I Heart NYC (But Not Really)

Unlike most people, New York City holds no allure for me. Sure, I think it’s a swell town, with lots going on, but I have no desire to live there. I don’t believe the streets are paved with gold, or that it’s the only place in the world to get a decent bagel. I appreciate its art and culture, and have enjoyed all the time I’ve spent there (a grand total of 9 days at various ages), but I don’t want to live there. Ever. I’ll make a long term visit, but I’m just not cut out to be a New Yorker. I have certain flaws that would make it impossible for me to survive there if not under 24/7 supervision.

For one thing, it seems that to live in NYC, you have to know which direction is North. Granted, North is always the same direction, but I move rapidly, and for the life of me, I have no idea which way is North and which is West or East or South. Knowing where the four points of the compass reside seems important if one is to live in New York and move from one place to another. I would always be lost, and I would almost never find my way home. On my last visit to the city, to visit my best friend who was studying there, I got lost within 10 minutes. Ophelia Fedora has been my best friend for seven years, and knows my penchant for getting lost, so she sent me very explicit instructions that I was to get off of my bus from Boston, go to the nearest subway and take an uptown train to the Times Square station, where she would meet me and escort me to her apartment in Brooklyn. This seemed simple, and I promised her that I would definitely be able to make my way to her, even though it would be after 10pm and past my bedtime. My bus left me at 7th Avenue, there was a subway station right across the street, and when I got to the platform, I checked the map, counted the stops to Times Square and boarded the train that was conveniently passing through. All was going perfectly according to plan! It was only after three stops that I realized I was not going towards Times Square, but away from it. I had ignored Ophelia’s fervent chanting that I should become an “Uptown Girl” and had boarded a downtown train. By the time I got off that train, worked my way to an uptown platform, boarded the correct train and made it to the Times Square station, I was giddy with tiredness and trains, while Ophelia was (probably) convinced I had sent myself to Yonkers, where I’d probably marry a plumber and never be heard from again. I believe my first words to her were “HI! I’m so happy to see you! I may have gotten a little lost…” to which she responded, “I figured. You took a downtown train, didn’t you?” She had even predicted that it would take me longer to get to her than a normal person in an email to a friend, stating “She gets a little loopy late at night.” Which is true, but I still say NYC Transit should mark its trains UPTOWN or DOWNTOWN so newbies like myself can safely navigate the labyrinth of the underground. Or they should at least tell me which way is North.

New York and I also wouldn’t be bffs because I don’t do well with a lot of choices. I have a terrible time making decisions, and it seems like living in New York requires you to make 34 extraneous choices every day. In which borough will you live? Where will you get your coffee? Bus, cab, train or foot? Yankees or Mets? The Times or the Post? Crack or heroin? (That last one is a joke…I’ve seen “Rent” a few too many times.) I like routine and order. At my favorite restaurants, there are three things on the menu that I order on a rotating basis. I drink the same coffee every day. The only choices I like are what to wear and what to read. If faced with too many options, I become flustered and either A) Take a downtown train or B) Order something with mushrooms (which I will inevitably regret.) Take something that happened a couple weeks ago. I was in my hometown, meeting my friends Penelope Bell and Staniel Knickerbocker for one of our weekly trivia nights. However, instead of playing at one of a chain of sports bars (I order potato wedges and a Diet Coke), we met at a local build-your-own pizza joint. This is dangerous territory. There were three choices alone for crust, seven for sauces and a myriad of topping options. After about 20 minutes of studying the menu, and taking recommendations from Staniel and Penelope, and repeating my order to them several times, I approached the counter, and immediately forgot everything I wanted on my pizza. While I ended up with something edible, it took me 4 times longer than the average customer to order. When I returned to the table, Penelope took one look at me and said “You blanked, didn’t you? You got up there and forgot everything we talked about. I knew it the minute you walked away.” Once again, my friends know me all too well, and I would definitely have to have one of them with me in NYC to navigate the daily choices. And also to let me know that crack is whack. Because that’s what friends are for.

In case you hadn’t noticed, there are lots of people in New York. Like, millions. And if I know one thing about cities, it’s that biohazards travel faster in large groups. I know how this works. One person coughs in Times Square and the next thing you know, it’s Zombieland. I would much prefer to take my chances in a smaller city without a Chinatown than know that at any moment I could catch avian flu from a pigeon. I like pigeons; I don’t need a reason to turn against them. Similarly, while Frank Sinatra seemed enamored of the idea of “that city that doesn’t sleep”, I cannot condone such behavior. Not sleeping just seems unnatural to me. Sleeping is NORMAL. Not only does going without sleep make me cranky, it’s something humans are supposed to do for at least 8 hours every day. I’m more likely to move to Spain and take daily siestas without knowing a lick of the language than move to a city where falling asleep in public might cause you to be arrested. Also, more people means less alone time. Don’t get me wrong, I love people, but sometimes you just need to hide. For example, during my 24-hour whirlwind trip to visit Ophelia last summer, we spent five hours in Central Park. It was totally worth the heat, but there never seemed to be a spot where we could just sit alone from the world and kvetch after two months apart. While hanging out in the Treehouse for Daydreaming, we seemed to find a temporary respite from the hustle and bustle, until we kept being interrupted by hordes of schoolchildren on their way to the playground. Cities are grand, but silence is golden. And while it would be nice to have access to a 24 hour Laundromat/movie theater, sometimes a girl just needs some space to be herself. And to sleep.

On a more serious note, there’s one final reason New York and I really aren’t compatible: alien attacks. I’ve seen “The Avengers” and every other movie where some extraterrestrial-interplanetary race descends on the city and wreaks havoc. I know Spider-man will come and save us, but it still turns me off a little bit. Having to deal with aliens and rush hour traffic? Yeah, not really my style AT ALL. I need to the reassurance that the Empire State Building will not be overrun with King Kong and his friends, the Flying Monkeys of OZ, and that the Statue of Liberty won’t be the first thing to sink beneath the oceans on the day after tomorrow. My imagination is much too overactive to live in a city when at any moment, Spider-man finally teams up with the Avengers, Al Gore and the Ghostbusters to combat Godzilla, the attackers from Mars, mutant crocodiles, the ghosts of Babe Ruth, Sid Vicious and Nikola Tesla and global warming. It could totally happen, and it could happen tomorrow. I’ve seen all the movies; I know exactly how this goes down. And if and when all of this happens, even Al Gore may not be able to stop these forces of evil from taking over the city. There are five boroughs and an otherworldly menace for each one, so don’t tell me I’ll be safe in Queens. No one is safe from this stuff if you’re in New York and even Thor’s hammer can’t do much against the forces of climate change. I’m just not cut out for this kind of stress.

So that’s that. I’m not sure I’m cut out to live in New York or if New York is ready to take on a neurotic, directionally-challenged champion sleeper. Some of my favorite movies and books (“You’ve Got Mail”, “Manhattan Murder Mystery”, The Chosen, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) are set in the city, and I love every moment that I can lose myself in those worlds without actually being there. On my next visit, I’m sure I’ll discover two more reasons to love NYC and five more reasons to stay far away. I’ve lived in medium-sized cities my whole life and I know I’m not cut out for country living. Supposedly, if I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere, but I’m not entirely sure what happens if you can’t make it there. Do you move to Canada? I guess I’ll find out. So, sorry, New York. You and I are just not meant to be. I only like you as a friend.

Regretfully yours,

Hannah

2 thoughts on “I Heart NYC (But Not Really)

  1. The Chosen is practically my all time favorite book! “when a fish rising to the fly gets caught on a hook, he begins with a fight…” think you just made me want to re-read it!!

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