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God, I'm missing my hometown.

2022-08-31 · 9 min read

I'm listening to Taylor Swift's Welcome to New York right now, and I'm getting really homesick. I remember singing this song in fourth grade for a school concert. Well, not by myself. I wouldn't have the guts for that. It was with the rest of the kids in my class.

Yesterday, I went back to Brooklyn, my hometown, to get some contacts. We arrived a bit early and had to wait for my appointment, so we went driving around. (We being me and my mom.) I used to live in Bay Ridge. Brooklyn is made up of a bunch of smaller districts that you've probably never heard of before. I always tell people I lived in Brooklyn. They know where that is, but they don't know where Bay Ridge is.

We stopped by this street we used to shop on, 86th Street. There used to be a Century 21 and a TJ Maxx on that street. You've probably heard of TJ Maxx, but not Century 21. Imagine Macy's but only in New York with more designer brands all with deep discounts. Yeah.

So much has changed in the four years since I moved out of Brooklyn. Before we moved, I got a pink cap at Century 21. My dad was shopping, which meant we were all in the men's section. I picked out a pink cap and put it on, and everyone loved it on me, so we got it. (In fact, we were planning to get me a new cap, since the pink one is crusty. I tried to throw it out in the trash, but I couldn't stand it. I dug it back out of the trash.) Then we went to the McDonald's next to Century 21, and we had burgers, and I chased my siblings around the McDonald's playground when I was still a kid and could do kid stuff.

Anyways, Century 21 and TJ Maxx are both gone now. Century 21 apparently went bankrupt during the pandemic. They're planning to reopen in a location at the World Trade Center in 2023, but I've never been to that one. A Planet Fitness was constructed on the second floor next to the Gap store on the same store. I don't know if McDonald's is there anymore.

We also stopped by my elementary school (PS 170). They got a new building added the year before I graduated. Now they're remodeling the old side of the building, which was the place I spent 8 hours a day in, Monday through Friday, September to June, grades K - 5.

My elementary school has five floors. I remember creeping upstairs before the bell rang in the morning so I could hang out with my friends. (But also because I thought it was cool.)

There was a fire escape on the top floor. It was locked (obviously), but it had these holds between the steps and I always wondered what it'd be like to climb those stairs. I used to stare out the windows on the fifth floor in the staircase. On one side of the building, I could see the Verrazano Bridge (more specifically as it's known, the Verrazano-Narrow Bridge) through these windows, and on the other side, I could see my home, a tiny apartment I shared with five people. (Technically four, since my dad came home once a week from his job.) I'd stare out these windows, and dream of going to places, especially when the sky was blue and you could see buildings for miles around.

We went to a bunch of places when I was a kid. On the bus, we'd go to Kings Plaza, one of the biggest malls in Brooklyn (B90, buses have numbers). On the subway, we'd go to Coney Island every summer to flap around in the water (we'd take the N train from the 8th Avenue station downtown to Coney Island, the last stop). One summer, we were planning to watch fireworks but it started raining when we got switched into our swimsuits. We played at the arcades instead, which was a whole lot of fun. Another year, my library (the Fort Hamilton Parkway branch of Brooklyn Public Library) had a summer reading prize of free tickets to Luna Park, an amusement park in Coney Island. That was a lot of fun. I've had a lot of fun at Coney Island. We would go there every year without fail. I've been to the aquarium nearby, to the Ferris wheel there, to the kiddie rides, everything.

All of this reminds me of the times I used to go with my mom to Times Square the night before Black Friday, aka Thanksgiving (take the N train from the 8th Avenue station uptown to Times Square, aka 42nd Street). We'd stay up until three in the morning, me just following her and watching her pick out discounted clothing and appliances.

Subway lines in NY are easy to understand when you've been living there for seven years. Still, we got lost in Bronx when we were trying to find the Bronx Zoo, so we just walked there. (N train from the 8th Avenue station again, switch to D train somewhere along the line, since D goes to Forest Park. Get off at some stop in Bronx, watch the rain pouring down outside the station, watch a rainbow and the sun slowly reappear, and walk one or two miles to the zoo from there. Find out that tickets are free on Wednesday, get excited, buy ice cream, watch the seals in the center, walk around, snap an ungodly amount of pictures, etc etc.)

I tell people that I've been to the Museum of Natural History like fifteen times, which is partially true. I haven't been there fifteen times, but I've been there a darn good number of times. Every year, I would go on a school field trip to the museum to see an exhibition. They have this massive planetarium, and as you walk upstairs on a ramp, it's almost like you can touch the planets there. They're still there, I hope, but it's not like I would know, since I haven't been there in a long time. It reminds me of Holden in The Catcher in the Rye. The planetarium and the cafeteria with these marbles on the walls that I would always slide my hand across and the salami sandwiches the school would provide always remained the same, year after year.

One time they had a butterfly exhibition (garden) at the museum. I'm scared of butterflies because I've seen them dead before, and it makes me shudder. During a summer program (CAMBA summer program in Brooklyn), we went there. Everyone forced me in. It wasn't so bad, and by the end, everyone was laughing at my supposed fear, including me. In a good way.

Yeah, I've been to a bunch of places. No, I've never been to the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. Those are overrated. I've been to Governor's Island, which was next to Ellis Island and free. There's all sorts of little gems in New York. I miss my hometown.

I haven't gone trick-and-treating once since I moved down here to Massachusetts. I wonder why moving coincided with me having to grow up.

Anyways, trick-and-treating meant taking a plastic bag (not a plastic pumpkin, we could never afford those), and walking around and saying trick-and-treat. We didn't really wear costumes, but it was so much fun.

When we got our first red envelopes(hong bao, red envelopes with money in them for luck), we went to the comics book shop down the street from my school. I gave the cashier the exact amount of money for the book I got. It was 12.99 and I'd give him exactly 12.99, not 13.

Welcome to New York has stopped playing. Our neighbor used to play Taylor Swift's Blank Space and OneRepublic's Counting Stars and Katy Perry's Roar all the time and those were the songs I grew up listening to. And in fifth grade (2017), I remember the Chainsmokers' Closer and Paris and Alessia Cara's Stay with Zedd and How Far I'll Go in Moana. I watched that movie at least three times (came out the year before). Same for Zootopia (which also came out the year before). My brother loved rewinding to the train chase towards the end of the movie.

There's a bunch more memories, all in my head. I wish I had pictures, but I hated taking pictures when I was a kid and I still do, but now I want them, and there's not much. There's a bunch more memories. Some mundane, like walking to the library and seeing my teacher. Some less mundane, like going to the Aviator Sports & Events Center, which used to be an airport but was turned into a sports center, for my graduation trip, where I hung out with friends and we did ice skating and rock climbing and ate pizza and signed each other's graduation yearbooks.

I'm telling you, there's a bunch more, but this has to end somewhere. I'm going to put on Welcome to New York back again.

The lights are so bright,

But they never blind me, me

Welcome to New York,

It's been waiting for you

I've never been blinded by my hometown, and maybe it's still waiting for me after all this time.

Signing off to go upload the only pictures I have onto Google Photos for future keepsaking,