Today marks the one year anniversary of my last visit to Manhattan, the heart of the metropolitan area I call home. Typically, I travel into Manhattan via subway once a week, a half hour journey costing $2.75 each way. My last trip to Manhattan was also marked by my last fight (against my friend Francesco, the two of us have subsequently demonstrated throws in socially distanced classes to prove to the children that, yes, judo is actually a sport in normal years, not characterized by social distancing). It was also my last semi-formal occasion, a luncheon and awards ceremony to mark the end of the semester for our athletic program. I remember the big joke that day was that, since we weren't supposed to shake hands, we would have to settle for 'corona elbow bumps' on a day when hugs are the norm... that was before mask wearing was mandated.
My last visit to Brooklyn, typically a monthly destination, was on February 18th, for that month's Secret Science Club lecture at the beautiful Bell House. I followed up that journey with a visit to the venerable Wo Hop to show my solidarity with the people of Manhattan's Chinatown.
I haven't banished myself from New York City completely, since I live two blocks north of the Bronx, and the neighborhood encompasses both sides of the border... I've just avoided the areas of the city which I'd need to use public transportation. There's no need to expose myself or others to pathogens just to get something to eat at Mamoun's or walk the High Line. I really felt it when, for the first time since 1993, I ceased to have an active MetroCard- they (foolishly, by my way of thinking) have expiration dates, so after the card was depleted, I just used exact change for fares on my rare local bus trips.
I miss Manhattan and Brooklyn. I see the skyline of Manhattan on my drive home, the towers peeking over the relatively low-lying terrain of the Bronx. Exile is a difficult thing to endure... even the bread tastes different. In the interest of full disclosure, Bronx bread rivals anything from Manhattan, especially since Morrone's in East Harlem closed. It's been a year, but I hope it won't be much longer, I hope that the vaccines become more readily available. I don't know if I'll kiss the ground when I finally return, but I will make it an effort to patronize my favorite spots more frequently. I owe myself, and I owe the City.