Since the moment I moved to NYC I felt like I just did not fit into the stereotypical NYC mold. I did not align with the vision of a NYer you get when you close your eyes.
I often find myself walking around the city in awe. It still takes me a moment to truly believe that I live here. Apparently for good reason as I still run into people from my past who also get a very confused look on their faces when I say that I live in NYC. "You mean, in the city, the city?" I always reply with a resounding and apparently shocking "Yes! in Manhattan!" I am not totally sure for the reasoning for people's confusion, but I think part of it is that I grew up in a fairly small town in MA and the other part is just because the person I "was", growing up in that small town. I believe I even got the infamous "out of everyone, I never imagined YOU would end up in NYC!"
I am honestly amused by all of this and it makes me feel a little proud that at least I am still able to surprise people.
So, as I mentioned, I often walk around in awe. The sense of awe really stems from how unNYer-like I still feel, even after going on 8 years. I think I should clarify. Going on 8 years, I do feel like a NYer in so many ways. I appreciate all of the diversity and culture around me, I know how to hail a cab, navigate around the city, walk quickly, order anything under the sun for delivery, take advantage of the parks, museums and free activities, roll my eyes when people don't let others get off the subway first, get frustrated with people who still don't know how to walk with umbrellas in the city (this will be another post for another time), appreciate so many types of cuisine I never imagined having before, have no qualms with walking 20 blocks, have the talent to dress for any kind of weather (like the Post Office, NYers rain, wind, or snow, need to "go through") and know exactly where to get on the subway to ensure best exit strategy for work and home.
All this being said, I am not sure that any of the above mentioned are what people stereotypically think of when they close their eyes and imagine what their life would be like living in NYC. Maybe I am wrong and maybe people do think of these things. So, I guess I will attempt to put to rest any misconceptions those out there may have of my NYC experience. I say this all the time, but I will say it again. There are many realities of NYC life and I think, more often than not, it is not what is portrayed in the movies or on T.V.
I always joke that I live a much more "Seinfeld" version of NYC than "Sex and The City" version. Greg and I often joke that our life inside our apartment is very typical to how our life would be whether we were living in California, Uxbridge or Des Moines. Granted, we would have much more space in any of these places, but we are Patty and Greg, whether in NYC, MA or IA. We hang out with Norman, talk life, politics, our day, dreams and goals, watch T.V., listen to the radio, watch movies, play board games, clean and eat. I would say we have a pretty typical life inside our apartment.
So, first myth, amazing apartments. Now, do not get me wrong, we are very grateful for where we live, our neighborhood and the apartment we have. All of that being said, our apartment is tiny, falling apartment and in an incredibly old building. We live on a 4th floor walk-up, so if nothing else we are guaranteed some daily exercise, assuming we leave the house. We have had bed bugs (gone since 2008, thank god, don't wish it on anyone, we have some great natural home remedies if anyone out there has been battling them), had our bathroom ceiling collapse three times, have had our super fix radiators with CD cases, our ceiling with a trash bag. We have also had an awful mold problem in our bathroom. All of this as we continue to live in a tiny apartment, with rather unmatched furniture. Why do we stay here, you may ask, because our apartment is in an amazing neighborhood, rent stabilized, the thought of packing up everything makes me want to cry and it is our still our home.
I feel like all of the apartments you see that are suppose to be NYC (Friends, Seinfeld, Sex and The City) are totally inaccurate. Probably because you could never actually fit a camera crew in a real NYC apartment. So that is myth one!
Where NYC becomes amazing is outside of your apartment. So, to debunk myth #2, I think I first need to explain what Greg and I do in our free time. Living in the city is super expensive. That being said, Greg and I are always trying to find free and low cost things to do in the city. Most of our outdoor excursions include going to our favorite park--Carl Schurz Park, heading over to Central Park, going to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) to visit and for lectures, attending free outdoor movies in the summer, walking around to explore the many wonderful neighborhoods, heading to the 92nd Street Y for lectures and classes, etc. We try to find low cost activities.
So, I think I need to put the rest the amazing visions people may have of celebrities, parties, clubs, Broadway shows, fancy restaurant, shopping on Madison Avenue, etc. I think your life in this city varies hugely, depending on your circle of friends, career path, income level and neighborhood of residence. I guess I cannot debunk it for everyone, but I can debunk it as not Greg and I's experience. I have no doubt of the presence of the many more expensive ways to spend ones time and that there are many more people who do experience "that" NYC, we just don't.
This all being said, I think it would be a missed opportunity if I didn't also mention the many who are living in poverty in this great city. There are so many children and families who continue to struggle to make their families happy, healthy and successful. I continue to see numerous homeless people reaching out for help on the streets of the city. So, I just think it is important for people to remember that there are many versions of NYC and I can only dream of the day when everyone has the opportunity to be a part of whatever version they wish.
I feel like the 3rd myth for many is a myth of fashion sense, or at least my fashion sense. I can only speak for myself here, as I know so many wonderful people who have that fashion sense and are constantly able to wow me with their outfits of choice. Along with this myth comes my very different selection of shoes. Whenever I am in midtown or walking down Madison Avenue, I have little fantasies. Fantasies where I am a fashionista, but not just a fashionista, a fashionista wearing high heels. Where I can afford and fit into the clothes in those stores. I have no doubt I could be more of a fashionista on a budget, however, I feel like I missed that gene sometimes. I have absolutely no ability to walk in heels of any type. I have flat feet and I can only last a block or two in heels. I feel like I would almost need to wear them at home to mold my feet into them. My feet just don't feel flexible in that way. I am not sure how so many women wear them so often, walking to and from work, in the office. I give them all credit. I wince when I wear them, and walk a bit like a penguin. I also am not good at hiding my huge level of discomfort.
So, all this being said, this is what has caused my footwear to consist of flats, clogs and sneakers. Wearing sneakers in NYC more than most (ahhhh title of blog in a blog) I am often hyper-aware of foot attire. Don't get me wrong NYers are very active, so sneakers are worn all the time running in parks and in gyms, but not always as often walking the streets. So, while there are many in the city who have an amazing fashion sense, I continue to choose comfort over beauty. Sometimes when I match my flats, with my jewelry I almost feel like I have potential, a bit inspired if you will. Then I look in the mirror and realize I don't wear make-up and don't do any thing fancy with my hair. So, myth debunked.
How I live without a car, I think, is another point of amazement with many of my friends and family. I am not sure if this is really a myth, but I do think it is something that people that don't live in the city have a hard time grasping. I think I need to first explain my walkable neighborhood. Within let's say 10-12 blocks (not going to complicate with streets vs. avenues) we have multiple grocery stores, pet stores, CVS type stores, liquor stores, restaurants (any kind you could possibly imagine), hardware stores, retail stores, parks, video stores, bakeries, fruit stands, subways and buses, museums and salons. Every neighborhood and borough is different and there are some neighborhood and boroughs that do "require" a car to make life more convenient. Greg and I are very grateful that we live in a neighborhood where a car isn't necessary.
When we first moved to the city back in August 2004, we took Greg's jeep with us. We found a parking spot up in Harlem that was nearly $200 a month, just to park the car. We made a deal with each other that if we didn't use it/need it, we would sell the car. We were in the city for a month and realized we never even went up to as much as say hello to the car. It was a very easy decision for us, we decided we didn't need it and we sold the car.
Now this isn't all to say that owning a car wouldn't provide some convenience. There are probably times once every few months where we would love to have a car to travel up north to camp, travel to visit friends and family. It would be great to have a car and not need to take a bus back up to MA. It would be fun to have a car on-hand incase we ever wanted to go to Ikea, or anything like that. However, on a daily basis, we just don't miss it at all. I think we both even find it a bit liberating to not have a car.
This all doesn't even take into account the cost and inconvenience of having a car in the city. If you don't have a spot in a garage (think at least $200/month), you then have to find a way to obey the alternate side of the street parking rules. We borrowed my parents car at one point for a few days. Greg wasn't working at the time, thanks goodness, because it became almost like a full time job moving the car back and forth and trying to find parking. He would have to drive around for hours sometimes to find a new parking spot. So, seeing Greg and I both work full time, we would hypothetically need to pay for parking, whatever our monthly car payment is, insurance and then whatever gas money we need. No thank you!! I will continue pay $104/month for my unlimited metro card that I can use as often as I want on buses and subways.
This leads to my love for walking. Living in the city has totally changed my definition of what is walkable. We go for long walks (20-30 blocks +) on the weekends all the time. We walk for exercise, we walk to purchase things, we walk to get groceries, prescriptions, etc. Luckily for me, I have always loved walking. In Uxbridge I use to run and walk the block with my friends all of the time. It just suddenly feels unnatural for me when I go home to drive somewhere. Driving to CVS, which is probably on a few blocks in NYC terms, just feels bizarre.
This first time Greg and I really noticed our definition of "walk ability" had changed was when we went to Glacier National Park in 2009 for our back country trip. We settled into our hotel the first night and started walking around. It was starting to get dark and we were about 1/2 mile from the hotel when we realized we couldn't just walk around in the dark without the car, as we were in the woods, in bear country and had no clue where we were going. We both laughed and realized then, that in that sense anyways, we were true NYers. We turned around to get the car and decided to drive around instead of walk around.
I continue to work on feeling like a NYer. I think a lot of it is really all about what my own perception of NY was before I moved here. As a science and math liking girl who wears sneakers, I just don't come across as very NY-like to me. Although I guess the longer I am here, and the more experiences I do have, the more stereotypes are put to rest, the more I have confidence that this city may be for me after all!
Coming up next:
Pat, Patty, Patricia
What 5 year old teach me
And that's all she wrote...