The following is the complete thread triggered by Andrew’s move to New York City, dealing with Superstorm Sandy, as well as various comments and bits of NYC advice from readers.
After two full weeks of moving to and living in New York City, I just got back to DC for ten days (doctor’s appointments, etc.). All I can say is: what a relief.
Moving is never easy; moving to New York City even harder. Moving to New York while blogging an election was probably too large a leap for an excitable chap like myself. Visiting NYC has always been a thrill. But living there? After the initial wonderland feel, you get to adjust to a whole new rhythm. Just in some basic respects – like getting online or using your phone – it’s like going back in time a little. Time Warner cable … well, I probably don’t need to tell New Yorkers what it’s like there. We bought the most expensive cable package to expedite my work at home – and it just decides to crawl like dial-up every few minutes. My mifi cannot get a signal that’s stable. My iPhone is suddenly iffy – calls are dropped and online access is far slower than in DC. And if you keep your wifi open, it gets grabbed by squeegee hotspots that are hard to get rid of. Not a good time to lose Google maps either.
Then the following: we went to a store and found a couch; they delivered the wrong one. We went to Best Buy to get a new TV; they delivered the wrong one. When they did deliver the right one, the cable-box was dead. We could not get any DVR either. I had to go into the Beast offices to live-blog Obama’s implosion. Scalding hot water comes out of the cold faucet – randomly. And the space we live in is one fifth the size of our place in DC. Just to walk a few blocks requires barging your way through a melee of noise and rudeness and madness. And a glance at your bank account shows a giant sucking sound as the city effectively robs you of all your pennies at every juncture. When you’re there for a few days or a week, it can be bracing. But living with this as a daily fact of life? How does anyone manage it?
I’m told I should give it a few months. Since our lease is for twelve, I don’t have much choice. Adjustment to NYC is a process. A really long, exasperating, draining process. Do you just have to harden yourself to live as if this is normal? Or will it get better? Please tell me it gets better.
A reader writes:
I stopped you Sunday to say hi while you and your husband were walking the dogs. You had the “fuck this shit” look on your face, so I was hesitant to bother you. But your face changed and you were gracious and kind regardless of how terrible it must be walking dogs in the streets of New York. My wife and I have been here for almost a year and it does get better. You’ll get into a rhythm soon enough. You should have moved to Brooklyn though. Manhattan is a hellish nightmare.
Another is on the same page:
It does gets better. Moving sucks, yes, but New York is the most vibrant, energetic, diverse city on the planet. (And I say this from experience, as a fellow Brit who’s travelled all over the world and previously lived in DC, London, Paris and Moscow.) I hope you had the good sense to move to Brooklyn instead of Manhattan. Brooklyn feels a lot like London to me. Much more livable than the craziness of Manhattan, but still only a short subway ride from that craziness when you do want to immerse yourself in it.
Why do I get the feeling that Brooklyn-living Bodenner edited these emails? Another:
Please don’t tell me you moved to Manhattan. Why? Did you ever consider that the cost of living and the (relative) lack of stress would make Brooklyn or Queens so much more attractive a place to live? I’ve been living in Brooklyn for over 9 years now, and for all the hype and counter-hype that comes with it, there’s a reason I’m still there. I’ve lived in DC for a short while as well, and if you wanted to replicate the Dupont Circle or Adams Morgan life, you’d have done better to go to Park Slope, Carroll Gardens, or (my new neighborhood) Fort Greene.
Another Brooklyn booster:
I assume you made the mistake of moving into Manhattan. Most out-of-towners who move here think, “Well of course I have to be in Manhattan! That’s where all the action is!” You’ll quickly learn how much and how often Manhattan residents look down on their poor friends who “suffer” in the Burroughs. Those of us who have made the wise choice of moving to Brooklyn have managed to find a much better balance between the chaos of the city and the desired solitude of home, and we just chuckle at the fools in Manhattan who are under the illusion that they’ve got it so good.
I have a dog, and I work in SoHo, but I live in Prospect Heights in Brooklyn. Rent is MUCH CHEAPER. There are trees. There are less cars, taxis, people. I take a 25 minute ride on the best subway system in the country to get to work. When I arrive in SoHo the energy can sometimes be exhilarating and sometimes annoying, especially the sheer volume of tourists. But after a long day, I hop back on the subway, veg out, come up to the quietude of Brooklyn, and reclaim the bit of my soul that may have been ground down to a pulp during the day. I can take my dog for a walk that involves negotiating dozens of trees and bushes, choosing from a number of small or large parks, and so forth.
If I were forced to live in Manhattan in order to work here, I would have moved away years ago! Brooklyn is the best of both worlds.
If you enjoyed your DC lifestyle, and are now dreading the NYC thing, I can only assume that you screwed up and signed a lease in Manhattan. Don’t worry. It’s a common mistake for people moving here to sign a lease in the city. Do yourself a favor when you get back to New York. Pick a beautiful fall day and jump on the subway and go meet one of your friends at the Brooklyn Flea. Or take a stroll through the north side of Prospect Park (there are much better areas of the park, but that’s a good starter journey). Take the F train to York St. and walk through DUMBO. Walk through the brownstone neighborhoods of Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, Park Slope or Brooklyn Heights. You BELONG here. You will love it. I can tell you: It is the best of both worlds. You are in the city, but you have space. You have trees. You have vibrant neighborhoods that feel interconnected. Trust me on this!
Come visit Brooklyn! If you want a reprieve from the madness that is Manhattan (where it sounds you have moved), come check out Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, and the surrounding area. The food is incredible and varied (Mile End, Bark Hot Dogs, Ample Hills Creamery, the General Greene, Beast restaurant, Salt, Brooklyn Fare, etc etc), the pace is a bit slower (it’s where the yuppies and hipsters move to have their babies so more strollers but less people), the brownstone environs are beautiful, everyone has dogs, and there are a thousand things to see and do. Your beagles would love Prospect Park or Fort Greene (off-leash before 9AM, where we bring our pup), the brand-new Brooklyn Bridge promenade is a lovely walk with an incredible view of Manhattan, you can spend a day browsing the great crafts at the Brooklyn Flea in Fort Greene, the bar scene is much more friendly, less crowded and mostly meathead free, and there is music and events everywhere you turn.
A final selling point:
There are more beards in Brooklyn.
A reader pushes back against the Brooklyn boosters:
For the love of God, do NOT move to Brooklyn! I moved to Manhattan 26 years ago and I have twice been lured into leaving the island by the promise of cheaper rents and tree-lined streets in Brooklyn. Big mistake. That touted “25-minute subway commute” is realistically more like 45-plus-minutes, standing in sardine-can comfort all the way. And that’s after walking a good ten minutes to reach the station, then waiting another ten minutes or so on an overcrowded platform. But learn to love that subway. Because the city you moved here for is miles away, and there are no cruising yellow cabs on those leafy brownstone streets (also fewer 24-hour Korean delis, bank branches, Greek diners, visible human life, etc.). And if you hail a cab in Manhattan to take you home at night, there’s a 50-50 chance the driver will simply refuse the fare.
I have returned home to Manhattan. There’s a reason we pay more to live here. And there’s a reason Brooklyn requires “boosters.”
Hundreds of readers are offering their varied perspectives on the city. One writes:
Everything you describe about your move to NYC reminds me of my move there a decade ago. The pervasive crowdedness, the smell, the herculean efforts necessary to accomplish even minor chores. It is draining. But it does get better. At some point, you start to realize that NYC has changed you, that your rhythm is in sync with the city’s, that you are full of energy, and that nothing can get in your way, because you are a New Yorker. I fell in love with NYC. But after six years, it started to wear on me again – the constant struggle for scarce resources (like a table at a favorite restaurant), the bridge and tunnel traffic, the pedestrian rage at tourists walking too slowly. I ultimately escaped to San Francisco, where life truly is better, but I cherish the time I spent in NYC and know that I am stronger and more resilient for it. Hang in there!
I say this as someone whose entire family grew up in NYC, who has lived in NYC for three years, but who grew up in South Philadelphia and lived for seven years in New Orleans: It doesn’t get better.
New York, and by that I mean Manhattan, is incredibly overrated. The inconveniences multiply; they don’t diminish. People get more self-righteous and myopic, not less. What happens is that you adjust yourself to find camaraderie with neighbors with regard to these annoyances. And then you force yourself to take advantage of things like museums and art galleries and early movie openings to develop a layer of smug that also helps you find camaraderie with fellow NYers.
Then what happens is that you get meta-smug about New York, where you talk about how you love Brooklyn so much more than Manhattan and then you get meta-meta smug where you think Brooklyn was so 2003 and Astoria and Jackson Heights are really where it’s at. And that’s how you find camaraderie at a layer deeper.
But mostly New York isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and there are lots of other cooler, more down to earth, places in America – like Philadelphia and New Orleans!
I lived in NYC for a bit more than 15 years, and I can tell you: Yes, it does get better. But not any time soon. Learning to live in NYC means learning that you are not, in fact, the boss of yourself. You are dependent on and surrounded by so many others, the massive aging infrastructure, the constant roiling disorder. Once you give up your grasping for control, it becomes much much easier. Just know this: the subway will make you late when you most need it to be on time. The taxis will be all full when it’s raining, and they will sometimes splash you as they pass. The store will be on the other side of town when you need that certain thing. The restaurant will be booked when you’re out for a special dinner.
But you must also know this: you will never really understand the full range of human expression without living in New York. You will see confrontations and moments of tenderness on the subway that will make you marvel. You’ll come to really appreciate just how hard immigrants work to provide for their families, especially if you are on the platform at 6 am, seeing working-class folks going to work and coming home. You will eat the most delicious food and be able to access any kind of art that suits you.
Yes, it sucks setting up house, dealing with those companies that have a stranglehold. But to fall in love with NYC, get out of the house, walk 30 blocks, ride the subway home. It’ll do you good.
Oh where to start. Nowhere else in the world will the love/hate relationship with a city be as lively as our New York. I have been here for 12 years. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. It will be maddening every single day of the year. It will be filthy. It will be rude. It will be expensive. It will drive you insane. You will also fall in love with it.
One day you will wake up and something will happen that will change your view of it forever. It may be Washington Square park, with its chess playing hustlers plying their ways next to a guy playing Chopin on a grand piano. Or perhaps the upcoming Halloween parade in Greenwich village, with an assortment of freaks only New York can produce. You may find yourself on the subway watching Wall St. guys beat-box with a couple of kids from Bed-Stuy (I saw this last week).
The day after the 9/11 attack I was hundreds of miles away. I was told by my office to stay in Chicago. I drove back with a friend. I needed to be back. I needed to be among New Yorkers. People thought I was crazy. Why would anyone want to go back there? It’s an inexplicable feeling of oneness with a place. You may find your temperament is better suited to D.C. If you are lucky you will become one of us.
Another quotes me:
“Just to walk a few blocks requires barging your way through a melee of noise and rudeness and madness.” Are you sure you’re in New York, and not some other city? Manhattanites are in, my experience, the friendliest, funniest people in the world. They are unfailingly helpful in a pinch, and it’s almost impossible not to have a conversation with at least one total stranger each day.
As for the rest of it, what can I say? You’re having a bad run of luck, but it cannot be called typical. I live in Greenwich Village, and I often say that our neighborhood is the most convenient in the world. Everything you want or need is within a few blocks, and we have easy access to the best museums, theatres, cinemas, and clubs. (Saw you at the Metropolitan Room, by the way; my husband and I both adored Sharon Clark.)
Those people bumping into you on the sidewalk or shouting at each other in the street … are they being rude? No! This is the kind of forced intimacy that comes from living in such a densely-packed mass of humanity. It makes New Yorkers more open, more honest; they wear their hearts on their sleeves. It actually makes me think of the way you write – no minced words.
One day several years back, my wife was jogging across the street and a car bumped into her – the car was barely moving, so it was nothing serious, but it was enough to knock her down. Before she had even brushed herself off there were two New Yorkers helping her out and screaming at the driver about what an idiot he was. So go into this with an open mind.
I love New York, because everyone is from somewhere, and differences are accepted here. My wife said her quintessential New York moment was in the hospital after the birth of our child. Her breastfeeding class consisted of herself – a Caucasian woman with an half-Asian child, an Orthodox Jewish woman, a South Asian woman, a Latina mom, and the instructor, a male to female transgender nurse. None of the women batted an eyelash – everyone was focused on trying to learn what to do with their babies.
Here was my week last week: Tuesday, I saw Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder in 3D at Film Forum, and had Texas-style breakfast tacos and scotch in a bar with no sign on Houston Street. Wednesday I blundered into a tap-dancing jazz jam session at Small’s that was actually killer. At it I met an old man, a gallery owner who started writing poetry again after meeting a woman. He showed me his poems – dirty good stuff – which I ended up buying off of him. Then I spent the rest of the night at the Village Vanguard watching John Coltrane’s son tear the place up, under a big photo of his father. On Thursday I went to a book launch of Charles Portis’ new one, featuring Roy Blount Jr., Calvin Trillin and Ian Frazier, the proceeds of which went towards providing housing for homeless AIDS victims. Friday was spent at a comedy club.
And so on and so on. There’s simply no place like it. Greatest city on earth!
New York Shitty: Survival Tips
Scores of kind readers are offering advice:
NYC is, in fact, the easiest place to live once you’re settled. Cabs are plentiful (except between 4-7pm), the subway never closes, and there’s a bodega or Duane Reade within a two-block radius wherever you are. You simply don’t have to move around much to survive. And have you seen the variety of food delivery options on SeamlessWeb? The last time I was in DC, the website offered me maybe 20 options, but almost anywhere in NYC seamless will offer 50-60!
I love that cabs are plentiful – except when you most need them. I’ve spent up to half an hour finding a cab with its light on as available – as opposed to off-duty – between 4 pm and 7 pm. Even as a visitor, I simply walk. I cycle everywhere in DC but the traffic aggression in NYC would keep me on the river cycle paths. Using one to get around would be more scary than I’m used to. Another:
Cost can be mitigated if you don’t have a car. Zipcar can be very useful for weekend shopping runs. Don’t shop at the local bodega unless you must, avoid the local supermarket if you can. Trader Joe’s or Fairway are the places to go – and you should to avoid the very tempting option of ordering amazing delivery every night. Try to avoid cabs if you can. Get a good pair of shoes and a metrocard.
We don’t have a car. God knows what people do who have one. The kitchen is so tiny there’s also a limit on food storage. Another:
Stay away from Times Square. Just. Stay. Away. Watching tourists eat at Olive Garden or Sbarros is flat out depressing.
No worries in that department. Trust me. That “intricate rented world” does not excite. It bores and depresses. So much light for so much getting. Another:
It sounds like you have AT&T on your cellphone. My advice is drop them. Pay whatever it takes to get out of your contract. AT&T does not work in NYC. I had them for four years and I swear every other call would get dropped and my data service would randomly cut out for hours at a time. Go to Verizon. It’s the most reliable service in NYC.
Working on it. Again, more money. To do even the slightest thing, you get fleeced. More technical advice:
Some flavors of WiFi share spectrum with other devices and appliances. Older versions would see temporary dropouts or slow-downs whenever someone microwaved popcorn because the frequencies were similar. Even with the newer models, you can see interference with other devices in the area. Also, of someone is BitTorrenting in your area, they may be sucking up all the bandwidth for everyone in your area. Another possibility is that someone has jumped on your WiFi and is piggybacking on your account. You do have a good password set up, don’t you? Here’s an article that might can help: “Six Wi-Fi problems and how to fix them”
Time Warner is the devil. If you can get Verizon FiOS where you live, go with that. It’s apparently a million times better. If you’re stuck with Time Warner then you just have to deal. If you’re having some technical problems with their service (and who isn’t; I currently am) then try tweeting at them. You have enough followers that they’ll get back to you pretty quick. Their Twitter customer service can be pretty decent and if you’re persistent, you’ll get through to their T3 support. The T3 support guys are actually super helpful and competent and should be able to resolve your problems as well as they possibly can.
Forget Best Buy. Instead, go to J&R Music, B&H Photo, Adorama, Tekserve, or your closest Apple Store. Also, if you have a doorman or package service, definitely buy an Amazon Prime membership and use it as much as possible. You’ll get much better prices and better service on almost anything.
Also, FreshDirect is mighty convenient – but Trader Joe’s and Fairway Uptown and Costco (115th and FDR) are cheaper.
If you’re trying to navigate NYC and your Google Maps (or, heaven forbid, Apple Maps) aren’t working, try picking up the Not For Tourist guide to NYC. It’s great. Detailed maps, restaurant and bar listings, and a bunch other stuff. Pardon the cliche, but i never leave home without it. You can find it here.
Never do laundry again. Someone will do it for you, fold it and bring it back to your apt. Dress shirts get dropped off and unlike DC, someone brings them back to your apt.
Don’t be in a rush. Stuck on the train? There’s nothing you can do about it, so why feel guilty or responsible for it? Think about how lucky you are to be reading a book on the train rather than stuck in traffic in a car, where you can’t read while waiting to start moving again.
Mooch or splurge, but find a place to go on the weekends. The Catskills, the Berkshires, Bucks County, there are plenty of low-fi options. A couple of quiet days away (i.e. NOT the Hamptons, Fire Island, or the Jersey Shore) are a necessary yin to the constant yang.
Experience something that is “the best” in NYC. Subscribe to the Met Opera, join MoMA, become a foodie or a theater queen. Do something that makes being in NYC a demonstrable advantage to the rest of the world.
Finally, and simply, walk. Walk everywhere. Walk all the time. Walk it off.
One more reader:
My advice to you? The best part of living in the city is how easy it is to leave it. Take weekend trips via MTA North and visit Tarrytown, Ossining, and Dobbs Ferry. The Fall also happens to be the nicest time of year to soak in the foliage of the Hudson Valley. I trust it will also provide some relief from the stress of election season …
New York Shitty, Ctd
A reader writes:
The latest responses from your readers have motivated me to write. There is a certain degree of entitlement and a lack of humility in the way they talk about New York. I don’t begrudge anyone for not liking the city. It’s not for everyone. Sometimes people come here with strange expectations. I blame “Sex and the City”.
What hasn’t been addressed is that this city is so vast that people living here are all inhabiting completely different worlds. I’m not talking about rich people or poor people; I mean that every person is experiencing only a tiny part of the whole city. Your readers have been making grand pronouncements on Manhattan and Brooklyn as if that is even possible! They are like blind men describing an elephant. Some of your readers seem totally oblivious that it may be their own lack of vision, curiosity, and adventure that limits their New York. Be humble. This city is large, it contains multitudes.
Maybe I have a different perspective because I am a New Yorker, born and raised.
I accept New York for what it is. I love it, but I’m used to it. It surprises me every day and I’m used to that too. I’ve lived here most of my life and I’ve simply accepted that I’ll never be able to know the whole city. It’s just not possible. I am still exploring and discovering it all the time. My friends and family are here too. It’s home.
I moved to New York in the fall of 1975, a young, blue-eyed blonde, native northern California girl, with nothing much more than a desire to get out of (then) homogenous sunny California and a couple of bad relationships. At that time, NYC was on the brink of bankruptcy, and the Daily News had just published their famous FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD headline. Crime was up, the city was really gritty, but rents were down, so I moved in with my brother who was subletting on the upper East Side, and got a job in a week, despite it all. I was there less than two years – my job turned out great, got promoted, got moved to Chicago – but that’s another city and another story. Anyway, in my short time there, I came to feel all the love/hate vibes that some of your other readers have talked about.
My mother, an avid New Yorker reader all her life, called NYC America’s Hometown, and I think she was right. I’ve always maintained that everyone should live in New York at least once in their lives. So enjoy!
The View From My Window
West Village, New York City, 8.55 pm
Sandy Hits The Dish
The hurricane has screwed up email service to the Dish account (email@example.com), so we haven’t been receiving most of the emails sent by Dish readers this week. If you sent us an email since Monday night, please resend it using the following makeshift address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
On a personal level, my wonderful introduction to New York City continues. We’ve had no power since Sunday night, and no idea when that might end. Even charged cell-phones south of 29th Street get no service at all (which is a tiny deterioration from AT&T’s usual service). There is no hot water. Even better, the front door to our building works on an electric FOB system, which, of course, has failed. So for a while, only one of us could leave the building at any one time. This made life a little difficult. Eventually we found a master key, which allowed me to escape today to get some work done.
I’m blogging today from a midtown Starbucks, where every available electrical outlet is being used by displaced downtowners. The atmosphere around me is probably like rush-hour in Calcutta. I want to thank my colleagues, all of whom have electric power, for doing such an amazing job yesterday and today. And my love to New York City, which has instantly plunged me from the developed world into a pitch black and increasingly cold Halloween. I keep saying to myself: It Gets Better.
Well, it cannot get any worse, can it? Can it?
New York Not So Shitty
Pet theory re: NYC resilience: tons of people from the developing world help set the tone.—
Reihan Salam (@reihan) October 31, 2012
A reader writes:
You’re in a Starbucks, connected to the Internet. You have a bed to sleep in and your husband and pets are with you. You’re doing pretty well. Think of it this way: You could have moved to Breezy Point.
That much I don’t dispute. We’re fine, and I’m now blogging at Patrick’s way uptown. My only real issue is my CPAP machine, which is trivial compared with goodness knows how many old folks trapped in high-rises, with more vital medical needs. This time I’m not complaining. Last night, the moon came out and the deserted dark streets of the Village were lit just from the sky. It was surreal and serene. At this point, I think of my initiation into New York has a kind of baptism, where they’ve kept me below the surface long enough for me to be extra-grateful when we get, say, electricity. Another:
You said: “Well, it cannot get any worse, can it? Can it?” I grew up in Manhattan and lived there for 25 years of my life. I never experienced anything close to what New Yorkers are going through now. There have been blackouts, but nothing sustained like this. Even 9/11 wasn’t this bad – quality of living-wise. That was obviously deeply, mortally traumatic, but it didn’t involve a lengthy period living in what are essentially third-world conditions. What I’m saying is, this is the worst it has ever been in this city. I’d love to say that it can’t get any worse, but I didn’t even think it could get this bad!
I’ve still got a friend in Queens I can’t contact. I hope she’s okay and I don’t really have reason to think otherwise, but worry isn’t always rational. You may already recognize that for many New Yorkers seeing Manhattan hobbled and emergency workers endangering themselves rekindles a collective 9/11 PTSD. But one of the things that makes NY great (I’m from the West Coast but moved here 15 years ago) is the way New Yorkers, for all of their faults and divisions, relate to each other in the midst of disaster.
I know how trite this will sound but I must: This great and flawed city is not the problem, Andrew, and the more we confront adversity together the stronger we’ll be. Yeah, sometimes it sucks – a lot – but being able to see the imperfect beauty in each other amidst the filth and rubble is part of what makes life worth living.
Indeed. Several friends have offered us an air mattress uptown, a hot shower, and the little neighborhood restaurant, Moustache, even served dinner by candlelight, since their ovens are all gas-based. The soup was gratis. Outside on a usually busy street, a young man was throwing a lacrosse ball against the walls of a construction site. To wit:
We’re all used to the Hollywood idea of post-apocalyptic America–men in fatigues roaming around with guns, looting and killing. What happened when my little village of Pelham was struck by the worst storm in its history–trees down everywhere, a dozen homes destroyed, vast damage–no power or phones. Although we sit on the water of Long Island Sound, the surge was pretty modest, so no flooding–that was the blessing. So what happened?
As soon as the storm subsided, neighbors were coming by: are you okay? was anyone injured? do you need batteries, milk, eggs? Tom down the street has a generator and anybody who needs to recharge phones or laptops can hook up. (Tom set up a charging station for neighbors in front of his garage.) On day two, when a few houses got power back, those who had it were advertising their services to neighbors–come by and take a hot shower! We’ll hold your freezer things. You’re welcome to sit in our living room and read–no flashlight required!
That afternoon, the local pharmacy and grocery reopened–handing out bags to customers–put your freezer things in this bag with your name, and we’ll freeze it for you! Phone company, fire, police crews out at once, working hard. People stopping by giving them a thermos of coffee or some fresh baked muffins. Spirits very upbeat. People extraordinarily kind and friendly. Now that’s the America I want to think about. In times of disaster, people share and come together. And that much maligned government? It works, and it’s there for you when you need it.
Maybe you should go back to D.C. or P-Town.
After weathering the storm here in Harlem with my family (where we, despite some sketchy moments, retained electricity and hot water throughout), I set out downtown to check on my below-ground storefront business, located in the East Village. I was worried about flooding, even though I had prepared. I knew I did not have electricity. I didn’t know what to expect. Before I even left my building, I was greeted by neighbors, asking if I needed anything.
I got into my car and turned on the radio, but sick of NPR and news radio I decided to switch over to Hot 97, the urban/hip-hop station. A tribute to Run-DMC’s slain DJ, Jam Master Jay, was playing (this at about 9am). DJ Enuff, a NYC mainstay since the ’90s, had been DJing for 21 straight hours – none of the other DJs could make it in.
As I drove slowly through Spanish Harlem, the Upper East Side, and down into Midtown, I rolled down my windows and turned the volume all the way up as “Hard Times” blared through the speakers. I nearly wept. This, I felt, was the New York I fell in love with. The DJs, so long a cornerstone of our culture, were still at work. The radio was still on. And as confused tourists wandered the streets, New Yorkers got down to the work of putting their lives back together.
At 39th Street the traffic lights turned dark. I got downtown and parked my car in an illegal spot with a policeman’s blessing. The streets were flooded with people. Everyone was caring and obliging. I checked on a friend in the neighborhood, who I hadn’t heard from since the day before. We had a smoke and decided to walk around. He told me that the night before had been a blast. It seemed like the party was rolling on.
We’ve done this through 9/11, The Blackout, and countless blizzards. This city is at its best in crisis. When life gives us lemons, we make lemonade and spike that bitch.
The fact that you are crouching in your apartment, put upon by events and wed to a Starbucks (of all places!) says to me that you are not cut out to be here. And we do not want you if you do not want us. Love the blog and read it multiple times a day. Just calling as I see it, as my fellow NYers are wont to do.
I love that you’re blogging from a Starbucks in Midtown. I love how you’re suffering the storm right alongside all the folks who don’t have a world famous blog, even if it’s not a choice. New York is an intense, hyper-competitive, loud, dirty, and difficult place, and the best thing about it is that the guy with the turban, the drag queen, the stockbroker, and the big fat black lady all make it through the daily difficulty alongside each other. At this moment, my Brooklyn neighbors are handing out Tilapia to trick-or-treaters. So there’s that too. Rich, poor, or in-between, everyone here is crazy.
All of us will bitch every day about the difficulties of the city, but we’ll all end up helping each other at one time or another too. And helping here is different than helping in other places around the world, because the variety and chaos makes it harder here. It’s harder to help because so much angst and resistance builds inside of us, as New Yorkers. It’s harder to help because we’re often ‘other’ to each other, in a different class or ethnic group, etc. So when the shit hits and it’s everyone in, and you help, there’s no place on earth you’ll feel more connected. The money, race, lifestyle boundaries come down, the seething hostility is overcome, and god mutherfuckin’ dammit, we are one!
By the way, all your complaining about New York is essentially turning you into a New Yorker. You are not alone, brother. We all hate it and that’s why we all love it.
I think I’m beginning to get it now.
(Photo: East Village residents enjoy a bonfire on October 31, 2012 in New York City. Superstorm Sandy has claimed several dozen lives in the United States and has caused massive flooding across much of the Atlantic seaboard. By Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
The Glamorous Life Of A New York Blogger
So here I am, perched in a Dunkin Donuts, just north of the Dark Zone in NYC, blogging for as long as my mifi hangs in, with 53 minutes left on my laptop.
Last night was pretty chilly: one of the hounds crawled under the bed covers, the other buried herself under a blanket on the sofa. Still total darkness at night; punctuated by the occasional flash of police car lights. I cannot imagine how the elderly or those in high rises are managing.
It remains astounding to me that the power can go out for the lower half of New York City for five whole days. We’re now told that we will have power by tomorrow night at 11 pm. I believe that the way I believe Mitt Romney. But almost as astounding as the developing world infrastructure here is the way in which New Yorkers – so rude and oblivious most of the time – have rallied, helped each other, smiled, and carried on. What a welcome. The best of New York and the worst – hidden in unfathomable darkness from dusk onward.
New York Not So Shitty, Ctd
You were probably waiting for this post. But here was my Thanksgiving Day. Aaron was away in Rio promoting his new movie, “Bear City 2″. I was planning on a good day of sleep and a dinner with one old and one new friend. But our older dog, Dusty, has been getting a little incontinent lately (she’s 15) and we try and take her outside as soon as we get up to avoid messes in the apartment. Usually, in DC or Ptown, this is pretty easy. I stumble to the front door, open it, wait for her to wander a little bit, pee and come back for a treat. If it’s early, I meander wearily back to bed.
But this is New York City and I hadn’t even had any coffee yet. So I left the leash behind, wandered downstairs in my boxers and t-shirt, and let Dusty out as I held the building door. Suddenly a cop car came screaming down the street and for a split second I could envisage Dusty meandering into its path. I just ran, grabbed her and scrambled back toward the front door as it slammed shut. I had no keys, no FOB, no clothes, no shoes, and a leash-less dog. I tried every other apartment in the building. No one was in – it was Thanksgiving after all.
My next thought was the fire-escape. Somehow I managed to get the ladder unhitched from below, and began my way up. Two neighbors appeared out of nowhere, one with a cell-phone, then a sweatshirt, then another turned up with some socks. One brought a hammer to allow me to break into my own place. It was pretty chilly out.
So wielding a hammer, with my boxers doing a Marilyn Monroe in the brisk wind, I am climbing up toward the window when a voice appears out of the blue: “Andrew!” I look down, don’t recognize the guy, suddenly fear I’m on Gawker tomorrow, and carry on. Maybe a Dishhead – I’ve been staggered how many there are of you in NYC (I can’t seem to walk a block without meeting one). But no, he says he’s Robert, a friend of Aaron’s, whom Aaron had persuaded to dog-sit a month ago when I was in LA. “I have your keys! And your fob, if you need it.”
And so, around the corner of the street, an angel arrived. An amazing coincidence? Balancing karma for all those times in life when nothing seems to go right? Divine intervention? You be the judge. But I had reason to be thankful last Thursday. And not only for a warm home for sockless and slightly blue bare feet, and a free country, but for New York City and its inhabitants.
Thanks. The ice is melting.
(Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty.)
New York Shitty, Ctd
Yeah, the beard looks very scraggly in the video we posted last night. But better than it does now: I just got it butchered by yet another bad New York City barber.
Yes, another of my waxing and waning complaints about NYC is the absence of decent, professional barbershops. Well, I don’t mean an actual absence. They’re everywhere, it seems, and yet almost all of the ones I’ve tried are dreadful.
My starter was a Yelp-recommended, first come, first served joint. I put my name down and was told to come back in 30 minutes. Ok. Back 25 minutes later, I was told it could be done in ten minutes. A further half hour of Angry birds later, I asked when I could get my beard trimmed. 20 minutes. Half an hour later, when they started hedging again when I asked, I left. New York City: wait for almost two hours not to get a haircut.
The next one I tried, I asked if they had wifi so I could blog while I waited. They did, so I asked for the password. Instead of simply telling me, the owner asked me to hand him my iPad (to write it in himself), which he then dropped, causing the screen to shatter on the floor.
Instead of apologizing, he first asked – I’m not making this up – if the iPad looked like that before he dropped it. He then insisted I have it repaired by some dude he knew. I said I’d have it repaired at the Apple Store. He harrumphed. I had a thought they might waive the fee for the beard trim. This is New York City: no fucking way.
Then I tried a third barber – recommended by a friend. The dude turned the beard into a lopsided brick. Aaron had to fix it later, and even now my head looks lop-sided. Maybe I’m just unlucky, but it amazes me that New Yorkers have such an attitude about good service when they are not in the city. Where do their expectations come from? This city has the worst service I’ve ever experienced. Yes, it remains impossible to use Time Warner wifi to listen to music on our sound system without it breaking up every few seconds. Yes, AT&T is still a nightmare. No, it doesn’t really get much better, you just get used to living in one of the least competent, self-loving cities I’ve ever known. Maybe over the years, you slowly develop your known competent individuals. From pharmacists bound by Bloomberg’s nannying to a super-intendent who cannot show up to fix a broken doorlock to even UPS (one of my meds was just “found” on the sidewalk outside my apartment by a neighbor), you just find it harder to live here, even as you’re fleeced everywhere you move. The sidewalks almost suck the money from your pockets and give back attitude in return.
And you wonder why I have no worries about Pret-A-Manger. Fawning would be lovely. But actual, simple competence in this city? A miracle.