On October 11th, 1923, Ernest Hemingway wrote a letter to Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas detailing his thoughts on New York City, where he had moved from Paris. He wrote,
Contrary to my remembrance the cuisine here is good…We have both been very homesick for Paris. I have understood for the first time how men can commit suicide simply because of too many things in business piling up ahead of them that they can’t get through. It is of only doubtful value to have discovered. In New York four days I could not locate Sherwood or anybody I wanted to see because of being too busy. Tried telephoning etc…There are really some fine buildings. New ones. Not any with names that we’ve ever heard of. Funny shapes. Three hundred years from now people will come over from Europe and tour it in rubber neck wagons. Dead and deserted like Egypt. It’ll be Cooks most popular tour.
Wouldn’t live in it for anything.
Hemingway obviously had a greater weakness for Paris than New York, and while I do think his claim that he “wouldn’t live in it for anything” is a bit harsh, there is some truth here.
New York is an idealized dream for many, but many people come here not really taking into consideration the reality, that NYC isn’t the easiest place to live. Living in the city means a whole lot of feces particles, pretty much everywhere you go. It means stepping in puddles of doody mixed with slushies mixed with falafel and rain water. It means learning how to be a trooper; how to endure those last 5 minutes of waiting on a 104-degree subway platform for the F train to arrive. In short, it means practicing the following points.
Because eye contact is something you’re going to want to avoid at all costs. Sure, in any other town eye contact is just a friendly, humanly impulse. But NYC isn’t like every other town. Here, eye contact will provoke cat calls or obscenities emanating from homeless men, if it does’t immediately label you as a walking rapist. Also: never trust anyone with a smile.
2. Good closed-toe shoes
Hey you know those cute sandals you recently purchased? Yeah, chuck ’em. This isn’t Palm Beach, this is Manhattan. Here, sandals mean one thing and one thing only, and that’s a quick way to get excrement lodged between your toes.
You only truly realize the importance of headphones after not using them. Put them on while walking down the street and you’ll feel impervious to any external disturbances. No one has to know that that little hop you just did was in rhythm with Katy Perry’s new song. Let them think you’re listening to The Smiths. Know why? Because you can. Another great perk of wearing headphones? As a man is cat calling you, you can look him straight in the eye with a countenance of such utter indifference that he’ll walk away with his tail between his legs (sometimes).
4. Tough skin
Don’t be afraid to fight the bitch who up-streamed you and stole your taxi. Passivity will be your demise.
5. Indifference towards weather
We New Yorkers have no patience for that sunny-skies-make-me-happier Cali-mentality. None. We don’t want to hear it and, frankly, we do not agree with you. Sometimes it’s nice not to feel the pull of the outdoors beckoning you and judging you all day every day. Sometimes it’s nice to lie in bed for a full 24-hours because it’s gray outside and therefore you can. Listen up: gray skies = freedom.
6. A go-to place for happy hour
Perhaps worse than the epidemic of bitches brunching and ladies lunching are the infamous Happy Hours. Insufferable 26-year-olds working on Wall Street with abusive tendencies when drunk figure prominently in this hour of pure joylessness. Which is why, if you ever find yourself craving for or (more likely) getting suckered into a happy hour, you should have a place in mind where you’re ideally a regular and therefore have a planned escape route.
7. Employ general discretion
I.e. know when you’re being ripped off. Know what’s clean. For instance, the fountain water in Washington Square Park? Not clean. Pigeons? Not clean either; possible disease-carriers. This is not Venice—seriously, I recommend not getting it twisted. And yes, I know there is a man living in Washington Square Park who does everything in his power to make sure every inch and orifice of his person is covered by a pigeon, but no, that does not mean that the pigeons here are okay to touch. All it mean is that this guy probably has AIDS.
8. Difference between regular and pedicabs
I highly recommend knowing this, lest you want to pay $40 for a $15 cab ride, or possibly get raped.
9. General lack of empathy
This is similar to point #4 (re: having tough skin). Homeless people in NYC are everywhere, in all shapes and forms and with all kinds of sad tales. If you can resist giving money to the gypsy on the train claiming homelessness and carrying a baby, then you can resist anything. Think about it this way: Yes, you could let that stroller pass leisurely ahead of you on your way to the subway platform and miss your train to work. OR, you could knock the stroller over while spitting on the mother behind the stroller, and triumphantly make your train. It’s your life. Your choice.
10. How to weave through droves of people
When I die and am placed in purgatory, I imagine it being one long, endless 5th avenue between 58th and 40th streets. The drove of tourists, walking at a sedated pace, that you must perpetually weave through. This will test your sanity like nothing else.
11. How to walk on Broadway during the day without killing yourself
Similarly, yet in a much-worse-kind-of-way is the stretch of Broadway from Houston to Canal, which I am absolutely certain is hell. To survive in NYC you’re going to need to learn how to trudge through this stretch on a Saturday afternoon without killing yourself.
They are a nuisance, yes, but a necessary one too. How else would we displace our anger?
13. Friends who don’t judge you
NYC is a weird place and it can lead you to do some pretty strange things! Which is why having non-judgmental friends is compulsory. Which leads me to my next point…
14. Strong elbows for getting through crowds
Know what won’t help when you’re elbowing your way through a crowd like a hungry Roseanne Barr? A judgmental friend.
Like any other place in the world, you’re going to want friends. But in NYC they come particularly in handy, especially when you are taking the G train home on a Saturday night at 4am.
16. High tolerance for smelly things
And leading the way in the smelliest of things in NYC is doubtless the general, pervasive stink that is New York City summers. As well as any time you are caught behind a garbage truck (which, as it happens, will be a lot).
17. A Seamless account
Get this: the delivery men will even climb your 5-story walk-up to give you your chicken milanese.
18. A pair of fake, black, thick-rimmed glasses
For, y’know, the occasional poetry reading, gallery openings, or just for any time you take the L train.
19. A general, crack-like alertness
When walking down the streets of NYC, anything can happen. Walk by a garbage dump at the wrong second and you could be met with a pack of rats. Walk through midtown at the RIGHT moment and you could see a floundering Amanda Bynes IRL. You get me.