A Decade of New York City

February 17, 2017 by NJPainter

Today marks my ten year anniversary with New York City.

I moved here after graduating from college in New Orleans and feeling like a post-Katrina city was no place for an ambitious girl searching for the start of her career. I picked it, having never been to New York, because I didn’t want to re-join my graduating high school class in Chicago, most of whom had never left. “I’ll give it five years,” I thought.

I had two job interviews in January 2007 and three weeks later I bought a one-way plane ticket after accepting a position as an editorial assistant at an event planning trade journal that paid $10/hour.

I had one friend, Jennifer, went lent me the other half of her full-sized bed and one Jcrew suit that made me feel like post-Stanley Tucci makeover Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada.

I had to leave Zoey in New Orleans with my mom until I found a place to live and mom swears that Zoey stared at the front door for a week straight, waiting for me to walk back through it. Then she had to be shipped to Connecticut where Lynn picked her up until I got settled.

I showed up to an apartment appointment with my bags from the airport. A lovely stranger named Jess had a roommate that was moving out and needed to rent the extra room. It was rent stabilized and on Central Park West. A holy grail that I was totally unaware of.

I remember that my dad was not thrilled about any of this. I wasn’t moving back home after college. I was moving to a place where I didn’t know anyone. A place that was notoriously expensive and difficult and dangerous. And I was going to make $10 an hour.

My adult-self wonders why I wasn’t more concerned with these details but I guess that’s the beauty of our younger-selves. We are ready to jump with the assumption that those little details will work themselves out.

I had confidence in the decision to move here. It was a feeling that eventually waned as I welcomed my late 20s and questioned my profession/location/relationship. But man, 23 Laurén was certain. And proud.

Today 106th street is considered part of the Upper West Side but in 2007 it was Harlem and people winced when I told them where I lived.

Bert, who lived across the hall from us, was a hoarder with a cat named Ray who ate ice cream. Bert was a jazz lover and told me that Billy Strayhorn had lived in our building when he wrote Take the A Train for Duke Ellington and that one of Charlie Parker’s ex-wives lived across the street. I remember feeling at the time that I was the only 23 year in New York City who appreciated these facts and was therefore exactly where I needed to be.

I wish I had more photos from this era – it was before cameras were on cellphones and cellphones had clouds and this was at least three computers ago. I dug up a few this week but  I could only find a hand full of random shots.


A blizzard the week I moved into 106th street. I hadn’t experienced winter in 5 years.


Bedroom on 106th Street

We can walk on 5th.jpg

I *believe* this is the 5th Avenue Easter Day Parade. (2007)


Jennifer & I (in the living room on 106th street) – heading to a Halloween party. (2007)

I went back to my emails from that week and they are filled with adorable young-girl-in-a-big-city quips:


From Jennifer: “I got $10 from my mom and can afford two beers. Wanna meet up after work?”

From me: “Yes mom, I am eating and staying warm.”

All of my mornings, evenings and weekends were spent in the park with Zoey and the other people who I’d come to know through their dogs. I tell people now that Zoey is so well trained because I didn’t know anyone and had nothing better to do when I moved to New York. Zoey and I saw every inch of Central Park that year. From the woods around the Harlem Meer to the trail along the reservoir to the spectacular people-watching around the bandshell. Those are some of the best memories of my life.




It seems all at once completely believable and impossible th