Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Chapters of my life: PJ Wine - My New York Years

Chapters of my life

PJ Wine - My New York Years 

Part I (2002-2007)

PJ Wine Inwood Manhattan NYC - 
Photo courtesy of John Davis (2016) for Google Map

Memories of my New York years often resurface in my mind, I guess, even after 8 years living in Hong Kong, I have not forgotten my years spent in the Big Apple. 

The year was 2002 when I left London to come to Manhattan, after 5 crazy years living in the British Capitale. At that time, I was following the one that would eventually become my wife. 

After studying in "The Smoke" (a persistent nickname for London, where we met in 2000), she decided to move back to her home country, the US, and settled in "The City that never sleeps" in 2001. 

As for me, after being a Sommelier/Maitre D' and wine buyers for restaurants in various places in France for 6 years (1991-1997), then in  Britain for 5 years (1997-2002), I was about to rejoin my American girlfriend and, without knowing it yet, have a life-changing experience on the other side of the Atlantic. 

I was already seeing myself facing new challenges on the road to success, without really knowing anything about where I was going? what would I find there? or even where will I work? Yet, the lyrics of the eponymous song, "New York, New York", were already echoing in my head: "If I can make it there, I'm gonna make it anywhere."....      

I drove all the way down from London to my birth town of Bordeaux.Map courtesy of Google Map

So, I left London and went back to France, the south-west of France more exactly. I drove all the way down from London to my birth town of Bordeaux. I stayed there for about nearly 8 months, working as Sommelier/Maitre D' for a private caterer supervising the service at wine dinners and events in the many Chateaux of the Graves and Haut-Médoc areas while waiting for my US Visa. 

It was fun as it allowed me to get reacquainted with numerous Chateaux owners, winemakers and brand ambassadors, I had not seen for years, to have the chance to spend some time with them, as well as to listen to them talking about their respective property and the quality of the vintages, and of course tasting their wines too (the most interesting part I must say 😊).  

When my US visa came, I was ready to go. This brief interlude of about 8 months back home, in France, living once again at my parent's homes ("s" as they are divorced), after working 5 years in the UK, was somehow needed, but, in fact, seemed very, very long, as, frankly, I could not wait any longer to see my girlfriend again and start a new chapter of my life in the Empire State. 

And to tell you the truth, as much as I love my parents, the supposedly few months to wait for my US visa, which ended up turning into a lengthy 8 months waiting period at my parent's houses, with not much money saved in the bank, only occasional works here and there with the caterer, and therefore not much to spend and consequently stuck in this situation of not being able to do much or to even try to have a regular job (as the visa could arrive any time any day), did not suit at all the free-minded and free-spirited 27 years old I was back then. No offence to my parents, but in the end, I could not wait to get out of their houses and get my freedom and independence back. 

In fact, if I knew it would take that long, I would have stayed a little longer in the UK, worked and saved more money to prepare for my jump across the Atlantic. But hey, that's life and at the end of the day, as I said above, it was somehow needed... I needed to resource myself for a little while prior to live new adventures on the other side of the planet.         

I went to New York once before, back in 1998, with a friend of mine, when the twin towers of the World Trade Center were still standing proudly. It was our first trip to the USA for both of us. We were both eager to discover the country of Uncle Sam, but for different reasons, that I only realized at the end of our trip.  

New York amazed me as much as it scared me. We spent around 10 days visiting pretty much everything and anything the city had to offer. I was fascinated and I knew already it will not be my last visit. It was an old dream come true and I was not disappointed. The mix of old and new architectures, history and stories, races, cultures, religions, colours, traditions, languages, the energetic vibes and the constant noises and lights of the city that never sleeps, it was a melting pot like rarely seen one like that before. Even London and Paris seemed rather quiet and "national" compared to New York's inherent energy and internationality.  

At the end of that trip, on the way back to London, my friend told me that he loved NYC and was glad that he had visited it, but that overall the US, in general, was not his thing, and that he did not want to stay in the UK either, his goal was to go to Asia soon and maybe settle in Hong Kong or Singapore, as he had a thing for Asian women. 

Stunning view of the twin towers and Manhattan skyline at night (late 90s)by and courtesy of John Cardasis - Getty Imagesextracted from a article (read it here)

For me, I went on that trip as I wanted to experience the "American Dream", going to the US was something that I always wanted to do since my early teenage years. A huge fan of American's comics, clothes, music and ways of living, surely due to growing up in the late 70s and 80s in a very Americanized France, I wanted to experience it for myself. And two years after that first trip to NYC, in 2000, while I was still in London, I met my American girl and fell in love with her. Fate? Maybe... Who knows? but I took it as a first sign that my wish to go back to the US could come true. 

When she moved back to the US and settled in New York, I was still living in London and our relationship took a toll. You know, you're in love with someone, and it is just the beginning and you are at that stage where everything matters and everything has to be important and you want to be with the other person 24/7, thinking there is nothing else better in the world and imagine how good it could be if time could stop forever when you're together.... you know what I mean.... Well, it was not like that exactly for me and my American girl, as although we barely knew each other and we had our heads in the clouds with the romance, our relationship was a bit more grown-up than a teenage love story... but still, it was difficult to be apart... 

Distance relationships tend to test the veracity of your sentiments for the other person and define how important this relationship is to you and how far are you ready to go and commit to it.  So, I told her that if we wanted our relationship to work, we could not stay any longer that far apart from each other. One of us had to make a move, either me going to the US or her coming back to Europe, for us to be together again. That was the only way. 

Moreover, she had just moved to "Gotham" (another nickname for New York), so if a decision had to be made, it was now or never. So, we decided that the first one who finds a good job for the other would decide on where we will be living. She found me a job first, and I must say, after 5 years in London and no real desire to go back to live in France (back then), it was not too difficult to convince me. And by accepting the job she found for me, I was finally realizing my wish to live and experience the US for myself. So, moving across the Atlantic it was. My decision was made and there was no going back on it. (And it was easier for me logistically too, so it made more sense). 

Prior living France, during the 8 months waiting for my visa, we phoned and emailed each other very regularly on a weekly basis (even on a daily basis should I say). Each day that passed had its dose of both sweet romances at a distance and "I-cannot-wait-any-longer-anymore" type of moments. But the wait was over, as I was now sitting by a small window, flying at 35,000 feet, my eyes looking into the far, staring at the ocean of clouds beneath going as far as the horizon. New York, here I come. 

Hours later, the plane landed at JFK. She was there waiting for me. My heart had both long-awaited and apprehended that moment for months, and here we were, my heart and I facing our destiny. After some "embrassades" and kisses and a few tender words, we took a taxi and aimed for the city. The highway 495 was congested and the traffic rather slow, which gave us the opportunity to talk, look at each other in the eyes, exchange a few kisses and talk some more. 

I was asking a lot of questions and was looking around too. And at some points on the road, within the 3 minutes prior to entering the "Queens Midtown Tunnel" that leads right to the center of the city (exiting just at 37th street, between 2nd and 3rd avenue), there are stunning panoramic views of Manhattan (which usually last less than a few seconds depending on how fast the taxi you're in drives), and once again I was in awe facing the "grandiose" scenery of these buildings piled up on each other, scraping the sky for some of them. New York, here I am.    

Have a look at this short video of the last few minutes on the road 495 (going westbound toward Manhattan) prior to entering the Midtown tunnel, and you'll understand what I'm trying to say (especially if you have never been to New York) (video courtesy and property of "Roadwaywiz" YouTube Chanel). 


I did not know exactly where my girl settled down, I had a vague idea, but, apart from some memories from my first trip 4 years back, I did not really know the town. My eyes could not resist looking outside and realize (once again) how "grand" everything is in Manhattan: the buildings, but also the streets and avenues, the monuments, the signboards, but also the people too, as tall and large as the town they live in, no wonder why the portions of food are so big here 😊. 

The taxi drove to FDR Drive, on the east side of Manhattan, toward the Harlem River Drive and the north of the island.  I was trying to recognize the landmarks and flagship buildings along the way. Bobby Womack's song came to mind 

🔺 Work in Progress - Post to be finished soon  🔺

LeDomduVin a.k.a. Dominique Noel 

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