So… I’ve actually been away from New York for a few months now, but it takes a while for the shock to wear off.
…and it’s impossible to cover NYC in a single blog post. I was there for an entire year, for one thing, and can’t possibly fit everything in. For another, it’s like taking a picture of a chameleon. It’s not that it’s particularly hard, it’s just that any picture you get is going to be wrong. The place can be Brooklyn home-brew made by a guy in a baseball cap. It can be the boho-chick cruising in the Lower East Side for The Pert and Lacy Vintage Find. It can be Wall Street rushing with tourists and suits, or the subtle, thrilling ahem of Trinity Church’s bell. It can be the always-endearing smell of smog in the Bronx. It can also be the drunk guy who asks you for directions and then heads in the direction opposite from the way you pointed.
Or maybe it’s running in Central Park. Dumplings around the Bowery. Shopping in Chinatown. Chess by Union Square. Bar-hopping in the Village. Weird conversations with complete strangers at the Met. The variety is fantastic, but part of the reason there’s so much variety is because New York is schizo. It’s a technical term: schizo. NYC is just plain huge, and if you can manage to cram one and a half million people from different cultures and backgrounds on an 34 square mile island without getting anything interesting out of them, then you deserve that particular hell. Of course there’s also the M&M in Time Square, Broadway, the Chrysler Building, Grand Central, JFK, the MOMA, stuff like that. You know, tourist-bait.
Another reason I get along with New Yorkers: they loathe tourists. I even hate tourists when I’m a tourist. So when I say I don’t think New Yorkers are rude, you should probably take that with enough salt to give you a heart attack right here and now. As far as I’m concerned, if you’ve got a fellow ‘ugly american’ standing in the middle of a crowded street — full of people with actual places to go — to take a yet another crappy picture of yet another monochrome skyscraper, you are totally entitled to bitchslap their ass.
If they ask you how to get to the Statue of Liberty… well, it’s a matter of taste. I like to point south and say something like “It’s real big. You can’t miss it.” And the Bull? “It’s somewhere around Wall Street, right?” Or I bob my head up and down and pretend that I speak nothing but Spanish.* And don’t bother holding out hope for the occasional nice person. Basically there are people like me, and then there are the ‘mystical givers-of-direction.’ E.g. “on Tuesday take 2nd avenue down to 27th street and turn widddershins-wise three times, if an Edible Bouquet truck appears, knock on the basement door in 7/8 time, and a leprechaun will pop up to guide you into the secret compartment of the thrift shop. Or not. But only try it on a Tuesday. Otherwise you’ll be stuck in the land of Left New York.” There’s something about New York encourages this kind of superstitious mode of navigation, though I’m not sure exactly what it is.
Perhaps you’ve gathered by now that I have no tolerance for people who can’t read maps. None. The one good thing about the subway system (which is otherwise terrible and prone to delays and/or explosions) is that there are maps posted everywhere, in multiple languages. All you need to do is find a subway station, and the entirety of New York is yours for low, low price of $2.50. Read:
Of course, I understand that if you’re a tourist, you might not even ride the metaphorical Ganges that is the subway. I wouldn’t. Not if I was there to have a good time.
…and tourists… they don’t really understand what they’re seeing is just Manhattan. Manhattan is not New York. Most people never see New York. Mostly because everyone is still too scared to go to Brooklyn. Which is odd, because it’s already becoming the new Queens — that is, boring and gentrified — and I found everyone from Brooklyn to be really nice. It’s the ones from the Bronx you need to watch out for. Seriously. That wasn’t just a joke that fell flat. They’re scary.
I learned a couple of really interesting things from my time in New York: a) you can wear almost anything as long as you wear it with heels and while driving a Mercedes, and b) there’s actually no free WiFi in many parts of the East Village. And I have a lot of pictures. Enough to bore several future generations
*I’m pretty white, as white girls go, but I’m told that that if I speak Spanish rapidly enough and messily enough I can pass for Puerto Rican.
EDIT: Also deserving of another mention. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is easily my favorite New York Thing. My dear old mum feels very strongly that I should tell the entire internet that admission is still free. Essentially. It’s actually pay-what-you-want and the suggested $25 ‘admission donation’ is just that, a suggestion. This means, of course, that if you tend to hang out with embarrassing people (as I do,) they will use a nickel to pay for the entire party.