I grew up on Long Island about a 45 minute train ride from New York City. My mother used to take me to NYC to go to the doctor and get her hair cut. Two things she thought you were better off doing in a city like New York. For me, the best part about ‘the city’ was that I got to go to a toy store near my mother’s hairdresser. And they sold muppet baby stuffed animals.
After spending time in Ithaca, London, and Boston, I finally settled my roots in the city I always thought I’d known but never really knew. Before I lived here, New York represented a place of wealth. A place where you could be and do anything. And you could do it bigger and better than anywhere else.
I soon learned that, not only is New York bigger and better, but it is taller than you. It is smarter than you. It gets better grades. And it wins more games. It gets the girl. And the boy. It can eat more than you and stay skinnier than you. And it has A LOT more money than you.
When I first moved here, I made $24,000 a year and I lived in a teeny tiny room in a 3 bedroom apartment that I paid $800 a month for (and that’s considered cheap). There was one week where I had $20 in my bank account and I ate the following: A banana every day for breakfast. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich every day for lunch. And pasta for dinner. One day, I got 5 dumplings for a dollar in chinatown and that was considered a splurge.
Somehow, I still managed to buy $15 martinis every weekend.
New York City is nothing if not completely impractical.
And when I first moved here, I thought the $15 martinis were the thing. The elaborate Broadway shows. The wild crowds in Times Square. The carriages in Central Park. The meat packing district clubs. The Upper West side penthouses.
As it turns out, that’s not New York at all. New York is 5 for a dollar dumplings in Chinatown. It is the markets tucked on the lower east side. The dog run at Tompkins Square park. Dive bars, cozy cafes, and used bookstores. The bike path up the Hudson. The deli on the corner. The bagel shop. The restaurants you have to walk downstairs to. Sunday brunch at the diner with friends. The toy store with the muppet baby stuffed animals.
It upsets me when people think that New York is high heels and Wall Street and Times Square and $250 broadway tickets and long waits at the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty. I was guilty of it when I first moved here. But if that’s all you see, you’ve missed out on the best parts of New York. They are the things you can’t see right away. You find them when you turn a corner you never turned before. And they don’t cost a lot of money. The best things are the things that don’t boast or make any promises at all.
Is there something about your city or town you wish people knew about?