guaranteed jobs, very little to our names, too many books to count (let alone, fit in our apartment), and about seven craft beers. Objectively speaking, moving here was insane. One year later though, I know now more than ever that it was the right move.
What We’ve Learned So Far… Jacki and I are now employed and more or less have been since the start. In fact, we work every single day in some capacity. Her in finance, and me in real estate. We could not have got here without the love and support of our extended families.
It is not lost on me that many would correctly point out, that we are gentrifiers in our new neighborhood. We are. It is a fact I’m very aware of each and every day. In a city as diverse and concentrated as New York, you end up seeing just about everything you can imagine. It’s easy to disappear into it. Looking back on a journey that took my wife and I from growing up in towns of under 10,000 to the second largest city on Earth (Tokyo, Japan is the largest), I cannot help but feel more connected to our common humanity than I’ve ever felt. Whether it is thinking back to then or looking at now and where we want to go.
Jacki and I have experienced nothing but a very welcoming and positive attitude. The old adage that New Yorkers are aggressive and mean is not necessarily true. I would argue New Yorkers are direct and to the point. While I always retain a good amount of my midwestern passive aggressive, in fact, a good amount of my satirical nature depends on it, the direct and “I’m outta time” nature of this city suits me at this stage in my life.
The one time either of us (Jacki) did face something unpleasant, it led to my favorite sentiment of all this past winter. Jacki was riding the subway when an older (white) woman yelled at her for being new to the neighborhood, for being a gentrifier. Irony being completely lost on this woman, she continued to single out Jacki until eventually, a black man stood up and said: “Everyone is welcome in this neighborhood.” This sentiment is undeniably America on its best days. It should be true for all communities and neighborhoods. Yes communities and neighborhoods. Don’t be fooled by the skyscrapers. Every American city is a series of communities where people find belonging and commonality each and every day, a series of neighborhoods both famous and unknown, new and old, and a series of streets named after Presidents, civil rights leaders, or just made up to be a numbered grid so tourists can’t get lost.
“Everyone is welcome in this neighborhood” is the country that I believe in. I hope it’s the one that you believe in too.