The best thing about getting to New York for the first time is putting it all together in your head. Once it's not such a goddam nebulous place that just exists in this eternal ether of references floating around in your head, where Ghostbusters meets the Ramones meets Herman Melville meets Roy Lichtenstein ad infinitum, and it starts to begin to form itself to you.
I mean, growing up in Dallas, I never even looked at a fucking map in my life. Directions were things that were strictly word-only, because if someone tried to show you where something was on a map you'd just end up getting more lost. Besides that the map is wholly unnecessary. You don't take public transit and you don't walk anywhere, so the overall shape of the whole thing is completely negligible. But in New York the map is as much a part of living there as learning to live amongst the rats.
You'll notice this effect of people having maps in their lives for the first time in that when people first move there they love mentioning the names of every minutely divided little subsection of the city. Actually this is peculiar only to people who've just moved there, or have just visited for the first times in their lives, especially when they start mentioning the little subdivisions that New Yorkers never use themselves. I ran into a guy who told me his sister had just moved there, and (I'm sure to him it sounded like he was himself well acquainted with the city) he said, "Yeah, she's living in Alphabet City." Now, to New Yorkers, that's just the East Village, they don't have time to break it down into "Alphabet City"—shit, you said that to a New Yorker they'd laugh you off the island. But when you first get there you can't help it, you've just started using maps for the first time and saying the names of the places you've been means that the maps are making sense to you and that is fucking amazing. And on top of all that, it's like you're getting to become personal friends with a celebrity, and the more details you can speak of you think must mean the more you know about them. That's what it feels like, and New York City is a celebrity—the biggest celebrity in the world.
You'll be so excited when you first get there you'll do stupid shit like walking from the Guggenheim to Houston St. (which, is like 80 - 90 blocks or something), just because. Something that after a year you'll go, Why the fuck did I do that again? and, more importantly, How did I have time to do that, again? But, when you first get there New York is just this giant board-game—everyone's own personal board-game—and the squares you land on are all your own pieces of whatever makes up your own cultural constellation, and to see it all start to make sense means that you might not have to be one of those people who move back after a month because they just didn't get it (you'll begin to know exactly who these people are because they'll beg you to hang out with them, and they'll get offended when you say in all honesty that you don't have time to, and you won't understand why they don't understand that you're in New York to fucking do something with your life, not because you love hanging out). When the Dakota Building goes from being some mythological creature to just another building on another street corner that the only reason you even noticed in the first place was because you overheard somebody else talking about it, is truly a reality-shifting experience. And then to be able to know which direction 53rd and 3rd is in relation to the Dakota Building, well, then your little personal board-game of New York City feels like a game you can win.
And all of this is also how these ghosts come alive and direct you to where you will eventually work or live or party or fuck, because these will be the first places you'll arrive at, and then more ghosts from all of your favorite everythings will be showing up on every street corner to direct you to the next train station you'll go to, or to the next bar you'll stop in. And, in another way, it's sort of like cheating at life, because there are so many damned ghosts to guide you everywhere that it's sort of the city where you can pay the absolute least amount of attention and still be guided to whatever your fated for. I guess that's what it is, is just learning to follow the right ghosts, and your New York will find you. Now, they're certainly not gonna protect you from anything, but they'll sure show you a good time.
And that's when you'll start talking about "Alphabet City" or the "Garment District" and your friends who've already lived there for years will go, "Just tell me what fucking intersection you're at!" And then soon enough you can start to see where all of your favorite TV stars might cross paths (if the shows existed in the same universe, which, they do, because it's your cultural constellation), and then you start to read plaques on the wall and you'll find out that fucking NIKOLA TESLA died in the building where you just stopped to tie your shoe, and you'll finally realize that you, yes you, you do actually occupy the same reality that people like fucking NIKOLA TESLA once occupied. It's that feeling that makes you feel like you've finally got a chance because it exists... it all exists, and it's real, and you're a fucking part of it.