There are so so so many drawbacks and pitfalls to being a NYC resident that tv shows and movies just do not portray. They glamorize our lives, our apartments, our run-ins with the rich and famous; and make living here look like a comedic piece of cake.
Although I cannot count how many celebrities I have sat near in a restaurant or walked past on the street in plain daylight, on both hands, this place, as much as I love it, drives us all a little crazy.
The sleek beasts of Tokyo and Barcelona and Switzerland are no where to be found on our island and its burroughs. Although they sound fast and have been upgraded in recent years, our subway system is comprised of a hub-bub of sputtering screetching square rail cruisers who simply stop, start, stop, start, and often just stop for minutes without more reason than “Train traffic ahead of us”. Now, we don’t buy this “train traffic ahead of us” explanation because we waited 15 minutes for this train, so the one that preceded it is now off cruising with a 15 minute advantage.
Now, the reason I started this whole post is because my Sunday was a nightmare. I decided to teach two sewing classes at the school I teach at part time in Chelsea. From my home, I get there in 30 minutes most days and even at rush hour on Mondays. I had to be there at 12:30 and left my house at 11:40pm, giving myself enough time to get there and breathe. I walked five blocks to the subway, went down the steps and was stopped by two MTA workers installing neon pink tape across the turnstyles. I asked if there were any trains because the L train is notorious for not running on several weekends a month, BUT there were no signs or posters telling us that they would not be running. The man, who spoke very little English, made a “turn around” signal with his left hand and said “shuttle bus”. Now, again, if there were no trains, they would have prepped us with posters lining the streets above the subway telling us to take the bus. There weren’t. I asked again, are there trains or not? He said “Dekalb (the name of the subway stop) shuttle”. I screamed “FUCK!!!!” and ran up the stairs because with all due respect, this interaction told me that I would be late, as the bus stops every six blocks, and takes twice as long as the train does. I went above ground and there were again no posters and no shuttle buses in sight. Then I heard the screetching sound of a train from across the street and ran down the opposite staircase to the subway going in the other direction. There was a woman down there who said that if we wanted to go to Manhattan, get on this train. Yes!!!!! We traveled a few stops and then there was an announcement that the last stop would be Lorimer, which is two stops short of Manhattan. I would be stranded in Brooklyn and there are no other trains in that vicinity that go to Manhattan. Figuring everyone on the train would be calling a car service to bring them into the city, I got off one stop before that stop, thinking I would beat them to it, but I didn’t. I repeatedly called the only car service in the area to busy signals. I started flipping out. It was now noon. I had spent a half hour going one mile and was stranded. I kept calling and running back and forth in circles uncertain of which way to go. I asked a girl who had successfully landed a cab if I could split it with her and she said no. I called my boss and she tried helping me get to a train. The MTA had offered no reason for why they stopped short and they “apologized for any inconvenience”. I started to get REAL MAD. Not only was I going to be late to work, I was going to have to shell out $20 of my own money to get there too. Okay, so this is where the story gets ridiculous and becomes National Lampoon’s NYC Adventure.
I start running in the direction of the J train, which is 15 blocks away. 12:10pm It is 70 degrees and I have two giant bags full of sewing supplies and lunch. I am sweaty as can be, I catch up with a bus heading in my direction to the train with five blocks to go. I get to sit and chill. Just then, I see the train station up ahead and push the stop button. I then ask the driver, “Is this the J train?”. He snaps at me, “You ask before you push to stop, you ask.” He doesn’t answer me. I get out and tumble up the stairs, legs and arms all over, and reach the platform, hoping I don’t miss anything. 12:20pm There is NO train in sight. Nothing. I sit right down on the platform and wait and wait and wait. Now, this train would not be taking me to my destination, instead it would take me to the F train, which I would transfer to, and then take five stops, then would have to go up to the street and then have to walk eight more blocks… I was late. After 10 minutes, a train came. 12:30pm I take this train, which is above ground and thus travels like a idyll monorail, looking over the Alps. While aboard, I check the MTA’s website to make sure that the F trains are running, in case I encounter another problem. There are no service changes. 12:40pm I get to the station and run towards the F platform, but am stopped by a group of people all looking at a sign, which says, No F trains at This Station. I scream and run back to the train I had just gotten off of. The doors are closing and I throw my foot in between them to stop them. The open up just enough to close again. I try opening them with my arms and so does a guy on the train, but they close quickly and the train leaves. I start crying. 12:50pm. I decided that because I cannot connect to anything that will get me remotely close to Chelsea and I am so late anyway, I will take a cab. Now, the location I am at is off of the Williamsburg bridge and most cabs will be traveling to and from the bridge with people in them. I start run-walking away from the bridge and try flagging cabs with no luck. They’ll all full. I walk about eight blocks and manage to flag one. I get in and thank him profusely. My cell phone dies, but thankfully I had alerted my boss, who was home for the day, to tell the intern at the office to keep my sewing students alerted to my whereabouts. The cab starts and stops, hitting most red lights until the East Village, where we start coasting through them uptown. 12:59 pm We reach 29th street, where the studio is, and turn left to head west, where we thereafter need to travel eight avenues. We move a block and stop. There is bumper to bumper traffic on a Sunday on a random street??? I stretch my head out of the open window and try to see what’s going on. There are cars as far as I can see. We sit still from my $7.10 toll to $10.00. The cabbie turns left at an intersection to go to another westbound street, but encounters the same thing. I ask him to let me out, not wanting to waste my money and time. I would run. 1:07pm I get out at Park Avenue, which is 4.5 avenues away from my destination. I start running and laughing. At this point, this is funny, a commute from hell. I get to Fifth Avenue and almost pee in my pants. The reason for the traffic hold up was a parade. There was a f$$cking parade!!!!? hahahahhahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa I run and run and swerve around tourists and Sunday leisurers and get to my building. 1:15pm I take the elevator up 8 flights, burst into the room to 6 angry students, covered in sweat, apologetic, and defeated. An hour and a half after I had left my house. Later that night, I realized that I had forgotten my keys to lock the office up and had to go to a coworkers house to get them at 10pm, but that’s another story… 2 subways, a bus, 20 minutes of running, and a cab later, I made it. I don’t know why we don’t revolt against the MTA…
Duane Hanson's The Tourists
Nothing is worse than a gaggle of camera-clad tourist families walking six abrest on the sidewalk of a very busy morning when you are running ten minutes late to a meeting, an audition, a job, or anything because your train was delayed due to “train traffic ahead of us”. Now tourists, I am often one in other cities, just don’t get that you cannot stand and stare en masse on a sidewalk at 9:03am on a Monday in Herald Square without getting mean looks, pushes, or “asshole!”. The tourists are wonderful for our much needed tourism-supported city consumerism, but when we need a bottle of water from a street vendor, they cause us to also get the price of $3.00 per said bottle or $8 for a hotdog. They’re everywhere and they’re annoying.
With that said, I will move onto THE PRICES HERE
You need a strategic itinerary to have a great meal and drinks in this town that aren’t going to total $90 for two. There is the wonderful “happy hour”, which exists all over the city, but usually ends at 7pm. In the city that never sleeps, that usually means slinking out of your office at 5:56 and taking off at lightning speeds to meet a friend for a drink before the minutes to happy hour tick away. There are soooooo many amazing, diverse, creative, inventive, strange, tradtitional, exotic, themed, you-name-it restaurants in this gigantic city, it’s hard to decide where to go most nights out. Even still, unless you’re making mad loot and don’t have to pay 80% of it to your inflated monthly rent, beware of having to shell out a half a week’s worth of groceries for a normal meal involving glasses of wine, entree and dessert with coffee. Your average cocktail in Manhattan runs $12-$14. Say, you’re a lush because New Yorkers like to drink, you’re probably going to be spending $56 plus tip for a night out on the town. Almost everything is expensive here.
THE GREAT NEW YORK APARTMENT SEARCH
Trying to find a great apartment in NYC is like trying to find meaning in a Pauly Shore movie, to quote Cher Horowitz. It’s F-ing tough. Unless you’ve got scads of cash, it’s almost unlikely that you will find a place that you’ll be perfectly happy in. You’ll either have unbearable roommates, leaky ceilings, broken toilets, mice, bedbugs, horrible neighbors, gunshots, a train going right by your window, a loud stinky bar below you, a crack-dealer super, screaming babies, an incessantly barking dog, you won’t have a bathroom sink and will have to wash your hands/brush teeth in your bathtub (my friend Becca), you’ll have maggots growing behind your sink because your roommates are slovenly (me in 2006), you have three walls and a curtain in your room because you’re renting the dining room (my friend Maryanne), you’ll sublet and later find out you’re paying double your roommates, and so forth. There are true hardships to overcome and get used to in this great city. There’s rarely a place to truly consider a haven unless, again, you’re rich. Even still, the rich undoubtedly have their fare share of problems as well. Can I also please please please clarify something? The apartments movies and tv shows depict us having are FALSE. If you’re a waitress or a coffee shop worker or an office temp or a freelance writer, you probably do not live in a 1,000 sq. ft. place on the Upper East Side. Also, Williamsburg isn’t home to 4,000 sq. ft. lofts for two, it usually involves like 8 roommates sharing that space and everyone is in a bunk-bed. I am not trying to be Negative Nancy over here. Again, I love this city, but the other day, I was like, shit, do non-dwellers have any idea of the hardships we face here every single day? One of those being that I have no large parking lot to house my large SUV that I push my large shopping cart full of well-priced groceries to. I schlep four bags of groceries nine blocks to the subway, push them under the turn-style, swipe my card, push them forward so I can push through and so no one steals anything, then wait for the subway and put the groceries between my legs so that they don’t fall over and spill all over the sticky floor, while holding onto a greasy germ-covered metal pole, then go 11 stops to my house, then walk seven blocks with said bags through wind, snow, sleet, sun, and exhaustion.
IF YOU CAN MAKE IT HERE, YOU CAN MAKE IT ANYWHERE BABY!!!!!
to be continued…