Tag Archives: new york city

Goodbye, New York

It’s been five days since I left New York, and as is the case with week-old nostalgia, I often find myself thinking about the city.  I’ve always loved the vibrancy of New York, the energy, and even the street meat smell.  Since I left, I have found myself missing those aspects of the city: the pavement-pounding commuters, the holier-than-thou coffeeshops, the 3 AM chicken and rice.  Most of all, though, I miss the people.  I miss the tour guide in Midtown who attracts customers by telling people his name is Kofi Annan (“Really? I’ve totally heard your name before.  You’re a famous tour guide!”).  I miss the crazy (and perhaps sight-challenged) men who would hoot at me in the mornings (“Hey baby, you’re looking fine in those Old Navy dress pants.”).  I miss the friends who came with me, during my last week in the city, to visit a heralded NYC institution–the Olive Garden in Times Square.

While I lived in New York, I had my complaints too.  For me, the city was expensive, crowded, and dirty.  Rats were everywhere, as if the Pied Piper had settled in Manhattan.  Over the last four months, I lived on the Upper East Side, where Juicy-Couture-wearing poodles would be juxtaposed with the pigeon-poop-lined sidewalks.  I’d dodge feces of all kinds (dog, rodent, fowl) as I walked to work.

But as nostalgia goes, all my complaints about New York are now forgotten.  The good memories are the ones that remain: dancing with kilted Scotsmen at Gatsby’s, table-searching in the basement of 30 Rock, discussing pedophiles on Wednesday nights, finding the best fajitas in town (still Zarela’s), Zog Sports football, Central Park, 24-hour diners, even Joshua Tree.

I think that anytime something ends, there is an afterwards period of great reflection and self-doubt.  If I were in an early-90s TV show, I’d be sitting next to a bay window now, a single tear streaming down one cheek, watching the rain fall outside.  Am I doing the right thing?  Am I just being crazy?  Who chooses LA over New York??  Where did my stoic, hardened, East-Coast-is-the-Beast-Coast mentality go?

Well… I don’t know the answer to that right now.  But with regards to the city of New York, I’ll quote the modern-day, muscled bard of California: I’ll be back… perhaps.

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An Attempt At Class

In my life, I have never done well with “classy”.  It started in pre-school, where I would frequently show up to daycare with no shoes on.  By kindergarten I was fully dressed, but would often tie a bandana around my head in order to look like a ninja.

In fourth grade, when Bryan Hart (the most eligible fourth-grader in town) asked me “to go steady”, I agreed… but only if he would date both me and my friend Cameron.  He refused, breaking my little polygamist heart.

In eighth grade, I received office detention for beaning a boy in the head with a pencil.  (He was reaching for a piece of candy but got a bleeding skull instead.)  And in high school, my friends and I would often dress up in old-school wrestling onesies and run around campus wielding a stolen bullhorn:  “PHIL, STOP PICKING YOUR NOSE!  WE SEE YOUUUU!”

So, classiness is not in my nature.  But now that I’m out of school and living in New York, I figure that I should learn how to be classy.  After all, Coco Chanel once said, “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”  And while I’m obviously fab, I must admit: I need to learn class.

With all its museums, art, and ultra-exclusive, high-priced, high-brow culture, there is no better place than New York to teach me about being classy.  Even in the most unlikely places, there are examples of the city’s refinement.  For instance, I was graced by an elegant framed painting of cherubic angels while waiting in line for a Big Breakfast at McDonald’s (see photo).  God and biscuits?  How can that not be classy?  Of course, there are some less-haute areas of New York, like the NYC subway system and its bombardment of GOT HEMMORHOIDS? and GOT BED BUGS? ads.  But every city has some unfortunate, uncouth moles.

Still, classiness is something everyone can aspire to, even if you’re heinously ugly (you can always cover up ugly with J.Crew).  From living in New York, I’ve learned that classiness is all about restraint.  It’s not classy to showcase excessiveness, although it’s fine to do it subtly (hello, $400 unbranded umbrella).  As a rule, collars should be semi-popped, bookshelves should be fully stocked, and you have to Just Say No to tequila shots.  Pretentious words should be utilized in everyday conversation (“shall”, “ergo”, “apropos”), and exclamation marks should be used sparingly, if at all (unless you are describing a melee involving a bullhorn).  Muted elitism is class.

Thus from now on, I will tap into the classier side of my fabulous personality.  I will order martinis, eat foie gras, and hold civil conversations about politics.  I will wear my hair in a stylish bun on Thursdays and write poetry about animal rescue shelters on Fridays.  I will say no to Playboy.  Ergo, I shall ensure that “classy” can be applied as an apropos keyword on my future eHarmony profile.

At the same time, I know it will be tough to shake old habits, especially with my penchant for ninjas and assaulting others.  But, if a classy tree falls in an empty forest, does it make a sound?  As in, if I leave the bathroom door open while peeing in my empty apartment, will anyone think I am less classy?…

…Just wondering, of course.

“WE SEE YOUUUU!”

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I Hate Superficiality… But Please, Tell Me How Pretty I Look Today

The nice thing about living in New York City is that, no matter what you look like, every single woman will get catcalled at least once.  You could be wearing sweats and shoveling an empanada into your face.  You could be toting around your five kids and ten grandkids.  You could be heinously unattractive.  It doesn’t matter.  If you are a woman in New York City, you will get hooted at, hollered at, and hit on.  Even that girl in the photo below will get catcalled in NYC.  The creepy men of New York are wonderfully indiscriminate.

You could look like this, and still get hit on in NYC.

And no matter how much we disdain such boorish behavior, secretly, it’s rather flattering.  Every woman likes to get complimented, even if the source is a lazy-eyed homeless man with a pet rat and a neck tattoo.  We can rail all we want against the superficiality of the world, but there’s a glimmer of satisfaction when we’re the momentary center of some crazy man’s attention.  It’s that same esteem-boosting feeling you might get if you were asked to pose for Playboy:

Playboy Executive: “Hey, we want you to pose nude in Playboy for our ‘Professional Women of New York’ special.”

Me: “Excuse me? I am insulted!” [Translation: “Hell yeah! Still got it!”]

Playboy Executive: “Why not?  Don’t you know our clientele?  This is a great opportunity for you to get your next job in hedge funds, private equity, or Congressional politics.”

Me: “I can’t believe you have the gall to say that to me.  Unlike those skanks who pose for Playboy, I actually have some dignity and self-respect.  I don’t need to pose nude to rise up the corporate ladder.”  [Translation: “I would look good in Playboy. Oh yeah!  Your balance sheet can’t handle my assets… ass-ets.”]

Playboy Executive: “Come on.  It’s not like we’re Penthouse.”

angrywomanMe: “You disgust me.  Your entire existence is demeaning to women, and the bimbos you select as your centerfolds are putting feminism to shame.  I don’t know how you can sleep at night.  I just pray, pray, that one day you’ll have a daughter, and you will have to explain to her what you do for a living.  And if you have any semblance of a soul, you will feel the deepest and darkest regret in knowing that her future has been tainted by your pathetic, tasteless publication.  You want me to pose nude?  I’ll pose nude the day that you tell your daughter that you exploit women, you sick bastard.” [Translation: “I love being able to riff on this guy.  Not only do I feel super sexy, but I feel so righteous as well! R-E-S-P-E-C-T.”]

Playboy Executive: “Well… let me know if you ever change your mind.”

Me: “Not in a million years, buster.” [Translation: “Unless I’m single and jobless when I’m 35…”]

[A few minutes later]

My Facebook Status: “Just got asked to pose nude in Playboy.  Haha!  I said no, of course!”

My Twitter: “Playboy wanted me to pose nude, lol.  How gross!  I said no… Woman power!”

My BBM Away Message: “Crazy day! Was asked to pose nude for Playboy.  They are such scumbags!”

…And so on.  Because everyone ought to know how hot and virtuous I am.

Isn’t superficiality great, especially when it goes your way?  Even women without daddy issues want attention now and then.

So, the next time I am fortunate enough to be hooted at in New York, I will politely thank the greasy creep who complimented me.  Then, I’ll return the favor: I’m sure every guy wants to feel good about his cardboard home or his delivery bike.  And then he can log onto Twitter and let all his friends know that he’s still got it too.

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What I Love About New York City

There are many things that I hate about New York City.  I hate the pigeons, the rats, and the abundance of dog excrement on the streets.  I hate the hot stickiness of the subway platforms, and the way taxi drivers take liberty with your life.  I hate the trash that gets piled up along the sidewalk, regardless of whether it’s trash day or not.  subwayBut most of all, I hate the smells.  I hate the smell of wet, grimy New York after it rains in the summer.  I hate the salty, sweaty smell of people standing too close in the subway.  I hate the smell that sneaks up on you, all of a sudden, as you turn a corner and oh!, that is nasty.  New York is full of these unpleasant surprises, where pigeons can grow to be as tall as man, and the alley behind a seafood restaurant can force passersby into wind sprints.

But there are also many aspects of the city that I love.  I love street vendors, Central Park, and overlooking the skyline on a warm summer evening.  I love happy hours that can last from 4 pm to 4 am.  I love how a single restaurant can have an artsy scene, and a punk scene, and a hipster scene, and a pop-your-collar banker scene.  I love the unconscious mixing of all different people and different backgrounds into one, into a unique New York City culture that can be best described as a clusterfuck, a word that can only be said seriously in New York’s executive boardrooms.

grandcentralHowever, above everything else, I love the chatter in the city.  I love the crazy people talking to themselves on the subway.  I love the snippets of conversation I hear while walking by couples, like “I never should have done that”, or, “But I trade debt securities for a living”.  I love the passion of New York City, with all the yelling and the swearing and the impassioned, vehement debates (“He was talking about Bristol, not the 14-year old!”). I love how you can have enlightened conversations about everything, from the Iran election to the latest A-Rod debacle.

I’ve been in New York for six months now, after moving from LA.  The always-sunny, carefree culture of Los Angeles still pulls at me sometimes, even though conversations there revolve solely around the new celebrity in rehab.  Then again, in LA, I don’t have to deal with mysterious smells and flocks of disease-carrying birds.  But now that I’ve become fully immersed again in the angsty, Type-A, New York City life, I feel more at ease that my brain isn’t wasting away in a Hollywood-induced haze.  So, LA vs. New York?  It’s a matter of body versus mind, I guess.

As of right now, I think mind is winning.

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The Commute to Work: A Reflection on Mortality

It’s 7:03 AM, and I’m out the door of my Midtown apartment.  I wave at the doorman, bound down the steps, and start my journey to the wonderful land of work, work, work.  Unlike many New Yorkers, I don’t wear headphones on my morning walk.  My walk is an excuse to travel with my thoughts, sans the distraction of Lady Gaga imploring me to dance.  I think about my job, my personal life, and the latest news… but mostly, I think about what I want to get for breakfast.  Thus, my career anxiety is often interrupted by the everlasting muffin vs. bagel debate.  By the 9th avenue intersection, muffin usually wins. 

pigeonAlong my usual route, I sidestep many of the treasures of New York City.  Outside of 53rd street, there is always at least one food product that has made its way into the road.  One day it looked like a tub of mac and cheese.  Another day, it appeared to be some kind of chili.  My curiosity never gets me too close to the mystery slop though, mostly because a pack of pigeons is constantly steeped in the mess, devouring its breakfast.  The sight of winged rats picking at day-old mashed potatoes is both horrifying and humanizing: horrifying because it’s gross, but humanizing because it makes me glad I’m not a pigeon.  (I did some research, and my pigeon aversion is justified: urban pigeons only live for 3-5 years on average.  I’d guess that obesity contributes to their short life span as much as reckless taxi drivers.)

Unfortunately, my encounters with pigeon folk don’t end on the mashed potatoes corner.  Across the street from the Midtown North Precinct of the NYPD, there is a flock of pigeons that sit along a row of fire escapes above the sidewalk.  Because cop cars are parked outside the precinct, the walkable sidewalk space is very narrow.  There are always a few unknowing pedestrians who walk directly underneath the pigeon latrines.  I narrowly missed becoming a target when a dazzling white drop splattered a few feet in front of my shoes.  So now, I just walk through the middle of the street, instead of risking it on the brightest sidewalk in New York.

gwbridgeBy 7:09 AM, I reach my shuttle stop on a corner outside of a McDonald’s.  The shuttle picks up every day at this corner, to drive all us Manhattan-based employees into New Jersey for work.  So at 7:10 AM, I climb into an unmarked white van and sit uncomfortably close to co-workers.  The shuttle driver weaves through West Side highway traffic, honking, cursing, and checking text messages.  One shuttle driver managed to swill a gulp of Listerine and spit it out while still navigating the road.  The passengers hide our fear by making small talk about the weather and swine flu, although more than a few can be seen with their eyes closed tightly, just hoping that it’ll all be over soon.  

 Around 7:30 AM, we turn onto the George Washington bridge, the gateway between Manhattan and the dirty Jerz.  At this time, our shuttle driver reaches for his Bible, which he keeps in a cupholder.  He holds onto the Bible for the entire length of the bridge, then puts it away once we reach the other side… about two minutes later.  Apparently divine intervention is not needed for Jersey.  But the rickety shuttle keeps us all praying.  With every lane change, I reflect on my mortality as if I were a potato-fattened pigeon: Well, I’ve lived a happy life (shuttle swerves).  My parents would be proud (car honks).  I hope they use my latest Facebook photo at my funeral (obscenities hurled).

Our shuttle finally turns into the office parking lot at 7:40 AM, discharging a group of relieved passengers and a shuttle driver with minty fresh breath.  One might question why I, along with so many others, put up with a commute filled with pigeon poo and pious shuttle drivers.  Well, having such a harrowing commute is like flying on a turbulent flight, or hanging out with Ahmadinejad.  There’s the stress once you’re there, but then the extreme exhilaration once you’ve gotten the F out.  So, once I get into the office, work is easy by comparison.  And plus, I have a muffin to look forward to.

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