Only In New York: 10 City Dwellers Share Their Craziest Stories

  • "I moved from California to New York in 1946, when I was 23-and-a-half years old. I was a little disappointed at first, because everyone back home was so friendly and everyone in New York was so serious. When I was trying to make friends, I would walk up to people and just start talking to them. They thought I was nuts.

    I eventually did make friends, thank god. We would go out together at a nightclub called El Morocco. It doesn’t exist anymore. Such a shame. It was lined with these stunning blue and white zebra-striped banquettes, and there were always celebrities. Humphrey Bogart was banned, though.

    I loved drinking martinis at the time—but I can’t drink them now. They didn’t even affect me back then! They must have watered them down or something. Anyways, it was a really groovy place."

    Nanette Ross was born in Los Angeles, California and has lived in New York for 70 years.
  • "A few years ago I made a painting based on a photo of Lee Radziwill wearing a red Lanvin gown and standing in a beautiful apartment. I never knew where the photo was taken but, last year, when I visited the Helena Rubinstein exhibition at the Jewish Museum, I saw a photo of Rubinstein’s pied-a-terre in Paris, the exact one from the Radziwill photo. Such a weird coincedence. I still don’t know what their connection was.

    Then recently, I was at a party and met David Korins, the acclaimed set designer of Hamilton. Oddly enough, he’s currently working on the new musical, War Paint, which tells the story of beauty competitors Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden. As the set designer, he has, of course, done heavy research on the homes of these women. I was grateful we had a topic other than Hamilton to discuss. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure I would just be one of the throngs of drooling Hamilton junkies he probably meets every day. (I’ve seen it five times.)

    Liz Markus is an artist, grew up in Buffalo, New York and has lived in New York City for 25 years.
  • "Around 8 p.m. on a Wednesday I met my friend for dinner at a restaurant on 14th St. After dinner, we decided to go to a bar around the corner. We sat at the bar, ordered drinks and started chatting with the bartender. Before we knew it, it was 1 a.m. and the bar was packed and the bartender seemed to know everyone there. We stayed and continued to chat with him and the people around us.

    Finally the bartender shouted last call. It was 4 a.m. and he was kicking everyone out apart from the few regulars who got to stay past closing which, luckily, turned out to include us. We figured, why not? It's New York. We stayed and ended up befriending a guy who owned a recording studio. He was yet another friend of the bartender's and invited us back to the studio to see his friend mix a couple of tracks. Again we said, why not?

    When we got to the studio we ended up watching Sean Paul record a track. It was 6 a.m. Thursday morning by now. So much for our casual Wednesday night dinner."

    Tiffany Soto is a package designer, grew up in the Bronx and has lived in New York for 25 years.
  • "When I was 13, I met Amy Astley, then Editor in Chief of Teen Vogue, at a movie premiere. I love telling this story because this specific interaction is what got the snowball rolling for me in regards to a future career in fashion media. As soon as I found out that Amy would be at the premiere, I typed up what I called a résumé. In reality, it was a one page letter begging Amy to hire me.

    I brought it to the premiere thinking that I could have some sort of Cinderella moment, which was admittedly delusional, a word that I gladly substituted with “ambitious” and “determined." I carried five of these "résumés" with me to the premiere in case, you know, I would happen to need them.

    When I got into the theatre and went up the escalator, I was stunned to see Amy Astley standing across the hall from me. Without wasting one moment I ran up to her, as one does, and said, "Hi, my name is Christel Langué and one day I'm going to be the Editor in Chief of Teen Vogue. But, I want to work for you first. Here's my résumé, I can legally work in a month when I turn 14."

    Surprisingly, the ever-so-gracious Amy took my resume and said she'd look it over. A few days later I got an email from her saying that she had read my resume and would love for me to have a tour of the Teen Vogue offices.

    We've been in touch for the past six years. Amy has taught me so much, given me opportunities I could only dream of and been the kind of role model every girl hopes to find. Only in New York would you run into the EIC of your favorite magazine and end up having your childhood idol turn into a friend. Right place, right time, right city."

    Christel Langue is a student and freelance writer and stylist. She was born in Washington D.C. and has lived in New York City for 14 years.
  • "I was dating this film maker/photographer and we went to the video store to get something to watch. I kept noticing this little man peering at me from the other side of every shelf as I perused the possibilities. It creeped me out and we ended up leaving without renting anything, annoyed. While heading back to the apartment, I got a tap on my arm from a stranger and told her to go away because I was annoyed, but she persisted. I started to yell and she started to laugh, so I started hollering like a batshit crazy person, “Leave me alone! What do you want from me?!”

    “Exactly that!” she said. “We are casting a film and are having a hard time finding someone for a lead role. This is the kind of attitude we are looking for.” She then waved over the same small man who just wrecked my movie buzz, and I was like, “This guy again?” She introduced him as Amir Naderi, who turned out to be a celebrated Iranian director.

    They convinced me to come to a reading the following day. It was a dismal, rainy day and there was nothing better to do. I walked my damp ass over to La Mama on 4th St., where they told me to come. I had never been to an audition before and didn’t really want to either. There were all these actors facial stretching and emoting at walls and doing actor-y exercises in the waiting area. I was about to blow that popsicle joint when the same casting lady dragged me into the room.

    There was no script, just a bunch of people staring at me and asking me questions. At the time, I was working as a professional dominatrix, so I was no stranger to coming up with stuff on the spot. Afterward, I wandered back home, glad that wasn’t something I aspired to do.

    A couple days later, I got a call. When I picked up, a voice screamed “Kacey!” Confused, I responded, “Wrong number,” and hung up. This happened a few times until finally the voice said, “Erin, Erin, Erin! You are my Kacey in my film!” It was Amir letting me know I'd gotten a lead role.

    I spent the next five months rolling around the sidewalk of the East Village shooting this thing called A, B, C... Manhattan. And, a few years later, this beautifully shot love letter to the East Village took us to Cannes Film Festival."

    Erin Norris is the owner of Grindhaus. She's from Moriches, Long Island and has lived in Red Hook, Brooklyn for 15 years.
  • "Only in New York could I meet someone coming down an opposite staircase. It was like a scene out of The Bachelor. Slow motion. Stolen glances led to lingering smiles. An eternal descent down the steps. Rose petals, a fog machine and an extremely tan host materialized out of nowhere. We dated for two years. It ended terribly.

    Only in New York would I help a friend move and think I saw a ghost flying in their hallway. Back in the living room I went to pick up a box and the BIGGEST cockroach I’ve ever seen crawled from my back onto my shoulder, stared me in the face and spoke. Then flew into my face. In. To. My. Face. I screamed.

    Only in New York could I meet someone with a tickling fetish. What more is there to say? I made up some excuse about an early appointment and ran. OkCupid is super unpredictable, y’all.

    Only in New York could I get mistaken for John Cho. Regularly. Scratch that, it happens all over the world. I’ll take the compliment. He is handsome and talented AF.

    Only in New York could I be introduced to my first manager via text. Seriously. A friend’s ex-husband sent one text message during a dinner party, and the next week I had a meeting with my first manager in the city. He went on to create one of the best series online and now on HBO, High Maintenance. Watch that shiz. It’s really good.

    Only in New York could I become great friends with an international best-selling author by being his waiter. He loved the chicken tenders and I’d become a reader of his second novel, (insert shameless plug here) 'China Rich Girlfriend.' Read it! Kevin Kwan thanked me in his Acknowledgements. I’d like to have that page framed.

    Only in New York could I get punched in the face for no apparent reason. It happened at night under the giant needle and button sculpture. I was walking home by myself after a rehearsal when a man in a bright red sweater punched me in the face. I still don’t know why it happened. His friend said something about the puncher's mom dying. But this punchee had blood in his mouth and did not care about this fact and calmly called the police. The two of them ran. A bystander pointed out two cops walking down 7th Ave. They leisurely led me down the subway stairs and casually waved to the conductor to hold the train while I pointed out the puncher in his bright red sweater. While I was giving Officer Lee my information, the puncher’s friend yelled 'Ni hao. Ni hao. Don’t press charges, man!' I replied, 'I’m not Chinese.' Moral of the story: Don’t wear a bright red sweater if you’re going to punch and run."

    Daniel Isaac is an actor/writer from Fullerton, California. He's lived in New York City for seven years.
  • "New York is not for the weak. And yet, it is. Twelve years ago, I arrived here broken-hearted. Not from a boy, but from losing my mom in a tragic freak car accident. It broke my ribs but, more importantly, destroyed my life plan. I needed a fresh start and when the family manager for a hedge fund CEO contacted me to be the educational manager for his kids (this does happen), I decided to seize the opportunity and start over. Little did I know, what would ensue would be anything but easy or ordinary.

    On my first day as a resident, I was conned out of an apartment, flashed by a homeless man on the subway platform and had filled out police reports for both incidents by the end of said day.

    Meeting my husband is my only in New York story. In all my years of working, I have only been late once. It was the day that I met him. At the time, I had been taking the same train line for three years at exactly the same time every day. I didn't know, but he had also taken the same train line just 20 minutes after me for about the same number of years.

    On the day I was late, I was flustered, jet-lagged and slightly delirious from lack of sleep. The night before I had stayed up very late talking to my best friend about a book I should read, specifically Flannery O’Connor’s "Everything that Rises Must Converge.” She said that it might help me digest some of the material for the book that I was writing. Since the homeless man that flashed me that first day in New York, I had been wisely and prudently cautious speaking to strangers on the subway. It should come as no surprise that the first time I had so much as whispered a syllable to anyone on the subway, it happened to be my future husband. In his hands, he held the very same book that my friend recommended to me and in that moment, I felt bold or crazy enough to ask him, 'Is it good?' It started a conversation that has been going on now for nearly 10 years."

    Soon Kim is an educational consultant and writer from San Francisco, California. She's lived in New York for 12 years.
  • "I was going through a bad breakup. I was walking to the subway on my way to work and this guy randomly stopped me to tell me I was beautiful and that he wanted me to come to his show happening in the next hour. Obviously I couldn’t go -- I was on my way to work -- but we exchanged information. He was a musician and lived in Brooklyn, he said.

    Turned out that he lived two blocks away from me, randomly enough. The universe was working in our favor. We ended up going out for drinks the next day around midnight and had the best time ever. It didn’t work out, but it's always a great New York memory I cherish."

    Ayanna Wilks works for Roc Nation, grew up in Brooklyn and has lived in New York City her whole life.
  • "When I first came to the city, I was studying palmistry and I was told to watch people's hands.

    One day, I was taking the subway and watching the hands of a man across from me. I noticed that he was stretching his fingers out and in, out and in, like claws. It was as if his fingers were gnawing at something. I looked slowly up at him and saw that he was staring directly at me.

    I thought, 'Uh, oh. Trouble. You've got a problem here.' The minute the train stopped I got out and waited. Then as soon as he jumped out after me, I ran back on the train just in time, as the doors closed behind me.

    He started SCREAMING at the top of his lungs, having a fit, shaking his hands in the air. I almost got beaten up! But, poor guy, there must have been something very wrong going on with him.

    Another subway story that happened very recently was that I was standing up and a woman who was sitting down looked at me and asked, 'Would you like my seat?'

    'Oh dear,' I thought to myself. 'You are getting so old that someone offered you a seat.'

    It's funny, but it's not."

    Frank Andrews is a psychic.
  • "I was dating this guy that I had known for years; we went to the same high school in the city together. We had an epic love story that included many on-and-off-again breakups (like any good love story), with tons of happy and dramatic moments. We had so much potential and thought we were going to be in it 'til the end.

    But one day, we had one of those "it's over for good" fights and I swore him off completely. I asked the universe for a sign that I'd made the right decision because it was so hard to let him go. The next day I ran into him on the train. (Only a true New Yorker understands how odd it is to run into someone you know in the subway, whether you love or hate that person.) After five years of dating, we had never run into each other on the train until this day. We rekindled and continued on for a few more years. We aren't together anymore, but sometimes I still feel like he's the one that got away.

    We haven't been in contact since our last breakup a few years ago -- the man has basically dropped off the face of the earth because he doesn't have social media nor do we share any mutual friends -- but, every once in a while, you can catch me looking into a subway car when I catch sight of a man with his physique. A girl has a right to wish that random run-in could happen twice....right? Only in New York."

    Tiffany Reid is a Senior Fashion Market Editor at Cosmopolitan. She grew up in the Bronx and still lives in New York City.
Haley Nahman | August 24, 2016

Hop in our New York time machine

“Only in New York.”

It’s not even an actual sentence. There’s no verb! And yet, we all feel the spirit and energy and romance behind the words. I’m not sure what it is about the city that inspires such a characterization: that there are things that could only possibly happen here. Where 8.5 million people with high hopes and bigger dreams crowd, year over year, into 300 square miles and try to make it.

Maybe to some people “making it in New York” means knowing the subway system like the veins in your hand or having your own apartment with central air or carrying 13 tote bags for 42 blocks. But to a newcomer like me, at its lowest common denominator, making it in New York seems to mean the simple act of not leaving. Of toughing out the messy chaos — or even being thrilled by it — because a part of you knows or believes or has felt the magic that created it. And sometimes those sparks look like fireworks or heartbreak or an unforgettable night, but it all feels like it could happen. Like any day could be the day New York gives you a high five and changes the trajectory of your life. And that feeling — the tingly electricity or the dull promise of it — is worth it.

We asked ten New Yorkers about those moments. The times the gears of their everyday turned a little differently, left them baffled and with little more to say than, well, “Only in New York.”

Illustrations by Amber Vittoria; follow her on Instagram @amber_vittoria.


  • Babs

    These graphics are so great.

  • There was something really beautiful about these stories. Definitely only in New York.

  • Meggie Sullivan

    Really enjoyed this compilation of stories! Erin Norris: love your gusto. New York is a special place, and so true Haley, it’s a place that gives “high fives” for a job well done, or just because.

  • Krista Anna Lewis

    Harling’s grandma (Nanette Ross) is officially my new life goals. Can she visit us in the office?!

    • Harling Ross

      hahahaha Nolita is Pluto to her

    • Kelly

      Nanette sounds like she’s had an amazing life! What made her move to NY?

  • Ashley

    This was so great! I’ve been thinking a lot about perspective and how we interpret the things that happen to us. Next time something weird happens to me I’ll change my perspective and pretend that one day, I’ll use the story during an interview just like this.

  • LEM

    I love this so much. Although I don’t share the sentiment about running into people you know on the train. It’s happened to me more times than I can count.

  • Janelle Domek

    Whoa! Pause. Soon Kim has the perfect New York story.

    • Harling Ross


  • Ugh, all of these are very true. I think what made my scream “Yes!” was the subway story: Only a true New Yorker understands how odd it is to run into someone you know in the subway, whether you love or hate that person. So true.

    And also the relationship dynamic is what I am currently facing. Round 3 of on-and-off, but happier than ever <3

  • Emily

    WHOA. Soon Kim’s story gave me the goosebumps! Where can I find more of her writing? A google search doesn’t yield great results.

    • Carina

      I cried.

    • Autumn

      Me too!!!

  • Carina

    This just made my day. I miss New York so much. For everyone not living in New York right now all we can say when something so random, exciting and serendipitous happens is “feels like we’re in New York huh?”

  • camila

    this 100% made me cry

  • PCE

    This was wonderful. Some days when I’m trudging to my job in FiDi and I’m cursing the traffic and the tourists, something little will happen -a new view of the trade center or Trinity’s bells ringing over the noise of cabs and buses honking – to make me appreciate the unique-ness of this town.

  • CDC

    This hit so close to home not because any of these have actually happened to me, but because I always thought I’d have those New York stories when I first moved there.

    I moved to the city post-college with a one-year work visa. Everything started out dreamy: great job, guy of my dreams, the whole enchilada. Months wore on and I ended up without a job and having to move to a different country, but always with the hope of coming back. Just three months after my initial departure I found myself back in the city. I found a place close to him and everything, as if destiny was telling me that my stars were finally alining. Fat chance. I made the mistake of putting the aforementioned guy first and the rest second, meaning I let my New York experience be defined by someone else.

    We fizzled out just two weeks after I moved back, and I saw him everywhere. The coffee place we loved, the laundromat, the subway…everywhere. They say you never see the same person twice in a New York street, but cosmic jokes know no rules. I ended up leaving the city about three weeks after it happened, and for a while I couldn’t even look at anything New York-related without crying. New York is definitely not for the weak, so I guess at the time I was part of the city’s self-cleansing. More than the guy I think I mourned New York, the place I thought I’d go on to refer to as “my city.”

    We already have The Girl Who Didn’t Go To Paris (hi LC!), so I guess I’m The Girl Who Left New York.

  • Exactly where and how can I find Frank Andrews? These are all gems, but… what a gem.