Tag Archives: new york

Deciding On Lew Yongeles

The New York Mantra: “The best place to take a bullet is in the girlfriend” — spotted on a  man’s t-shirt at the Food Emporium in Hell’s Kitchen… yes, he was shopping alone

The Californian Mantra: “We’ll melt your popsicle” – from the song “California Gurls” by Katy Perry… you know it’s a Californian song if they deliberately (?) misspell one-syllable words

In the past few weeks, several readers have emailed me about my semi-bicoastal life, asking me for recommendations about New York versus LA.  One person even wrote me a very long and sincere note, though our email correspondence fell apart after she asked if I could recommend any plastic surgeons out here in LA.  (Uh, no, but I would advise you to steer clear of the ones who advertise on bus benches.)

Since January 2008, I’ve lived for more than a year in both LA and New York, in Hollywood and Santa Monica, the Upper East Side and Hell’s Kitchen.  What I’ve learned is that, in our society, people fall into two separate yet equally important groups: the hardcore New Yorkers, who hope to crush, conquer, and rule the world, and the Dionysian Southern Californians, who seek medical advice from strangers.

These are my recommendations.

If you want to meet a wealthy guy who wears cuff links on the weekends and pretends to do cocaine just to sound like a nouveau-riche douchebag, you should live in New York.

If you want to meet a girl who barely looks eighteen, popping a morning-after pill while nonchalantly eating an ice cream sandwich outside of a CVS Pharmacy, you should live in LA.

If you want to start a political conversation with your foreign taxicab driver about the ethics of tax reform (“How can you possibly support the estate tax?  You drive a CAB!”), you should live in New York.

If you want to start a car radio showdown with an elderly gentleman driving a black Mustang and blasting Vivaldi in the middle of Please-Don’t-Shoot-Me Sketchtown (a.k.a. downtown Los Angeles), you should live in LA.

If you want to run into a throng of teenagers outside of a movie theater, badmouthing the high school slut who they call “Bobblehead”, you should live in New York.

If you want to run into a throng of middle schoolers outside of Hollister, giggling over the thongs they just bought, you should live in Los Angeles.

If you want to ride the subway with hunched, grizzly men who carry an empty coffee cup in one hand and a can of paint thinner in the other, you should live in New York.

If you want to eschew public transportation altogether and instead drive along a highway death trap (cue Commander Chuck Street, jovially, reporting the morning traffic: “Another casualty accident on the 405!”), you should live in Los Angeles.

If you want to see a pigeon eat couscous off the sidewalk while narrowly avoiding a splat! death-by-bicycle, you should live in New York.

If you want to see a golden retriever play Quidditch in an Air Bud-Harry Potter mash up for the ages, you should live in Los Angeles.

If you want to date someone who works at a glossy bank that is placing a big short on middle-class America, you should live in New York.

If you want to date someone who doesn’t have a job outside of going on auditions, working on his/her memoirs/screenplays, and exercising, you should live in Los Angeles.

…and finally,

If you want to live a normal, happy existence with 2.4 kids, a hanging tomato planter, a library full of James Patterson books, and a social life that doesn’t involve big red Solo cups, you should live in Westchester.  Or Pasadena.  Anywhere but New York or LA.

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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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Five Forces to Getting a Job

One of the virtues of being an alum is that people start asking for your expert advice.  This past weekend, I attended a business conference in Boston, where I met several ambitious young women who all want to land fancy jobs after college.   They showered me with a barrage of inquiries: What interests should I include on my resume?  What kind of suit should I wear to my banking interview?  What about job sites, high school achievements, appropriate networking etiquette?  Finance vs. consulting, pants vs. skirts, New York vs. not New York?  And, my favorite question (if only for its implications that I’m somehow a career sensei): How do I become as wildly successful as you are?

Well, I’m here to say that it’s tough.  Some people just aren’t born with my natural charm, superior intelligence, and strikingly good looks.  But even if you’re awkward, stupid, and heinously ugly, you could still get struck by lightning.  And in this metaphor, lightning equals getting a job.

Given that you’re all astute business students, here is a Porter’s Five Forces diagram to show how the job landscape.

getajob

So, good luck everyone.  And if the job thing doesn’t work out, you can always turn to blogging (or, moving to India).

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Oddities in New York City

In order to live in New York City, you must have at least one of three attributes: you have to be a) certifiably insane, b) oblivious, or c) an icebox.  Why is that?  Well, let’s break it down:

If you are a) certifiably insane, then you will fit right in with the wackos and the strung-out boozhounds in the city.  In my ten months living here, I’ve seen the following oddities in New York:

  • nakedcowgirla gentleman jogging in a thong onesie
  • a person dressed up as Spiderman, casually walking down the street, as if window shopping
  • an older woman dressed as the “Naked Cowgirl” in Times Square, with very little covering her backside…

Of course, you can still survive New York sans-crazy if you are simply b) oblivious. By oblivious, I mean that you will inevitably encounter the following, yet you still won’t bat an eye:

  • sidewalkfeces of all kinds, including, but not limited to: pigeon, dog, rat, human, and hybrid combinations of all four
  • smells… bad ones
  • and many a sidewalk puddle so disgusting that, if you were to be splashed with its contents, would compel you to burn your clothing, and perhaps chop off any appendage that encountered the filth

Lastly, to live in New York, you also must become c) an icebox. This is not a suggestion; it is an actual necessity, especially in these recessionary times.  If you have a heart while living in New York, you will likely end up broke, homeless, or jogging in a thong onesie through the Upper East Side.  Since January, I have been asked for money by:

  • homelessjesussolicitors in the subway
  • solicitors living in the streets (one, with a pet rat nesting in her hair)
  • solicitors imploring me to help the children, support the troops, feed the hungry, cure cancer, go green, buy booze, and welcome back Jesus

The great thing about living in New York, though, is that once you get past the insanity, the filth, and the ever-present guilt (“sorry, I don’t have any cash, but here’s a cough drop”), you can pretty much put up with anything.  There is nothing out there that can make you feel uncomfortable, because we’ve seen it all, right?

Wrong.

Tonight, I was walking home from work when I encountered someone else who was walking step-in-step with me.  Now, this doesn’t seem all that strange… until you think about the unwritten NYC pedestrian rule.  The sidewalk is like a one-lane highway.  You don’t ever have two cars on the same side of the road, going at the same speed.  You either pass, or let the other guy pass.  But for three blocks, this woman walked right next to me.  I sped up.  She sped up.  I slowed down.  She slowed down.  It freaked me out.  Finally, I took a detour into Duane Reade to see if she would follow me.  But thankfully, she went on her merry way.

Is it just me, or is that whole scenario stranger than the 70-year old Naked Cowgirl?  Or… am I just heading down the path towards (un)certifiably insane?

Help.

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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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Los Angeles vs. New York… Working to Live, vs. Living to Work?

Growing up in Boston and having gone to school in Cambridge, I had a strong conviction of East Coast superiority. I loved the history of Boston, the competitiveness in Cambridge, and, after spending two summers in New York, the pace of Manhattan. There was a gritty, dog-eat-dog mentality that permeated throughout the city, both up in the boardrooms and down on the streets. There was a toughness and an urgency that New York required, as evidenced by the fast walking, fast talking culture. And even though the suits could be parading around with million-dollar bank accounts, they all still carried themselves as if entering the school of hard knocks: brows furrowed, collars up, and wielding a vast repertoire of profanity.

Even with its rat-race culture, I loved New York. During my senior year of college, I interviewed solely for jobs that were based in the city. Having grown up in the ambitious East Coast lifestyle, it just seemed like a natural progression to move to Manhattan, with its promise of hard work begetting career advancement.

img_0387I ultimately accepted an offer to work in a program which required a year in New York and a year in Los Angeles. When I got my first assignment, I was devastated to learn that I was starting in California. On a cold, wintry day in Boston, I packed my bags and flew out to the West Coast. I figured I’d just wait it out for a year until I got back to New York, where my career would actually begin. After all, LA was about its actors and singers, smoke and mirrors, and Britney and Kevin. Instead of M&A, I figured I’d just find T&A. It certainly wasn’t the same type of professional environment that I expected in New York.

img_0383Throughout my year in LA, I did encounter many examples of the superficiality that I expected when I first came to California. Most conversations centered around the gym, the beach, or the latest celebrity debacle. Meeting people out on the town invariably turned into a casting session. There was an endless supply of aspiring actors, models, and dancers moonlighting as waiters, secretaries, and personal trainers. There was a sleepy, slow pace to LA, where people mostly ambled along. Furrowed brows and premature wrinkles were nonexistent, if not for the worry-free lifestyle, then for the rampant use of Botox.

img_0271To my surprise, I found myself drawn to many aspects of the laid-back, West Coast lifestyle. One huge part of this was the weather. When I first arrived at the Burbank airport in January, I was greeted by 65 degree weather and bundled-up Californians. My landlord, wearing a thick black parka, apologized for how cold it was. (Over my year in LA, I could count on one hand how many times it rained. Almost 90% of the days were over 70 degrees and sunny…even in “winter”. I remember going to the beach in February, and just like in the Corona commercial, feeling disappointed when a cloud would appear in the bright blue sky.) The beautiful weather was something I didn’t expect, and it seemed to justify the slow pace of LA. Lying on the Santa Monica beach in the middle of March, I remember feeling rather smug–while my friends back in New York were shuttered away in their tiny apartments, I was out on the beach every weekend, enjoying the sun. While they were trekking through snow and maneuvering through the NYC subway system, I was cruising down Ventura boulevard in my car, windows down, radio blaring. While they were working weekends and long hours, I was putting in ten-hour days at most, with enough time to go to the gym and still get a margarita after work.

img_0281Yet even with this carefree lifestyle, there were often times when I felt anxious about the life I was living. I almost didn’t want to get too comfortable… it seemed like I was getting complacent or soft. I worried that I was losing my drive and ambition to the allure of comfort and sun. I didn’t want to become the stereotypical airhead Californian, without a care in the world. I’d think of the negatives of living in LA (the superficial people, the earthquakes, the traffic, and the smog) and remind myself of my East Coast convictions. I was bred to be a New Yorker after all, and there was some built-in angst that I had to have. Even with all the comforts out on the West Coast, I was never free from anxiety about my career, future, and ambitions.

A week ago, I moved back to New York to start the second year of my program. As I sat at my austere desk and looked out on the gray horizon, I missed the carefree days of life in sunny California. I can’t help but reminisce about LA and its anti-New York philosophies: work to live, don’t live to work. Life’s too short. Don’t worry, be happy.

A year ago, I would have thought that these philosophies were just an excuse for being weak, lazy, and of course, soft. Now, I’m not so sure. I don’t think I can ever completely embrace either side. As much as I loved LA, perhaps I’m programmed to feel guilt for “settling” or being too comfortable. Perhaps I can’t shake that gnawing ambition and ensuing anxiety. But now that I’ve seen how the other half lives, I don’t think I can bear the rat race of New York. I’m still awed by the intensity and energy of the city, but I’m not quite as keen to be immersed in it. Maybe that means I’m more willing to sacrifice career for life, in order to have fewer wrinkles when I’m older. Or, maybe I just need a few more weeks to get used to the fast pace of NYC again.

At some point I’ll have to choose… but I’m probably just not ready to do it now.

Update (6/25/09): What I Love About New York City

Update (10/14/09): Oddities in New York City

Update (3/31/10): I’m moving back to LA … Guess I’ve made my decision, huh?

Update (4/30/10): Goodbye, New York

Update (6/7/10): Truth is Beauty, and Beauty is Los Angeles

Update (6/29/10): Deciding On Lew Yongeles

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Thanksgiving on Wall Street

thanksgivingWith the holiday season rapidly approaching, we are all looking forward to seeing our loved ones.  Thanksgiving is a time to catch up with old friends, hang out with obscure members of the family, and gorge ourselves on mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and turkey and tofurkey.  Of course, Thanksgiving is also a time to stretch the truth about how amazing our lives actually are, in order to one-up our cousins and give our parents something to brag about.  So, in order to impress Uncle Jerry and crazy Aunt Lisa, here are some responses that may be better than the cold hard truth.

Crazy Aunt Lisa: “So, what are you up to these days?”

You: “Well, I’m working in New York at [prestigious company] as a credit derivatives trader.” 

(Translation:  I’m probably going to be unemployed soon.)

Crazy Aunt Lisa: “Wow, that sounds mighty impressive!  So you work in one of those tall, shiny skyscrapers?  What do you do as a trader?”

You: “Essentially, we run complex financial risk models and look for arbitrage opportunities.  My personal responsibility is to oversee all the trades that come through my desk.  Right now we’re in a bit of a liquidity crunch, as I’m sure you’ve heard, so even though it’s been tough, we are working through it.”

(Translation: I spend most of the day trying to break down the firewall that prevents me from checking my fantasy football stats.  At lunch, I serve as the designated pizza bitch for the traders on the floor who are actually making trades.  A few months ago, I used to carry six or seven pizza boxes back to the office.  Now, given the tanking credit markets, I’m ordering by the slice.  The rest of the day, I take bathroom naps and think about how I spent $120,000 on my education to get to this point: where, after a year on the job, I am a glorified delivery person with a Brooks Brothers suit and the financial modeling skills of an orangutan.) 

orangutanCrazy Aunt Lisa: “My goodness… and at such a young age!  So do you get to see friends a lot, given your busy job?”

You: “Even though the job is demanding, I definitely try and make time to see my friends.”

(Translation: If I didn’t see my friends, I would jump out the window of my shiny office building.)

Uncle Jerry: “How are you all liking New York?  Are you staying out of trouble?”

You: “Oh, of course.  My friends and co-workers are all young professionals, and we are always trying to do something different in the city.  There is so much culture in New York.”

(Translation: Yesterday I woke up sprawled outside my apartment door with the imprint of my floor mat on my cheek.)

Crazy Aunt Lisa: “That sounds like so much fun!  You are just so accomplished already… I hope [your screwup cousin] can follow your lead. Do you know of any job openings there?”

You: “I can talk to the HR rep about it.  Getting into the business is tough right now given the market, but I will check, definitely.”

(Translation: I would not wish this job on anyone.  Not even my screwup cousin.)

Uncle Jerry: “So, do you think this is it?  Found your calling?”

You: “Well I’ve enjoyed the work, and it’s been a great learning experience so far… I’m not sure I want to settle on anything just yet, because I’m still young, but I’ve learned a lot about myself.”

(Translation:  I’m peacing out after two years.  I have no idea what I’m going to do, but I know that it’s not this…)

Crazy Aunt Lisa: “Sounds like you have it all figured out!  To be so young and so driven… what a success!”

You: “Yep, that’s me… Could you please pass the sweet potatoes?  And take some more of my BS… I’ve had too much.”

Crazy Aunt Lisa: “Of course, dear.

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