Monday, September 7, 2009

An Anti-Ode

It is difficult to avoid the lure of New York, especially as a theatre professional. Even if you aren’t dreaming of Broadway, New York has it all – or so it seems. Think your town has the goods? Maybe, but New York has ten times the goods you do. Communal costume storage. So many theatre festivals they double-up on spaces. And don’t even get me started on the food. Hey, artists have to eat to, and in New York you can eat just about anything you want at almost any time of day.

As I write this, I am being hurled out of the city by Amtrak after spending a truly wonderful few days with New York, some friends and the Fringe Festival. My dearest friends, mostly because we wish we spent more time together, continued a persistent nudging to extend my stay – permanently. There were moments – sipping my first egg cream, devouring a delicious Egyptian meal, tapping my foot to a delicious jazz quartet – when the notion was tempting.

So, I find that I need to take a moment and remind myself – and perhaps you, dear reader, why New York is not the place for everyone.*

  1. Ghosts: Despite being introduced to pockets to the contrary, New York has obliterated the majority of the architecture that indicates it was inhabited prior to the 20th century. I find new, or relatively new, buildings a little unsettling. There are no ghosts. I like imagining the hundreds of lives that have played out in the rooms where I’ve lived. I feel tied to not only a sense of history, but to an extended distant family that I am helping to perpetuate.
  2. What’s that smell?: Seriously. The distinct urban odor that can only come from the unique combination of 7 million people, billions of pounds of trash, exhaust and rodent excrement. Add the heat of summer, and you have a brew you can’t ignore. I only wonder what rotting horse corpses and open sewage added to the stew a century ago.
  3. Oh, I see: Perhaps related to the smell, is the brown-grey grime that cakes every structure, in every neighborhood across the city from stem to stern. Nuff said.
  4. You gonna pay for that: it’s expensive. No, really. The free show expects a two drink minimum, sure, but since you are likely far from home, dinner, transportation, and post-show drinks just jumped the cost of your free night out to endangering next month’s rent.
  5. You can’t get there from here: New York is big – really big. So, even if you live in the same city as some of your dearest friends, don’t expect to seem them unless they live in your neighborhood. When I told my same nudging friends that I could consider living in Brooklyn, they all lamented that they would never see me. Sure, they love me, but Brooklyn? Might as well still live in Boston.
  6. You are one in a million, or 7: For some, I imagine the anonymity is comforting, but I find it isolating. The constant battle for your place on the sidewalk, on the subway platform or anywhere wears on one’s politeness. Before you know it, you are elbowing old ladies and knocking over baby carriages just to get off the subway in time.
  7. The dress code: I’m no fashion plate, but I manage to leave my sweatpants at home most days. But minimal effort is not ok in The Big City. Never have I been given the incredulous label stare as extensively or as often as in New York. Even their ball team has a dress code, for goodness sake!
  8. You have to sleep in your Manolo box: Act now for your own overpriced, under-maintained shoebox. Seriously, bring your checkbook because a 1000 other people are waiting for that cardboard box outside.
  9. Taxes: In addition to your Federal and rather high state taxes, the city of New York charges additional taxes for the pleasure of shopping there.
  10. The privileged: Maybe you too found the elitism displayed in shows like Sex in the City and Seinfeld distasteful. But, not only are New Yorkers better than you, they are better than each other. Friends – dear friends and strangers alike reserve a special disdain for people from New Jersey, people who walk slow, the Bridge and Tunnel crowd, or the worst offenders of all – hipsters.

*This is list is not exhaustive and is highly subjective. I know there are many more things one could say in favor of New York, or to denigrate other cities. I am using a public forum to discuss my current personal emotional state. Nevertheless, I await your rebuttal.

2 comments:

Jack Rizutko said...

I think most folks who live in New York (especially those who have lived elsewhere) would tell you its not a paradise, but a place that has a lot to offer, offset by a lot of challenges.

There is a reason other cities bleed talent to New York, but its not like its the only place where art is made. Its just the most likely place to attract an audience and/or money because of the scale. If this blog is about Boston though, its always going to be apples to oranges when New York comes up.

Josie said...

I know you're probably not trying to be personal. I've never claimed New York is the place for everyone. I could make a list like this, with reasons why I shouldn't live somewhere, for ANY city, but ultimately I had to make a decision where to live. And, for me, the pros outweighed the cons.