The Scent Of A City
It is New York week on PST and that is just fine with me. I love New York.
From the tender age of four I was known to proclaim my intention of going to “the Broadway” (the exact definition of which remained shrouded in mystery to me and my friends for a long time), when I was old enough to start my career as a musical star. Every ballet class from then on was transferred to the big city in my mind; I imagined accepting a Tony award on a regular basis, my speech and tearful smile being honed to perfection through dogged daily repetition. My poor mother and my childhood friends became so used to my constant prattling about New York, about my American dream, it barely registered anymore.
I was so determined, I clearly remember saying in Kindergarten that I would move to New York soon and the unsuspecting teacher believed our family would really move and asked my mother about it. I was forbidden to talk about it in public from then on. I did as I was told, but I never stopped dreaming.
Sadly reality interfered. I turned out not to be musical star material, and accordingly my dreams changed, but New York remained an integral part of every future I envisioned.
I wanted to attend university in NY, after that did not materialize either, I consoled myself with the thought of looking for a job there later.
Suddenly grown up and stuck in Austria with a business and a family, I have progressed to dreaming of spending my old age over there, the kids grown up, M and I stinking rich (ha!) and we retire in a Manhattan apartment with a view of the park and a doorman. I am not giving up on this one, People! (I would settle for a nice loft in Brooklyn too though, if need be.)
One day I am going to go to New York to live, you just watch me!
When I first set foot into New York City, I was driving a car coming from Boston. My delight of the ease of finding my way around, because of the practical grid system of the streets was diminished by the many, many, many cars honking and hooting their way through the crowded intersections and the hordes of seemingly traffic-unaware pedestrians streaming through the streets. A hysterical breakdown only closely averted, we (a friend and I) arrived at the Pennsylvania Hotel in Midtown and gladly handed the key with a shaking hand to the valet, who stowed our car on some roof far, far away. New York is best discovered on foot.
I immediately saw with great delight the close proximity of our hotel to Macy’s on 34th. So this was my first point of call, because I’ll have you know, even then, twenty years old, I was keen to get my nose near a bottle of perfume as fast as I could. And Macy’s did not disappoint. I remember clearly the first perfume I ever smelled on American soil – Burberry for Women, it was 1995, what can I say.
The next day we went for the big guns - museums, parks, sights, they all had to wait - I wanted to go to Bergdorf Goodman.
Who needs the Empire state building when there is the beauty department of Bergdorf’s? Exactly.
To cut short what could fill a book: I loved it. I was overwhelmed, but in a good way.
The luxury, the beautiful people, the never-ending variety of exotic and unknown brands and lines and products, so foreign and so much better than what I was used to. The sales assistants were intimidating and I felt like a little girl playing dress up and afraid of being discovered in the world of the grown ups.
My first destination was the Chanel counter. And I knew what I wanted from the get go. After timidly sniffing my around a little I bought what I came for: a bottle of Chanel N° 5.
Not because I really thought it smelled good, it was way too harsh and “perfume-y” for me then, but because I perceived it to be my ticket into the world of adult sophistication, of elegance and maturity, of attractiveness and womanhood.
New York City smells like Chanel N°5 for this girl.
Fifteen years later I have grown into N° 5, I have learned to appreciate and love it for its scent not only for all its ramifications and attached images. But I also love it for the memories of my first trip to the city of my dreams, the epitome of what I thought America was (totally not the case as I discovered later), the essence of my dreams of what I would like to be.
Life seldom turns out the way we imagine it as children. It takes turns, some good, some bad, all surprising. The trick is arranging yourself with what you get and never to stop striving for the things that lie in the realm of the possible.
New York is still in my spectrum of possibilites. (Only Broadway is not, I guess.)
Until then there is always Chanel N°5.
Image source: es.wiki.com