"Quite simply, I was in love with New York. I do not mean "love" in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again.” I love how Joan Didion writes about New York. I almost love it more than I love the city itself. It still amazes me how many writers are compelled to write hate mail, love letters, odes and anthems of this one city.
After spending half a month in the city — mostly by reading in parks, letter writing in bookstores, or just straight up loitering in Boba tea shops (a special thank you to Boba Guys and Jasmine Milk Tea) — I finally got the chance to properly enjoy this concrete paradise. With the help of some generous and lovely native Arizonans and New York transplants, I was able to explore the city that has affected and inspired almost every prolific American writer, artist, musician, etc.
Here are a few thoughts/questions/comments/concerns about New York:
Why does using public transportation always have to be an ordeal? I’m fully aware that I am saying this as an Arizona rat, a practical bus and train virgin, but there are so many great and terrible things about the subway in particular. Can I go to the far Rockaways without some random man explaining to me the history of the area and vaguely telling me I look Jewish? Can I make it into Manhattan without some old Italian guy staring at my legs? (Side note: women can always tell when you’re staring at them. So maybe in the future don’t do it.) Can I go back to Bushwick without a man smoking what could be a joint inside the train and whispering threats to no one in particular? Can I get anywhere without someone begging, dancing, screaming, eating tuna, audibly mumbling or just straight up being weird on the Subway? Specifically can men not leer, whistle, spit on, grab at, try to hold my hand, bother me while I’m just trying to get somewhere? I’m guessing the answer is no.
Also the rats in the Subway are huge and I’m a little bit worried they could kill me.
It’s important to note that none of the above problems seemed to happen on the bus. The only real problem is older ladies would bring their carts and block the walkways, which is less of a problem and more of a sweet quirk.
- I have two more Subway related questions but they are completely at odds with one another. First, why are the trains always delayed? I know there is a rational answer for this one, but it never seems rational while you are running late to the one appointment you have that week because the L train is literally always running slowly. Second, why do people find it productive to yell at the station’s MTA employees every time the train is late? Listen, I know it’s awful. I just talked about how awful it is. But really, man? You know it’s not their fault. I watched a ridiculous amount of people just scream at MTA employees. You know what other screaming I witnessed: Upper West Side kids just going ape shit on their nannies. So the next time you want to just completely lose it at the lady at the booth, remember that you look like a rich toddler throwing a tantrum at an unreasonably calm adult who is probably reconsidering this specific career path as you speak.
Ok, I have one more subway related question. To the dude (it’s always a dude) playing his music out loud, what in the hell do you think you’re doing? Do you think the rest of us want to listen to Lil Uzi Vert? We might. But there’s headphones for that. Or at least putting your phone really close to your ear and playing it quietly.
Is it just me or does every (white) guy in Brooklyn dress the same? It’s usually a t-shirt (band, ironic, who knows, who cares) and jeans with either a jean jacket or a flannel, a baseball hat or glasses. Or both, or all four. No judgments here though, I’m just wondering who the original style inspiration is for them. Is it some Keith Haring, Jack White, off-duty late-in-life Hemingway monster that I don’t know about? Some days I wish we could all only wear one outfit forever, like a default character in a cartoon. I think my outfit would be some kind of turtleneck thing. I need more time to think this concept through, obviously. It is at odds with summer in New York
Is it possible to feel both terrible about gentrification but excited to find a coffee shop I can use the bathroom in? Much of staying in Brooklyn was mixed with white guilt, as many of the neighborhoods were very obviously in the process of being gentrified. I have many complicated, unqualified feelings on the subject.
Is it possible to have too many coffee shops in Williamsburg? I think it might be. Also if there are so many of them, how are they all busy?
I have an opposite feeling about Tiki bars. I know there’s a lot of them, but there should be a lot more. But with cheaper drinks.
Next is going to be a series of Law and Order SVU-themed questions. First, why do they have to ruin EVERY park in the entire city? My favorite activity was to read entire books in as many parks as I could. However, halfway through my visit I would realize there was a dead/raped/mutilated fictional girl found in this area on the show. Especially Riverside and Prospect Park, which also are two of the best for lounging and people watching.
The Flatiron district is genuinely terrible and I’m not sure why it is such a big tourist hub. I get it, there’s the Empire State Building and Times Square, but the cute area next to the Brooklyn Bridge is much better.
Also this is directed at the men of finance that fill midtown: Why do y’all wear the same outfit? At some point are you so rich that there are diminishing returns to fashion? I’m not sure I understand the collared shirt, Patagonia vest combination.
People who sit on stoops can either be your worst enemy or your best friend. If you’re a sweet old man who says “good afternoon,” I like you. I wish you the best in life you kind and beautiful human being. If you’re a weird old man who says “nice tits,” I hate you. Please crawl back into the trash can you fell out of and don’t look at me.
New York is a stinky, dreamy, trashy, gorgeous, hot mess and I am in love with it. I’m in love with it’s dual ugly and beauty, in it’s familiar and alien. It feels like an obnoxious neighbor you’ve known since you were a child that turns out to be European royalty. Or a dumpster filled to the brim with expensive furs, costume jewelry and day old bagels. I hope to come back to the city that has $4 well drinks, drag bingo nights, reading on the train, lounging in the park, bookstores full of customers, themed tiki bars, nice old men on stoops, effortless street fashion, the best pizza/ramen/bagel/tacos/sushi/burger/donut in the whole world. It’s endlessly tiring, surprising, disgusting and amazing.
I’ll leave this little rant with a quote from Dorothy Parker (who I want to be when I grow up). “London is satisfied, Paris is resigned. But New York is always hopeful.”
Cheers to you New York, you beautiful grotesque thing.