First Time I Read “A Farewell to Arms”



“…for us physicists believe the separation between past, present, and future is only an illusion, although a convincing one.”

Christmas 2012 at 177 Canal St.

People change. Places change. Relationships change.

These changes aren’t very noticeable from one day to the next. It’s only when you haven’t seen a place for a long time that you notice the differences. Relationships change over time, but it’s even more stark once it’s rekindled after an extended period of absence.

I just came back from a wonderful trip to New York. I saw so many old friends, and visited so many of my favorite places.

But, it wasn’t the same.

Thinking back on it, none of my trips to places long-unseen turned out quite the way I expected. Going back to Russia every few years was a shock every time. A fence blocking the railroad tracks down the street (much to my dismay). A new house replacing my favorite “cow lady”‘s farm. New teachers at my old school. And I’m sure it has changed dramatically since the last time I was there.

It dawned on me that this is how it will always be. Change will surround our lives, for better or for worse.

I remember the farm I grew up on. I remember it fondly:
Upon coming back to visit, change was not welcome. In my memories, everything was perfect. Blintzes for breakfast; stealing powdered milk from the cupboard; building snow castles in the winter; rain full of romance in the Fall. I don’t think about pining for my mom, thousands of miles away. I don’t think about shoveling coal for heat. I definitely don’t think about doing that in -30 degree weather, when the coal was frozen solid to the ground.

My friends say I’m a romantic. There’s a certain way that I remember things, and it’s that same romanticized memory that needs to come alive for me to be satisfied when I go there again. And they’re right – for the most part. I do remember things with a certain affinity for the positive; for the romantic. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I recommend it.

But, that can be so much better if you replace your hostility toward change with something positive.

Going back to New York City wasn’t the same. But, it wasn’t worse. It was just different. And isn’t that beautiful? If you really think about it, wouldn’t you rather have it that way? If every place you loved and every person you loved remained exactly as you remember them, wouldn’t you get just a bit bored? Moreover, wouldn’t you rather fall in love with them all over again, than try to fit them into a memory?

I think that most people enjoy adventure and spontaneity. Most people want to grow and mature and be better. Old restaurants close, but new ones open up. Relationships change, but the good ones remain the same. The people might have changed, but if the relationship is truly solid, then it is immune to change – in friendship and in love. I can pick up the phone right now, call my best friend, and we will get along exactly the same as we did a year ago. We’ve both changed, but our relationship hasn’t.

Change is a given. It will happen with or without you. Might as well embrace it and love it. I can think of New York as having changed from the place that it used to be. It’s a place that I loved. Or, I can think of New York as two different places: the way that it was and the way that it is now. The differences? They replaced one coffee shop with another; the people that live at 177 Canal St. – the place that I used to call home – are different and I know not a single one; and my relationships with a couple of my old friends have changed. See, my first instinct is to be averse to such changes. “It’s not the same place.” But, that’s not true. It’s still just as amazing, with a few minor changes in the things that I used to know.

Instead of trying to fit New York as it is now into my memories of how it used to be, I’d rather embrace the changes.

I’d rather go to the new coffee shop or find another one – shouldn’t be hard in New York City.

Instead of trying to hold on to relationships clearly broken, create new ones and build on the ones that remain.

The beauty in embracing this change is that at the end of the day, you can remember New York fondly – twice. I’ll never forget my first New York family, it was such a wonderful time in my life. This visit wasn’t exactly a second round of living there, but I will remember it very fondly. And I can’t wait to come back and fill my life with new experiences, new people, and new relationships.

I can’t wait to fall in love with New York for a third time.

NYC Fifty

50 Things You Must Experience While Living in New York City

So, recently I’ve been tasked with a very exciting challenge. I must narrow down the thousands of things that New Yorkers experience in this city. To the Fifty best. In no particular order, here are my Fifty:

1. Have “The Dennis” sandwich from Parisi Bakery on 198 Mott St.

2. Check out the amazing street art in 5 Pointz, Queens.

3. Get absolutely lost in Central Park until you find yourself at Belvedere Castle.
Belvedere Castle

4. Get 8 dumplings at Prosperity on Eldridge in Chinatown. It’ll set you back $2. If you prefer boiled dumplings, walk a bit further down Eldridge to Fu Zhou. And if you’re feeling fancy, find Joe’s Shanghai for some soup dumplings instead. Your move.

5. Got the dumplings? Good. Now pick them up and take the 10 minute walk to the center of the Manhattan Bridge. There won’t be a place to sit, but you’ll improvise with a view like this:

6. Nice and full from the dumplings? Enjoy the view from the Manhattan Bridge? Good. Now walk to the other side of the Bridge. You’ll find yourself in Brooklyn. Walk to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and enjoy an astonishing view of Manhattan.

7. No trip to Brooklyn is complete without a visit to Williamsburg – hipster mecca. Its innovative bar scene and smaller feel make it totally worth it. Check out Radegast Hall & Biergarten on 3rd Street & Berry. Have a beer and some brats. Then make your way to Hotel Delmano for an amazing cocktail, and maybe some oysters. Finish off the night with Maison Premiere and your Brooklyn experience is nearly complete.

8. Nitehawk Cinema. Once you’re ready to come back to Brooklyn, this is the spot. It’s a cute little theater that plays the smash hits of today, as well as regular retro screenings. Oh, and they serve booze. They bring it right to your seat.
Nitehawk Cinema

9. Visit a Manhattan speakeasy. There are many great options, such as Please Don’t Tell and Dropoff Service. But, my personal favorite is Apotheke. They feature live ’20s jazz 4 days a week, and it really takes “Speakeasy” to another level. You need a password to get in, and that’s if you can even find it hidden among the grunge of Chinatown. Fear not, they’re the red door on 9 Doyers Street.

10. Visit Rockefeller Center, Radio City and go to the Top of the Rock. They’re all right next to each other. It might sound touristy, but you’ll forget that as soon as you’re at the top of that beautiful building.¬†Instead of waiting in line to get atop the Empire State Building, go to the top of Rockefeller Plaza. The view is absolutely incredible (especially at sunset), and it even beats the Empire State, because you can actually SEE the ESB from the Rock.
Top of the Rock
View of the Empire State Building

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