From New York to Dallas and Back Again

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02/11/2023

Neighborhood: Yorkville

When my mother and I returned to New York City in 1993 — following a short, confused stint in Dallas, Texas — we moved into an apartment on 83rd Street between York and East End avenues, in Yorkville.

A few years earlier, at age seven, I had migrated to the city from Westchester County with my mother and her boyfriend, Paul. I went from a quaint (relatively) exurban existence to living in a duplex on Central Park West, attending The Dalton School, and riding the elevator with Miles Davis.

The apartment in Yorkville, however, was a dark, furnished, one-bedroom walkup. The neighborhood, with its canopied ochre blocks and strong German past, had already become the wealthy neighborhood it is today; but, to me both the apartment and the neighborhood were gloomy outcomes, signs of rejection and failure, and exile.

We had moved to Dallas — prior to the fourth-grade school year — so that my mother and Paul could continue building their life together, with engagement and marriage on the near horizon. It didn’t go as planned. For the last 29 years, I’ve never known exactly what happened and can only remember spotty, gossamer-shrouded details of those months in Texas, as if I had been locked in a fugue state, a planted dream, during that period. For instance, I remember the yellow-and-white youth-league football jersey (with the number 80-something on it because I was going to be a wide receiver) hanging in the massive-looking walk-in closet of my room, which was so bright it seemed perched right next to the sun. There was the blond-haired, faceless friend I made while playing basketball in the alley that ran like a concrete stream between the backs of houses. I remember unrest (but not necessarily fights or arguments) between my mother and Paul. And I remember the binders of homework bestowed on me by that formless friend when we briefly came to Dallas a second time and the adults tried to give it another shot.

My memory of our initial return to New York life isn’t much clearer. I know I started fourth grade for a second time at Dalton in the fall. My friends were as puzzled as I was about the move to Texas and asked half-genuine, half-teasing questions like: “Do they have cars there, or do you have to ride horses to get around? Are there bagels? Were the girls hot?”

I know I slept in the bedroom of the Yorkville apartment while my mother slept on a pullout couch in the living room. For months, I incessantly listened and bounced around to Kris Kross’ “Jump” on my Walkman manufacturing for myself a modicum of joy. I felt scared for my mother as she commuted to temporary jobs on Wall Street every morning. Living in Yorkville, far away from the stodgy zones in which my friends and their families comfortably resided, left me feeling anxious and exiled from happiness, as my mother and I struggled to comprehend starting in New York all over again.

I do recall with great detail — as if I had exited a thick fog or climbed out of a deep trough — the years that followed, during which we occupied various apartments on the Upper East Side, trying to upgrade to a better life with each one.

Eventually, we made a permanent move to Dallas and I settled in there for my high-school years; and, eventually (which is precisely the right word) my mother and Paul got married, rendering the whole 1993 back and forth a gas-lit blip.

Yet, still all these years later, after having attended college in upstate New York and lived in the city (again) after graduate school, those months of suspended transition linger in my mind, blurred and needing definition.

So, I recently dusted off my journalistic chops and called my mother and learned it was my long-time step-dad’s “shenanigans,” as she referred to them, that led to our departure from Dallas. I confirmed that the apartment we lived in was dark (but in a charming exposed-brick, hipster kind of way) and discovered that it was owned by Trisha Meili (also known as the Central Park Jogger), which I’m sure, in the swirl of disarray, contributed to our depressed spirits.

I have also acquired a more generous and mature perspective of a neighborhood that in my 10-year-old mind had seemed like an ending and realize that the memories I’ve been trying to reconstruct are less about the specifics of a place and instead a story about my family and an evolving version of myself.

***

Justin Goldberg is a writer and editor and another New York transplant living in the Triangle Area of North Carolina. He holds an MFA in creative writing from Hollins University. 

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§ 2 Responses to “From New York to Dallas and Back Again”

  • Michele Finley says:

    Thank you Justin for this poignant glimpse of “that other time”. Those vague snippets of our youth becomes a patchwork of memories that simultaneously haunts us and stitches us together into our collective whole. 💙

  • ReCon Fence says:

    Wow, reading this article really took me back! As a local from the Yorkville area, it’s fascinating to hear about someone else’s experiences growing up here. Justin’s journey from New York to Dallas and back again resonates with me, especially since I’ve seen the changes in our neighborhood over the years. It’s amazing how memories, both clear and hazy, shape our understanding of home and family. I can’t help but wonder about the other stories hidden within our streets and buildings. Who else has walked these same sidewalks and felt the weight of uncertainty on their shoulders? 🏙️

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