Today is a good day in New York: it’s blazing hot, I found a place with affordable coffee near my new place, and only once did I have to sidestep day-old vomit on the sidewalk. Success!
Maybe I should start again. In the few months that I’ve lived here, I surprised myself by coming to love New York — albeit in the complicated way that you love a best friend who is all sorts of awesome but goddamnit does he have to chew everything so noisily? — but I never actually expected to like it. You know how some people have those fantasies (read: delusions) about a place? That if they move to New York, they will instantly become Audrey Hepburn beautiful, develop a cast of Friends friends, and finally make it big?
I didn’t. When I explored New York during a layover a couple of years ago, I thought it smelled like trash. Which was accurate, as there was a garbage strike at the time. But this time around, I learned a few things.
“Everybody is rude.”
People will tell you this a lot before you move to New York. Coming from a heritage of overly-friendly Dominican folks and polite Canadians, I was understandably a bit intimidated moving here. I may say a lot of mean things in my head, but outwardly I’m fairly polite, and I’m not good at dealing with confrontation (those who know me well know that I run away from it repeatedly until I can’t take it anymore and self-destruct in a Hulk-ish, roaring manner; those who don’t know me well get to stand by and watch, horrified).
But New Yorkers aren’t rude – they’re just honest, in a very refreshing way. I don’t find myself second-guessing people, since both enthusiasm and snarkiness are displayed pretty openly, which sets you on a fast track to deciding who you’d like to spend more time around. Considering many people here are also incredibly friendly, this is a great thing – New York is probably the city with the highest success rate of turning strangers into friends. On a nearly daily basis, I have an awesome genuine conversation with someone on the bus, at a grocery store, or just out and about. With New York’s population density, it just comes down to there being heaps of people for you to connect with.
That said — among that population, there are many people who have come here because they believe in themselves and want to make it big. That sounds like the touching plot line of a heart-warming Broadway show, right? Wrong!
Maybe I’ve just had bad luck, but many of the people I’ve met in NY share a common passion: themselves. I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve asked someone how they’re doing, only to receive a long-winded humble-brag – or just an actual straight-up brag – and often, they won’t even ask you how you’re doing in return. These are the entrepreneurs with slicked-back hair, models, clubgoing artists, and men who consider a polite smile the facial equivalent of dropped panties.
Again, this is where that filter of New Yorkers being very honest comes in handy. As your brain silently implodes, make up an excuse and run for your life.
It’s a concrete jungle.
This is a good thing because it breeds amazing creations: a candy bar? You mean I can indulge in Sour Patch Kids and liquor without judgment? All-vegan restaurants? How am I supposed to order anything off the menu with this many options? Hipster art shows and impromptu music fests in the park? Let’s do all of the things while hopped up on candy and cocktails! (You have to try really hard to be bored in this city.)
But there are two things in this concrete jungle that are just wrong. Dogs just straight up pee on the sidewalk. I mean, there aren’t even little patches of grass on most sidewalks. Or even the playgrounds! They’ve got this sad, grey, foamy shit on the ground in case little Tommy tumbles from the monkey bars. It’s a depressing sight. Zero kids and zero dogs should have to grow up in this city.
People do create a sort of method to the madness, though. A friend asked what I was doing recently, and my answer was “I’m waiting to start some yoga in the middle of Times Square.” This may be the most dichotomous sentence I’ve ever said in my life. But that’s the nature of New York: you can make a lot of warm, genuine connections in the middle of a fast-paced, crowded city. It’s an unappealing, sweaty mess of concrete and people – but in between buildings and pedestrians who don’t know how to walk properly, there’s so many unique events that you’re never bored. You will see strange shit (sometimes literal) every single day. And that’s awesome.
Some people hate it, some love it, some move away after a couple years of loving it. Come visit me!