The Good and Bad of Living in New York City

It’s been about 2.5 years now since I left The City after an unfortunate eight-month stint. Before I completely forget what it was like, wanted to (screw it, I go now):


  • All you have to do is leave your apartment and it feels like you’re doing something.
  • Having “famous places” become part of your every day life. Walking by the NYSE on the way home from work every day, for instance. I don’t get to do that in Orange County. I get to drive past three different Ralph’s grocery stores on the way home instead.
  • Learning the subway system. That was fun.
  • Learning the city in general, for that matter. Knowing what and who to expect at Union Square versus Midtown, for instance. Learning the personalities of each neighborhood, street, and block. (Maybe not each, but certainly several.)
  • Close proximity to a lot of cool “back-east” places, a couple of which I visited (upstate NY, DC).
  • The ubiquity of delis, especially breakfast: ham, egg, and cheese on an english muffin. Capital “e” on English? Meh.
  • Once I figured out where the good ones were, the restaurants.
  • Walking to work sometimes.
  • Going to Times Square to gawk at the tourists.
  • It’s a cool place for entertaining visitors.
  • People watching everywhere.
  • Listening to people break up with their girlfriends/boyfriends at pay phones or on cell phones throughout the city. Beautiful sharing.
  • The good pizza places (that one between Union Square and Washington Square, for instance).
  • Going to Olive Garden (on 6th Ave. IIRC) and then telling the proud natives about how vastly you prefer it.
  • Getting good deals on expensive shirts at SYMS (SIMS)? Whatever. Good deals, expensive shirts.
  • Driving in Lower Manhattan. Somehow it always worked out and it felt magical. No joke. I always just happened to find the Holland Tunnel, despite all the one-way streets.
  • Seeing rats scurry along the subway rails. Seriously. It just seemed like the right animal in the right place at the right time and the world felt like it was in order.
  • Tuna burgers at Odeon in Tribeca.
  • Seeing the new staging of Sweeney Todd, the only musical that ever needed to have been made.
  • The Met and the Natural History Museum. Heck, even MoMA.
  • Changing clothes in front of my apartment window and not really caring.
  • The day the Trader Joe’s opened by Union Square and suddenly my cost of eggs decreased from $6/dozen to $1.50.
  • The color I painted my apartment — one of my favorite greens ever.
  • Thanksgiving with my boss’s family was pretty cool.
  • Watching the Strokes filming their “Heart in a Cage” video from my apartment window.
  • The Halloween Parade.
  • Having our office building catch fire. Twice.


  • I paid $2,300/month for a 400-s.f. alcove studio apartment.
  • I couldn’t afford $2,300/month in rent.
  • Not having enough room in the apartment to unpack the boxes I moved in with.
  • Never being able to sleep through an entire night due to neighbors’ conversations coming through the duct work and the infinite number of garbage trucks that reverse-warning beeped throughout the night.
  • Turning any given corner and smelling garbage.
  • Having to deal with weather every day. Much of it bad. (I lived there from November to June.)
  • Never knowing which clothes to take with you in the morning because it was likely the weather would shift by 20 degrees in any direction at least once during the day.
  • Crowded rush-hour subways.
  • Subway “performers” and panhandlers.
  • Paying $5.50 for a loaf of bread and then having to carry eight bags of groceries for 12 blocks to get them home.
  • Coming to understand what “wind chill factor” (we don’t have that in the west) and “raining in sheets” mean.
  • The MTA strike.
  • Most of the good restaurants cost $40+ a person, so it’s not like you ever get to eat there anyway.
  • No Carl’s Jr.
  • Living on Manhattan Island felt like living in the dorms freshman year at BYU: the campus is our world.
  • Having to park my truck in New Jersey and still paying $150/month for the privilege.
  • Never knowing when or why to tip the door man/concierge.
  • Never having any money to do anything and therefore spending thousands in savings while supposedly gainfully employed. (Well, like two-thousand, but still.)
  • Going out with that one girl I sort of liked, but who told me two-thirds of the way through the date that she didn’t want to go out with me again because she was only interested in raving extroverts.
  • Walking by policemen with M-16s every day. I thought that only happened in Peru.
  • Having every tourist that came to town think that going to “Ground Zero” was somehow worth doing. It’s just a hole with a train station in it. There’s nothing to see. Honest.
  • Traffic everywhere other than Lower Manhattan and New Jersey (e.g., Queens, Brooklyn). Sometimes it made me wish that I had an aurora pool inground to chill in at the end of a hard day to get away from it all.
  • When the R-train would depart Canal Street on a Saturday night and then suddenly take a left turn that it didn’t usually take and then wouldn’t stop until you were all the way in Brooklyn and the MTA not actually telling you it was going to happen.
  • Sharing office space with that photographer dude whose specialty was taking boring photos that were slightly out of focus. And knowing he made money doing it. Ugh.
  • No one to do anything with ever.
  • Being above the median age for an adult in the city.
  • All the people there that made appointments with me via Craig’s List to come see my apartment and then never showed up. Plus all the people who did show up, said they absolutely wanted the apartment and then changed their minds after I set up an appointment with the apartment management for them and stopped showing the place to other people.
  • Never found a softball or baseball team.
  • Having to be the “fire warden” for our floor in the office building because when the guy came everyone else on the entire floor was at lunch.
  • Second-highest average state tax rate in the country, not to mention that there’s a New York City income tax.
  • It just cost too much and the job as constituted wasn’t a good fit.

Some pictures:


This was the building that I worked in (as reflected in a puddle of water across the street from it).


Me in the apartment. All the stuff you see on the floor is there because there’s nowhere else to put it. And those two shaded windows in the photo comprised the entirety of the windows in my apartment. Just $2,300/month.

And thus ends New York City. Those are two pretty long lists for eight months. It was an eventful eight months, I guess. It’s an eventful place. I’ve really liked going back there since leaving it — probably the best place in the world to visit on an expense account. I really, truthfully, honestly like New York a lot — just not for living in.



  • Chris Bigelow

    In my lifetime, I’ve often felt a good deal of suffering that I never got to live in New York City, so this helps. Once I even took the bus down from Boston to interview for an internship at “Opera Digest,” and when I got to the building, I learned that the referring agency had left “Soap” off the name. Still, I would have taken the internship in an instant if they’d offered it, just for the chance to live in Columbia housing for the summer and really experience NYC.

    I’ve been able to spend some quality time in NYC three times in the past five years, and now I find myself feeling no great need to get back anytime soon. Considering it together with our Paris/London trip earlier this year, I’m pretty tired of museums and plays/musicals, and doing much beyond that takes too much planning and effort. It turns out what I like to do best in big cities is walk around and look at the architecture, the businesses, and the people.

  • bkdunn

    For as much as I didn’t like living there, I absolutely like having lived there. It was a good experience to have had and I’m starting to wonder if it isn’t about time for another one.

  • s2k

    Any state that explicitly prohibits its citizens from buying an AUG can fall into the drink. I’m surprised that didn’t make your Bad list.

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