Tag Archives: New York City

In New York City: The Big Apple Hanging from a Tree in Eden

imageAfter exploring the madness of Manhattan today, I finally made it to Central Park where I could sit and try to finish what I think is the most boring book ever written. It’s called Brooklyn and I recommend it only if you want a book with absolutely no surprises.

I’d wandered for what felt like days through deserts of people and Duane Reade’s and Starbucks packed to the gills with people who asked to have their order changed and then accused me of taking their iced coffee. Swarms of people from every walk of life and if you looked anyone in the eye, they stole part of your soul. At least, that’s how it felt so I kept my eyes down or around.

All I wanted was to sit under a tree, which I finally did. I read my book and it was awful but awesome and I watched the legions of runners and bikers come over the hill, each one chasing their dreams of fitness. Some of them had already attained their fitness dreams and had revised them to make sure they still had something to work for.

It seemed they were all rushing off to the same place.

I thought of the book I had just read on How to Be Idle, which elevated taking it easy to a political act. Instead of rushing and trying to get things done quicker to make time which will invariably used for more work, the book advocated slowing down and taking the long way, to take up and use as much time as possible for truly living.

Busyness is infectious. When among bustlers, one bustles. When among joggers, one feels the need to jog or feels guilt and perhaps sadness at not jogging. When among people wearing nice shoes, one notices their own shoes more.

I don’t begrudge the joggers for jogging. I would probably do the same if I had been wearing athletic clothes. I do, however, begrudge the culture that promotes such falsehoods as faster is better and efficiency is happiness and more is better. I think these are lies. Like always, the truth is more complicated.

As I sat under the tree I contemplated how I’d exchanged one type of crowd on the city streets for another that was sprinting through the park. The latter was preferred because of the surrounding plantery but it was still interesting to consider how they were fruits of the same tree.

That’s why they call NYC the big apple. It’s an apple tree in the garden of eden, and it is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life and a coffee bean tree all rolled into one. But remember, once you taste it there’s no going back.

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13 Signs I’m Totally Becoming a New Yorker

the donut we chased for

the donut we chased for

New York is changing me. I’m paying more for regular things, getting jaded by the everything that exists here, and being ruder to strangers and kinder to friends.

Just today, I did things I would have thought unfathomable five days ago. Perhaps you want to know what they are? Well you’re in luck, because I outlined them below. You can tell  I’m turning into a New Yorker because:

1. Paid three dollars for a regular cup of coffee (it wasn’t even a pour over), and then an hour later paid another three dollars for another regular cup of coffee at the same place. No free refills.

2. Traveled thirty minutes via subway to see a graveyard, only to find the gate closed and the only entrance very far away. So I turned around to walk in a park for twenty minutes before heading back thirty minutes to where I came from. Essentially I trekked for an hour just to see a clump of trees.

3. Ate dinner, then went on a crazed car ride fifteen minutes through traffic across Brooklyn to eat a donut from a place called Dough before it closed at 9. The donut was actually fairly incredible but I’d never traveled so far or so urgently for dessert. But in New York, no desire is too ridiculous to be satisfied.

4. Paid twice as much to have my laundry washed and folded for me. When the woman tried to charge me two bucks extra, I called her out on it and got my two bucks back like a real New Yorker. Then I bought an ice cream sandwich.

5. Wore a tank top.

6. Took a nap sitting up.  No time to lay down in New York.

7. Successfully gave directions to two different people. Apparently everyone else also just got into town a couple days ago.

8. Searched on Yelp for coffee shops near me and was like, “Really, only 8 places within four blocks? So I’m pretty much in a coffee desert.”

9. Searched on Yelp for ice cream places near me and was like, “Really, only 7 places within a mile? Only 7 different artisan ice cream places? How the heck am I supposed to choose something if there are no options? I need options, people!”

10. Ran through a warehouse district and remarked on how pleasant it was because there were less people there.

11. Thought about going to Manhattan, then realized it was practically a lifetime away and opted to stay in Brooklyn.

12. Thought about trying out half-shirts and buying a hat.

13. Rolled my eyes at vintage stores in Williamsburg. Those are so overplayed.

14. Think I’m so New York.

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Wanted: Eligible Greek Bachelor with Large Extended Family in Astoria

imageTonight, I ate Greek food at a restaurant in Astoria and realized I have it all wrong. My dreams of being an actor, comedian and talk show host all crumbled into dust as I wolfed down lamb and potatoes and watched burly Greek men taking orders. I don’t want a life in the entertainment industry at all.

What I really want is to marry into an extended Greek family and help manage a neighborhood restaurant while raising a family of six boys and a goldfish.

Stavros and I would meet at the restaurant one day. I’d be biting into a flaky pastry dessert and he’d come over to ask how the food was and then our eyes would meet and we’d be married within the month.

We’d move into a building the family owned down the block from his parents house. After leaving the restaurant, Stavros and I would go by their house to say hi and end up spending an hour chatting with them on their front porch stoop, the neighbors joining in the conversation as they got back from work.

We’d have children and watch them grow up and play sports on the street and get involved in the local chapter of the Greek American Organization. They’d get boyfriends and girlfriends (except for Melina) and go to high school and get into college (except for Spiros and Lars – they would be taking over the restaurant) and as the years pass we would watch the neighborhood change and remark on it with his parents on the stoop of their front porch.

Business at the restaurant would wax and wane and the menu rarely change. We’d keep up with the regulars as great tragedies and joys happened in their lives and we’d go to countless weddings and funerals and get togethers and Greek Orthodox celebrations.

Stavros would have a hairy barrel chest and a strong nose. I’d look very not Greek but do my best to keep up with everyone, and on Sunday evenings when we didn’t have to work we’d walk down the main street in Astoria and say hi to our friends, enemies, nuisances, grandchildren, children and everyone in between.

It would be a different, less glamrous life, but it would be rich.

And that’s why I need to be careful about making big life decisions on a whim and too soon before or after a meal. Things can get carried away.

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In the Bowels of the Beast: The New York City Subway

subway trash

subway trash

To enter the New York Subway system is to leave postcard New York City and experience its bowels, a system of interconnected tunnels that merge and gape and fill with garbage and rats and the ashes of broken dreams.

What could be easier than trying to get from point A to point B? What could be simpler than just following the train line with your finger until you land on what looks like Canal St. and say, “Looks like we’ll need to transfer to the J train there and then get off at Melrose.”

What could be simpler? What could be more difficult?

Because you have no idea that there is a vast sea of information about the subway system that you don’t know. In fact, everything you don’t know about getting from point A to point B using the subway would fill entire tomes. Encyclopedias could be written on how to do the very thing you think you’re about to do, and there would still be more to say.

Because you think you’re about to go from point A to point B, but really you’re not even at point A. You’re at point 1, and taking the train you think you need to take will get you to point D.3, which would be okay except it’s the weekend and the train isn’t running at all. So you’ll have to get from point D.3 to point 72, and then take a courtesy shuttle to point E (which is the closest you’ve gotten and you just consider walking at this point).

But you wait it out at the platform for 20 minutes until you realize that you’re heading in the wrong direction and you need to go Uptown not Downtown and as you run up the stairs and almost slip and fall in a puddle of subway water leaking from some godforsaken place in the ceiling (which is really just the floor of the previous level), you see your Uptown train departing and you sigh in despair. It’s 2:30 a.m. and your feet are screaming and you have no book to read.

So you wait it out at point E for the right train and watch the rats and when the right train comes and you go one stop and it’s clear you’re heading in the correct direction you thank God and realize finally that this exercise is not one in knowledge – not at your level.

It’s an exercise in faith and patience and belief in a higher power. It’s about the stupid, idiotic, blind hope that if you try at something for long enough, and even if you make gigantic embarrassing errors along the way, you’ll still get to where you need to go, and the trains won’t stop running.

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Eating Flesh with All the Other New Yorkers in Mordor

SoHo fashion ghetto

SoHo fashion ghetto

I’m in NYC now, the Chobani cafe in SoHo to be exact. Everyone here is beautiful. Many people have shopping bags and are wearing patterned clothing that is expertly mixed. Also, since when does Chobani have a brick and mortar store where I can buy a $2.50 coffee or get yogurt creations? It’s a crazy world.

I’m in a fashion ghetto. There are designer stores as far as the eye can see, and everything except the trash on the ground screams I’m not good enough. Even the pigeons look groomed. Thank God I wore all black today. Maybe people will think I’m making a fashion statement and not just wearing the top layer of my backpack. Also, since when do I care what people think? New York is changing me.

If you ever wonder where all the attractive people in your hometown have gone, they are either in California or NYC. There are too many people here to fall in love with. My heart can’t take it. But could I date a man who spent more time thinking about his appearance than I do? Could I date a man wrapped up in his Warby Parkers and the New York lifestyle? Is that what I want for the children?

When I got in last night, the friend I’m staying with in Brooklyn told me that New York City is Mordor, that the people who inhabit Mordor are orcs, and that orcs eat human flesh. We are human flesh eaters.

San Francisco is too shiny, I said. I need something dirtier.

New York is the grossest place on earth, he said.

Good, I said.

He had to leave at 4:30 this morning for work at the cafe and gave me directions to the subway. It’s just around the corner, he said. The vagrants will help you find it, he said.

Good, I said. In the morning, I remarked on just how much his neighborhood reminded me of Cairo.

I sat today on the High Line – the former above-ground railway turned into walking path/garden/park – and read the book I bought in Capitol Hill. It’s called “Cowboys are My Weakness.” It’s a collection of short stories about women who fall for burly, hunty, meaty, cowboy type men and are invariably hurt by them. It’s not exactly feminist literature, but Chobani isn’t exactly a coffee shop. Sue me.

In one of the stories, a woman flies to New York to meet up with a man her father knows. He plays a Texan cowboy in a soap opera. They kind of fall in love in Chelsea. I’ll be in Chelsea tomorrow night.

Cowboy, if you’re out there, meet me tomorrow at UCB. If you’re the one for me, you’ll know what that means.

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