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):

Good:

  • 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.

Bad:

  • 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).
  • 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:

920_broadway_nyc_litter.jpg

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

bkdunn_in_new_york_apartment.jpg

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.

bkd

Trip to Yankee Stadium (Before It Was Too Late)

All the convenience of a stadium built in 1923 with all the charm of one built in 1976. The building itself seemed unfortunate.

Was there back in June and, yes, am just now getting around to saying anything about it. Watched the Yankees play the Reds. I gave up Yankee-hating a few years ago and it wasn’t hard to root for them in this game. Andy Pettitte was great (until the rain delay took him out of the game).

Speaking of:

 yankee stadium reds rain delay

This never happened at the Kingdome. For as bad as it looks — and New York rain is amazing, never got anything like that in Seattle — the rain only lasted about 15 minutes, although the delay ended up running for an hour or so with all the tarp unrolling and re-rolling and field prep. It was interesting watching a game get played out with the anticipation that it might only go five innings (IIRC, the Reds brought their infield in while down one in the bottom of the fourth), even if it ended up going nine.

The stadium itself — it’s hard to say so, but I don’t think it’ll be much of a loss when they knock it down at the end of the season. The concourses are too narrow, there aren’t nearly enough entrances, concession stands, or bathrooms: classic hallmarks of its original build date. But then it was altogether too clear what happened to it in the 1976 renovation — the whole thing feels like concrete and bad signage. In style and finish, it really, honest, felt like the Kingdome (and nothing like Wrigley or even Fenway).

Seems like they’d have been better off not re-building. The LA Colosseum has tunnels that are less than six feet high, bizarre sight-lines, etc., but it at least makes sense. The place feels like its origins and you can still feel like you’re in a historic place. The re-built Yankee Stadium looks and feels like something only a Soviet could love. I feel like I saw similar in East Germany.

The impressive part of the game was the fans. And not just the guy sitting next to me who started throwing up in the first inning (he and his friend left immediately with many apologies and we felt bad for them). The people at the game actually knew baseball well, they knew the Yankees down through the farm system, and they didn’t do stupid things like cheer because they didn’t realize that a fly ball wasn’t going to make it out of the stadium. Even if I’d come in with a grudge against the Yankees, the fan quality would’ve made it a hard grudge to maintain. Quite a difference between Yankee fans and, say, Angels fans (ugh — with apologies to Joe, Elissa, and probably some other people).

I guess that’s good enough.

bkd

Review of Hotel 17 New York City

Went to New York in June for a conference. Except that I flew out Saturday and the conference didn’t start till Tuesday, so I was sort of paying for my accommodations for a couple nights and, given how ridiculous that is in NYC, found the cheapest clean non-hostel in the city (per its reputation), Hotel 17. I think this photo says pretty much everything.

Hotel 17 NYC Room Size

This is the entire room. There’s a microscopic TV and safe behind the door. Just off the right side of the frame is a sink without enough space around it to put your shave kit. The bathroom is down the hall (and shared by everyone on the floor).

Of course, I knew all that going in, which made it a reasonable experience (actually I was pretty surprised the room was *this* small). Plus, no, I really didn’t go to NYC for the sake of hanging out in the hotel room. Sure, it would’ve been nice to have somewhere to hang my clothes (?!), but, really, this room cost $109/night and to get any sort of material upgrade over it (say, to have a private bathroom) would’ve been another $50/night. For $50, I can use a communal bathroom.

The hotel was clean. The a/c worked. The neighborhood was pretty cool — just a couple blocks east of Union Square, which is one of my favorite parts of the city and which is one of the most useful subway stops in Manhattan (of course, I’d say that about any stop that has the 4 and 5 express *and* the R and W lines running through it). Lot of worthwhile restaurants nearby, about 15 blocks to the Empire State Building, about a 10 or 15 minute walk to Washington Square and the Village. Hotel staff were, you know, normal (in a positive, uneventful way). And I guess the most impressive thing about the hotel was how quiet the place was. Having lived in the city, I just expect to be woken up by backing-up garbage trucks three times a night (and by sirens another couple times a night). Here: didn’t hear a thing, slept right on through. That’s pretty impressive for me, microscopic room or no.

Conclusion: so long as you’re okay with the bathroom and not expecting to get anything done actually *inside* the hotel room, it’s recommendable.

bkd

(PS, We’ll see if this one works as search engine-bait. I’m guessing 50/50 on it.)