It’s Up to You, New York, New York…

JT Ellison


It’s official. I’m a Big Apple virgin no more. Hubby and I
made the trek north last week. I have a small section in my second book that is
set in the city, and I just wasn’t entirely comfortable relying on friends and
the Internet to give me the details I needed. There were two spots in
particular that I needed to “see”, but the most important aspect of this
research was the sensory experience.

I needed to feel the city, to flow with its unique rhythms.
Surprisingly, we managed to accomplish that. New York very kindly gave me every
bit of detail I was looking for. Sight, scent, texture, noise, beauty, snow,
crowds, pace, food (oh, the meals we devoured…) fog, clouds, people, parties,
champagne, graffiti, cappuccino – we got it all in a two day whirlwind.

The book will be richer for that.

And it only took me a day to stop saying, “It’s so BIG.”


I had my first major rite of passage as well. The author
lunch. Oh my. It comes highly recommended.

There’s something absolutely surreal about sitting in a
swanky New York restaurant with your editor and you agent, talking about this
compilation of words you’ve slaved over, and there’s laughter, and smiling, and
compliments, and personal information, fantastic red snapper and talk of the
future. It’s a heady feeling, to be sure.

Follow up the next day with a laid back
meeting with your agent (who smiles a lot more than you’d ever expect, he’s an
AGENT, for God’s sake, they’re supposed to be biters!) and lunch at a excellent
diner in the Flatiron district with your other great editor, and you can say
this has been a successful trip.

To top it off, my lovely friend MJ Rose kindly invited us to
be her guests at the ultimate literary event – Linda Fairstein’s book signing at the Mont
Blanc store at 57th and Madison. Getting to rub elbows with the
cognoscenti, the New York literati, two Killer Year mates and the divine La
Weinman was very cool. I enjoyed getting hip checked by Cindy Adams. I gave
Anna Quindlen my business card. I also gave it to the coat check girl, who
likes mysteries. MJ’s got divine taste — dinner after was even better.


We spent some time just absorbing. We walked from Union
Square into SoHo and managed to get lost in the one section of New York that
didn’t have a coffee shop every third door. We did Rockefeller Center, Times
Square, Fox News, The New York Times.
We walked and walked and walked, and only
had one cab incident (note to self: probably not a good idea to get into an
argument about Tennessee looking a great deal like Italy with a cabbie who
informs you you’re riding in the best cab in all of the city and has just
finished mainlining three shots of Illi espresso.)


And I got pissed off about September 11th all
over again. How dare they mess with this jewel?

When we left for the airport, I realized that New York is
now a part of me. As we move closer to publication, as more decisions are made
and paths taken, my future will be inextricably tied to parts of this town. New
York is such a vibrant city, I can’t help but feel it in my bones.

I did realize one thing. If I ever lose that sense of
wonder, stop feeling that it’s my privilege to be a part of this world,
it will be time for me to pack it in. You can take a lot of things for granted
in this life, but being paid to follow your dreams isn’t one of them.

So tell me. What’s YOUR favorite aspect of New York?
If you haven’t been, what do you look forward to the most?

Wine of the Week: 2005 Poggio al Santi, La Guardie, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo


MJ Rose started this incredibly worthy meme in honor of our dear Barbara Seranella.

Please consider signing up to be an organ donor. The gift you give will change many lives.

26 thoughts on “It’s Up to You, New York, New York…

  1. Pari Noskin Taichert

    Great wine choice, J.T. I think it’s the one that a salesman once described to me as being buttery with a dash of pepper (talk about a frustrated writer).

    I’ve only been to NYC twice, but have 200 times the stories. A few:1. An elderly, white-bearded man passed out on a bench in front of the old MOMA. I was the first to notice him and ended up meeting a group of generous people who stayed until the police/EMTs showed up.2. Talking my way into a swanky club because the goon at the door had never met a New Mexican.3. Same club in the bathroom: watching a gloriously beautiful, fawn of a girl wearing a dress that cost more than I’d made in a year as a waitress. She was snorting coke with friends by the sinks.4. Meeting the wealthy Swiss banker who offered to “keep me” after just two dances. Only problems: old enough to be my grandpa, short enough to be a younger brother.

  2. Iden Ford

    Cograts on having your first NY experience. I grew up there, live in Toronto, and want to see Tennessee someday especially Nashville, home of the Predators hockey team? Oh, how our cultures get so mixed eh?. Really I want to go to Elvis’ home. Anyway I am happy you got to feel the first book buzz and pre buzz. There will be only one time in your life as a published author you can celebrate these wonderful feelings you have had from the lunches, dinners and buzz about your new book coming out. And it will carry on throught publication, book signings, reviews, conferences. You will always remember these times. My favourite place in NYC is my Aunt’s house on Central Park West, 88 CPW. She lives next to Sting and Paul Simon is upstairs. I lived in the same apartment from 1958-1960, which looks out onto Central Park and is on the second floor. She married my stepfather after my Mom died, after which I moved back with my father and we eventually moved to Canada. Long story short, if you are in NYC ever for Thanksgiving, you have a standing invitation to come to the apartment and watch the parade. Maureen and I go every year to visit and we stay in my old apartment. And this invitation goes to all the members of the Murderati gang, just let me know if you plan to be in NYC, it is quite an experience seeing the Macy’s parade from inside a large 3 bedroom apartment house on Central Park West. Oh yeah, Robert Deniro just bought one of the apartments and will be living there when next year’s parade comes around. There are some photos from the parade on my blog. Just link to it and look for the Thanksgiving posts from last month.Cheers

  3. billie

    JT, your trip sounds wonderful. I have heard a few writers describe that first lunch with agent/editor and it always sounds magical and affirming, a writer’s coming of age ritual.

    For a number of years in my early twenties, I and a few friends would fly up to NY the day after Christmas and stay through ’til Jan. 2nd or so. We always wanted to stay at the Algonquin, couldn’t afford it, and stayed at the Iroquois instead.

    One year we couldn’t agree on what to do New Year’s Eve. In searching the Village Voice for options, I came across a tiny little ad on the back page that said Nina Hagen would be playing at “The Earth’s Edge” and it gave a street address.

    We decided to go, as I was convinced that would be the place Andy Warhol would go (I was a huge Andy Warhol fan).

    We couldn’t get a cab driver to take us there – it was way out in some part of town they didn’t want to go to, and we took the subway partway, got out, and then managed to convince a cab driver to take us the rest of the way. (mainly I think he thought we would end up dead if he didn’t help us out)

    He drove up to this huge old theater that looked possibly abandoned – but there was a line of several hundred people clamoring to get in. My friend was trying to convince him to come back for us and I stepped out of the cab. The instant I stepped out, two men dressed in black were at the door, giving the nod to who got in and who didn’t, and they started frantically motioning to me. I just stood there – and they finally ran down and took me by the arms and quite literally parted the crowd to get me (and my friend right behind us) through and inside the door.

    They took us to the VIP room and deposited us behind the locked door that had yet more doormen stationed.

    There was an open bar inside, but it was actually pretty boring – the VIP folks were older than we were and after a few drinks we went out to join the regular crowd.

    It was packed. We managed to get to the front and center for the show. Nina Hagen was AMAZING. My favorite memory – standing there squeezed into that huge crowd, hearing her sing New York, New York at midnight.

    The weird thing is that I never could find out what that place actually was, or where, after the fact. It still had merlot-colored velveteen covered sofas and huge old drapes hanging everywhere, and the bathrooms were regal and antique.

    It felt like we had entered a dream world just for that night and then after, it just disappeared.


  4. Tasha Alexander

    Ohhhhhh….I so, so love New York. Took a fabulous trip there in the fall with the lovely and talented Kristy Kiernan. We both visited our publishers (I love my publisher; have I mentioned that lately?) and hung out with our agent.

    But my favorite thing about New York is just wandering the streets, soaking up the energy. I could walk forever there.

    So long as I’m wearing the right shoes. ; )

  5. Keith

    Well, I live here, but offhand, my two favorite things about New York are my boys. Third would be bicycling in blizzards. Fourth would be Bombay Blue Sapphire martinis at Michael Jordan’s, which is on a balcony overlooking the big floor at Grand Central.

  6. Alex Sokoloff

    What a fun account! I agree – I’m delirious that going to NY is now part of my job.

    Actually I’m just delirious in general, flu, so I’ll be enjoying others’ rhapsodies to NY rather than contributing my own, today. But of all the mind-bendingly great things about NY – countless world-class museums, galleries, restaurants, OOB, Off-Broadway, BROADWAY, for heaven’s sake! –

    My absolute favorite part of NY is Central Park. When I lived briefly in the city I walked it every single day. I could never get tired of that place – magical, synchronistic, pyschedelic things happen to you every few feet.

    That’s the part I always miss most of all.And I cannot WAIT for ThrillerFest.

  7. Bryon Quertermous

    New York City is my soul city. Even though I don’t live there now, I did for one amazing summer in 2001. Every Saturday I would just walk the entire day. In four months I never covered the same ground and barely left Manhattan. But by far, my favorite part of New York City is Bryant Park. With the building around it just feels like old New York. I love Central Park on Sundays and of course the theater. Oh the theater. I’m happy I’ll finally be able to go back for the first time in six years this year for Edgars Week.

    Now, the next exciting city I’m dying to visit and explore is Nashville. I’m such a country junkie I even loved the movie “Bluebird Cafe”

  8. louiseure

    JT, I agree with Iden’s post. This first-book euphoria is something to be savored in every pore and taste bud.

    And Iden, I’m taking you up on the Thanksgiving Day parade view some year!

    I had a love-hate relationship with New York during my two years there. Four burglaries and two muggings in one twelve month period. A disasterous love affair.

    But I will always remember the kindness of strangers. And the omnipresent feeling that anything — anything at all — was possible in New York.

  9. Guyot

    The single greatest thing about New York…

    MR. K’s at 51st and Lexington.

    People think they must find a dive down in Chinatown for the best Chinese food this side of Hong Kong, but they’re all wrong.

    NY, Cali, Canada… there is no better dining experience in North America than Mr. K’s.

    Oh, and Keith’s kids are pretty cool, too.

  10. B.G. Ritts

    I’ve only been once. I was attending a week long seminar in NJ and took a train in one evening. Only stayed a couple hours and didn’t wander too far from the station — I have zero sense of direction and didn’t want to get lost. It is “big.” I grew up in Pittsburgh so all the buildings in NYC seemed to be oversized. I would love to go back some day when I can see the sights with someone who knows the city.

  11. Rae

    I love the size, the pace, the grittiness, the people in all their infinite and wonderful disparity, MOMA, Saks, Barneys, the Upper West Side, the Village, the grand hotels, Central Park – it’s all good.

  12. Naomi

    Love NYC. Just the mass and mad crash of people. Riding the subway (where else where would you witness a homeless guy make an articulate and entertaining plea for money?), the carefully tended community gardens tucked away within the concrete, slam poetry, pizza, books, books, books, art, art, art, brownstones, the guys selling Malcolm X tapes on the corners of Harlem, Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden. Can’t wait to be back in April!

  13. Elaine Flinn

    Memories of NY? ENERGY. And cabbies who take obvious out-of-towners the long way around. I finally learned to state my destination with a NY manner on the last day of my first visit years ago…

  14. Naomi

    I have a question for you Broadway/off-Broadway nuts–is it worth it to take your chances to buy tickets for a Tuesday night show if you’re open to anything that might be halfway decent?

    Would you take your mom to Chicago or Wicked? Or is there something else during Edgars Week that you would recommend?

  15. Bryon Quertermous

    Naomi, yes, it’s totally worth it to wait for tickets. You want to hit the TKTS booth the day of the show and you can get great seats for about 50% off. Just about all of the biggest shows are available there. Wicked is fantastic and I’ve seen it with my mom and my sister.

    Also, during Edgar week the Edgar nominated musical Curtain will be on Broadway starring David Hyde Pierce. It’s a murder mystery behind the scenes of a Broadway show.

  16. Deb Kristy

    Oh, JT, I am so with you! I loved it, loved it, loved it! I would absolutely move there in a heartbeat 😀 I’m so tickled that you had such a wonderful time.

    (And, btw, the lovely and talented Tasha Alexander does not WALK through the streets of New York. She STRIDES, purposefully, quickly, on those ridiculous long legs of hers, leaving her more vertically challenged friend to scurry frantically, much like a chihuahua, beside her. But it was fabulous anyway!)

  17. JT Ellison

    Oh My!I played hooky today, and look at all of this wonderful energy and information! Thank you all so much for helping me relive my trip. I can’t wait to return, and I’ll be with many of you, which will make it all the better.


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