October 20, 2011

What People Talk About When They Talk About Life In New York

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What is the issue?

They talk about how things felt when they first moved to the city versus how they feel now. In the beginning, they’d go out of their way to experience a mythic New York. They were just tourists with a New York address back then. They didn’t exactly know how to live their life off the script so they just took their cues from popular culture and dived right in. “Take me to the cupcake place that was on TV. Take me to the naked cowboy.” When you don’t know anything, you cling to the inauthentic things that feel like everywhere else.

They talk about having their favorite blocks. New York is on a grid, which means it’s incredibly easy to navigate. That being said, there are good routes to take and there are bad routes to take. The girl from California will tell you that she first felt like a New Yorker when she knew to always go down East Tenth instead of East Eighth. It’s a way to make the city feel more personal, more like yours, which is something that New Yorkers are always trying to do. How do you make something that’s so claustrophobic and overpopulated feel like it only belongs to you? It’s all in the perfect route, my friend.

They talk about how quickly things can change, just like the seasons. You go to that one bar on Avenue B until you don’t, until you find one in Brooklyn that’s more appealing to you. You’re close with the girl in the Lower East Side until she moves to Queens and falls off your radar. You eat lentil soup every day from that one place in the West Village until you run out of reasons to go to the West Village. The neighborhood no longer fits into your life so you leave the lentil soup behind and go elsewhere.

They talk about high rents, which is seldom interesting, and they talk about how “I love New York but I HATE New York”, which is NEVER interesting or novel, and maybe these people just need to realize that they always will feel ambivalent. Years can go by with you complaining about the same things but guess what? You’re still renewing that lease. Sucker.

They talk about the moments when they felt the most alienated, when they could barely get out of bed because “New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down.” These times would often catch them by surprise and leave them clutching an airline ticket back to wherever they came from. They never went though. Something came up; they needed to be in the city a little while longer because for whatever BS reason. They’re still here.

They talk about the moments when they felt most connected, when the city was giving them smooth handy J’s on a beautiful day and you were reciprocating by going down on it at The High Line. They talk about clicking with someone at a rooftop party in the summer and watching the sun rise together like old lovers. Relationships in New York can often feel accelerated but they can also burn out just as quickly. And when the latter happens, you’ll blame it on New York. The city can be such a scapegoat for your problems. It gets blamed for your drug use, failed relationships, missed deadlines, flakiness, and poor eating habits. “DON’T BLAME ME. Blame my surroundings!”

They talk about being young and how amazing it feels to be pure in a rotten city. New York loves a young ripe thing. It picks them off the trees and gives them the best sex of their life. When they start to age, however, the city turns its back on them like some disgusting Wall Street broker who’s dumping his wife for a younger model.

They talk about the reasons why they’re still here. It’s because of that one great day in the spring when they felt completely in sync with the city. Or was it that one day in the winter when they spent all day in bed having sex with someone who mattered to them and holding hands in a blizzard to the bodega to get some snacks. Oh no, I know what day it was. It was summertime, when your father came to visit, and you loitered around Central Park. You showed him the life you had built for yourself like you were showing off a lover. That’s why you’re still here—to show off what you’ve built for yourself in a city where everything can crumble.

They talk about the reasons why they might leave—there are many and they all are valid—which invariably include the desire to have more space, more bang for your buck, and needing to make healthier lifestyle choices. Maybe they’ll go through with it and leave it all behind. What they talk about when they talk about living in New York will be treated like a valuable faded Polaroid you always keep in your top drawer. Whatever happens with you and the city though, you’ll always regard it with a sense of fondness, and above all, feel lucky you got to experience it at all. Time has a way of removing the blemishes so after a certain point, you’ll have forgotten about the high rents and the lousy jobs and the tears you shed in public spaces, and choose to remember only the creamy delicious frosting on an otherwise stale and overpriced cake. TC mark

image – AngMoKio
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