Thursday, July 03, 2008

"Things I Love" Thursdays - The Lessons of Living Here

Things I've learned in New York over the past year and 11 months, which by no means makes me an expert ...

- How to minimize my most frequent commutes by minutes at a time, by simply knowing where to stand while waiting on the subway platform so that I exit the train near the stairways to transfer trains or station exits at my destination; sometimes a few seconds is the difference between catching the next train and waiting for the next one (5-10 minutes during rush hour; 30+ minutes after midnight).
- When you are happy in New York, everything glows. The energy of this city truly magnifies any emotion - excitement, sadness, anger. Whatever you are feeling, the streets will increase its intensity tenfold.
- Where there are pennies embedded into the sidewalks and streets in my old Harlem neighborhood.
- That a 4-floor walk-up is French for fifth floor (or four flights of stairs to the fifth floor) and also means that you have to pay extra or make special arrangements for deliveries beyond the third floor.
- Many of the apartments posted for rent by brokers on craigslist can be rented fee-free if you can find the apartment's landlord or management company yourself, but you also run the risk of not getting the apartment at all if another application gets accepted while you're still investigating.
- If your destination is less than two subway stops away, it's probably just as fast to walk.
- There are two reasons that a subway car may be empty during rush hour: (1) the A/C isn't working; (2) there is a homeless person on board who hasn't showered in a long time.
- For the average person, living in New York is not back-to-back episodes of "Sex and the City", but sometimes you have your Carrie-, Miranda-, Charlotte or Samantha-moments.
- Walking in the streets of New York is the best way to get around the city; a coworker once mentioned that she read that New Yorkers walk an average of five miles a day (my roundtrip to and from work alone is roughly two miles).
- Brunch is generally from 10am to 4pm any day of the week.
- Not to get offended every time someone bumps my shoulder (although my reaction most often depends on my mood); sometimes you just forget to say "excuse me" to everyone you bump in the city, which can be a lot of people.
- However, don't be one of those trite and contrived people, who moves to NYC and loses their manners and niceties just because they think that is what makes them a New Yorker.
- New York really does have the best pizza and sandwiches.
- It's ok if you can barely make your rent, you were just fired, your boyfriend left you and your dog died; you get the utmost respect if you're still getting by in this city. It's not like L.A. where you have to be somebody or know somebody to earn respect; if you don't have anything popping off in New York and life sucks, you find the best friends ever.
- Name droppers are annoying, but they're all around us.
- If you fall down the subway stairs at 86th and Broadway after too many margaritas on Cinco de Mayo, New Yorkers will do everything in their power to catch you.
- If you fall in any public areas regardless of alcohol consumption - or lack thereof - you will not feel embarrassed because you will likely never see any of the witnesses again.
- New York is the smallest big city in the world. I've run into my Harlem manicurist on 46th and Madison, random friends on the train or in various eateries, coworkers in bars, and my roommate saw the same guy at an apartment open house on 109th Street and at a P.C. Richards on 23rd Street in the same week.
- Even streets generally run east; odd streets run west - with a few exceptions: 14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th, 72nd, 86th, 96th, 106th, 116th, 125th, 135th, 145th and 155th Streets, which were generally determined by where the ancient Native American footpath that became Broadway crosses a north-south avenue, and the "squares" of New York often exist at these intersections (special thanks to the history programs aired on NY1).
- The mucus that comes out of your nose is often stained from the city smog.
- Your immune system is constantly being challenged; get plenty of rest and exercise, eat well, drink lots of water and take your vitamins.
- NYC apartments are very dry in the winter and static shock is frequent.
- There will always be scaffolding.
- If you walk too close to some buildings (most often residential), water from an air conditioner may drip on you.
- If you stand or walk too close to the curb during or after heavy rain, you will likely get splashed by passing cars.
- Rainboots go with anything.
- Pick up your feet when walking; the sidewalks and streets can often be rugged terrain.
- The best nightclubs are often on non-stiletto-friendly blocks (e.g. cobble stone, broken pavement)
- Be aware of separate uptown and downtown subway entrances; not all stations let you decide if you want to go uptown or downtown after you've swiped your MetroCard.
- The four numbers on top of a taxicab will be lit when it's available; these lights are off when occupied; and the four lights plus the off-duty lights on each side are lit when it's not in service.
- The rats are not afraid of you.
- Many subway lines make all local stops on the weekends and have rerouting schemes that generally do not make sense to anyone who is not employed by the MTA.
- Avoid sidewalk grates if you are likely to be that one, rare person who ends up falling through and gets the surveillance video of the accident played over and over on CNN.
- Street meat is awesome.
- Street blocks are generally short (20 street blocks = roughly 1 mile); avenue blocks are long (4 avenue blocks = roughly 1 mile) - with a few exceptions, which include Fifth to Madison, Madison to Park, Park to Lexington, and Lexington to Third, and Seventh to Broadway and Broadway to Eighth in Midtown.
- Seventh Avenue is Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard and Sixth Avenue is Lenox Avenue in Harlem; Eighth Avenue becomes Central Park West and then Frederick Douglas Boulevard, Ninth Avenue becomes Columbus and then turns into Morningside Drive, 10th Avenue becomes Amsterdam, 11th becomes West End, 12th Avenue becomes the West Side Highway.
- There is a mathematical equation to determine a cross street if given just the building number, but who is going to memorize it? But an easy rule of thumb is that Fifth Avenue divides the city by east and west and building numbers get larger in east and west directions as you get further from Fifth.
-Happy hour is seven days a week at many establishments where adult beverages are consumed.
- The city does sleep - just at irregular intervals.
- Don't feel bad if you do not take the leaflet or newspaper being waved in your face on the street.
- This city will humble and strengthen you simultaneously.
- Put some good walking playlists on your iPod.
- There are a lot more trees in Manhattan than you may expect.
- Bring something to read, play or listen to on the train.
- Don't take up a seat when your stop is next, let people off the train before you push to get on it, and maybe try not pushing.
- Holy days, especially those of the Jewish faith = great subway commutes and empty offices.
- Meeting at 11pm, midnight or 1am for a social gathering is normal.
- Fast food lingo: "To stay" in New York is the same as "For Here" down South.
- The strength of the Euro continues to increase sales at Bloomingdale's on 59th Street despite the dwindling U.S. economy; Europeans are also taking advantage of the U.S. dollar by buying real estate.
- Try to be early instead of on-time because the subway system will make you on-time if you plan to be early.
- You will see something sad almost every day, but you'll learn not to let it bother you.
- "Right on red" is not a legal driving rule in the city.
- You never know when you might be walking next to the CEO of a major company or the assistant of a celebrity or New York power player; the discrete and unpretentious ones won't make it obvious.
- There are weird smells.
- You pay for the neighborhood - not the size, condition or amenities in the apartment.
- $2500/month for a tiny two-bedroom apartment in Midtown is reasonable.
- What you won't pay for, someone else will is the mantra that I apply to Manhattan real estate, which means that your landlord will be in no hurry to fix anything - no matter how much you pay.
- It is almost cheaper to eat-out on a regular basis than to grocery shop, depending on where you live.
- You will meet an entirely different Manhattan just by living in different neighborhoods.
- Tipping is usually expected for almost every service, including cab rides, some forms of delivery, supers and doormen (once a year at Christmas).
- You will love and hate Ikea.
- People who think New York is the dirtiest city have never been to a third-world country - dirtier than some cities in the United States maybe, but not the entire planet.
- There are so many free events, concerts and outdoor movies.
- Time moves faster here than anywhere else in the world.
- Many restaurants will not allow more than one check per table.
- Even though "bridge and tunnel" is meant to be a derogatory term, I'm open to living in other boroughs; I'm just not ready to give up my Manhattan address yet.
- The cleanest public restroom in the world is in Bryant Park on the 42nd Street side; you can also walk into most hotel lobbies to use their restroom without question.
- You can get practically every cuisine known to man within a 13-mile radius.
- You will begin to wish that someone in your family had purchased real estate before prices began to skyrocket or had a rent-stabilized apartment and then moved to Florida just so you could live in it.
- How to fold my newspaper so that I can read what I want to read and not elbow the people surrounding me on the train.
- Many of the streets have cool stories behind their names - like Wall Street was actually where a wall once stood, built by Dutch settlers to keep the Native Americans out of their settlements at the southernmost tip of Manhattan; the crisscrossing and confusing system of streets just north of Wall Street up to Houston are old Native American footpaths.
- Houston Street is pronounced "How-ston".
- It is illegal for a cab driver not to accept a credit card if they have a machine; you can refuse to pay if they do not accept the credit card and report them to the police to be ticketed.
- There are so many kind New Yorkers.
- More things I've learned to come; I need more time to think about this.
"Things I Love" Thursdays are inspired by "I Love New York" (BNY, February 14, 2007).

A Year Ago Today: Phone Photo Op - Subsway
Two Years Ago Today: Kicking My Own Ass


I'm Not Carrie Bradshaw said...

This post was so awesome. I found your blog about a month ago and have gone back and read your archives, especially your first months in NYC. I'm hoping to move there in the next 1-1.5 years so your blog really is an inspiration. Thanks! :-)

Anonymous said...

This post is so true! I wish I knew about that cab/credit card machine rule before - definitely had an incident where that knowledge would have been helpful. LOL

Z said...

Love the list - and it is all soooooo true!

Congrats on making it for 2 years here in this city (I just passed 5! Gasp!!!)

Tricia Hicks said...

I love all of your insights. I have not been able to visit NYC in a couple of years, and am dying to go. Still living vicariously through you though!

Anonymous said...

What about if you're in the cab when the driver rear ends the person in front of them? Are you required to pay them then..?

LuLu said...

This was a great post! It makes me a little scared but VERY excited about making my move to NY. I had a couple of questions re: apt hunting. If you have time can my email is THANKS!

Anonymous said...

Just moved here from the Midwest, but have spent a lot of time visiting during the past year. To add to your list: how NY cashiers offer to help the next person "on line".

Todd said...

Awesome post!

Anonymous said...

Great list! And to Jaelin: I was in a cab that rear-ended a cab in front of him about a month ago, and NO, you are not required to pay. You are also entitled to the cab's insurance coverage if you need/want to get checked out at a hospital. AND if you miss work for any reason due to the accident, the insurance company will reimburse you for lost hours.

KJS said...

Thanks to everyone who commented on this post for making in the highest commented-on post in BNY!

JanelleGrace said...

- Pick up your feet when walking; the sidewalks and streets can often be rugged terrain.

I trip nearly every day and I never learn.

- It is almost cheaper to eat-out on a regular basis than to grocery shop, depending on where you live.

On the UES, we would eat-out all the time because it was cheaper, but now in Greenpoint, the grocery store is half the price of the one we used to go to!

- Time moves faster here than anywhere else in the world.


A.L. said...

There's another reason a subway car will be empty during rush hour, particularly if it is a numbered train (smaller car)... (3) someone puked inside.

Great blog!


Joy Walters said...

Having just moved to NYC 6 months ago I was laughing OUT LOUD at the similarities between our experiences. Awesome blog- I'll be visiting you often!

khatalogue. said...

- Time moves faster here than anywhere else in the world.

I think time moves even faster in Hong Kong, which is why I moved to NYC---not too fast, yet not too slow.

- You will meet an entirely different Manhattan just by living in different neighborhoods.

Even though I can't afford to live in Manhattan right now, I hope to experience that one day (without living with tons of roommates).

- It is almost cheaper to eat-out on a regular basis than to grocery shop, depending on where you live.

If you don't mind making the trip to Costco in Brooklyn (the D train takes you straight there), you'll definitely save money.

- You will begin to wish that someone in your family had purchased real estate before prices began to skyrocket or had a rent-stabilized apartment and then moved to Florida just so you could live in it.

I agree, especially at a time like this.

And I must say, great observations about NYC streets. Your blog is definitely an awesome read :)