What 10 Cities Would You Choose?

A week ago I spoke in front of a small gathering about my 10 Cities project at the Secret Kingdoms, a recently opened English-language bookstore here in Madrid. It was a surprisingly brisk hour (for me, at least) in which I shared a few favorite stories from that decade of my life and read some of my writing, including an excerpt from Yahweh’s Children.

At the end of my talk, there was a Q&A where the audience asked a number of interesting questions about my travels and the motivations for my choices. Even though I’ve answered questions about 10 Cities for well over a decade now, there were still some fresh inquiries, which were a fun challenge to tackle on the spot.

One of the most common questions I get is, of course, “How did you choose your 10 cities?” With the half dozen interviews and articles I’ve done, and the hundreds of conversations I’ve had with friends and strangers over the years, I’ve answered that question countless times (short answer: mostly, circumstances decided for me). But, I realized the other day, never once have I turned the question on the inquisitor to ask, “What 10 cities would you choose?”

So, I’m doing it now. Whether you’re a new reader or you’ve been on this journey with me since the early days, I want to know, what 10 cities would you have picked if you were doing this project? You can stick to the same limitations I was under and select ones from your home country, or you can just pick any 10 cities throughout the world. You do you. The only firm rule is, in this hypothetical, you will live in each city for 1 year exactly, and none of them can be your hometown (sorry New Yorkers).

Feel free to answer in the comments, or on Facebook, or Twitter, or simply write it on a piece of paper, bury it, and have your grandkids digs it up in 100 years.

I’m fascinated to know what you come up with.

Seattle, Washington (in panorama)

Newsweek: My Turn

Hello new visitors. It’s quite possible you’ve found this site because of the Newsweek article. If you haven’t already read it, I recently wrote about 10 Cities/10 Years for Newsweek’s “My Turn” feature, which is a space for people to share their unique life experiences. In the article, I discuss the details of the project, what I learned about myself through doing it, and what I learned about America in general.

It was an honor to write for the feature and I’m quite pleased how the article came out. You can read it here:

‘I Lived In 10 U.S. Cities in 10 Years—Here’s What I Learned About America’

An excerpt:

City living is a great way to be reminded that America is uniquely complex, that there are millions of Republicans in “blue” America and millions of Democrats in “red” America. One of the silliest notions I’ve ever heard is that there is a “Real America.” According to many politicians, because I grew up in a town of less than 80,000 people, I’m from “Real America.” This concept, that “Real America” exists in the heartlands of the country, outside of our main metropolises, led me to wonder: What does that make the over 15 million Americans I lived among, in big cities, from 2005 to 2015?

After Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, I heard frequently about the “liberal bubble,” but that never fit with the country I experienced. In the cities I lived in—many considered liberal strongholds—I met all kinds of people whose views fit more neatly in the “conservative” box. There was the transgender woman in New York who adamantly defended the U.S. government’s use of torture on terrorism suspects after 9/11. There was the co-worker in Nashville who assumed, because I am an atheist, that I “sacrificed” children—her interpretation of abortion. For that matter, there were all the residents of so-called liberal cities who went to church every Sunday. I encountered all types of political and religious views over my 10 years; rarely did they fit in an easy category.

If you’d like more background on what exactly the 10 Cities project was (and continues to be), there’s always the About section. If you want to read some stories from the road, you can check out “The Book” section (scroll down and start with the Prologue). You can also check out other Press coverage. Or just take a look around the site; you may stumble across something I’ve totally forgotten I wrote.

Whether you’re a regular reader of this site, someone who used to be a regular reader and is just checking in, or someone who came across 10 Cities/10 Years because of the Newsweek article, I’d love to hear your thoughts: on the article, on the project, on life, on the 1962 Chicago Cubs, whatever. Leave a comment, show some love.

Cheers from Madrid,

L

P.S. Anyone who is interested in keeping up with my ongoing adventures, including my life in Spain and future publications, can add your email address over on the righthand side.

P.P.S. If you live in Madrid or are going to be in the city in mid-October, I’ll be doing a talk about the project and my writing at The Secret Kingdoms, a recently opened English-language bookstore in Barrios de las Letras. Get tickets here.

Writing Shit

Flying scud (play) – See a man about a dog – Flying Squid?

Any idea what that means? I sure as hell don’t have a clue, and I wrote it. Some time in 2010; I was living in Chicago, but that doesn’t help. My best guess is it’s something that flittered through my mind in one of those half-waking moments at 3 in the morning. Or maybe I was drunk. Or, worse, sober.

More than a decade on, I think it’s safe to say that nothing will ever come of that tossed off attempt at (anti-)clever wordplay; just word salad. Some six cities and even more apartments later; at least a dozen different jobs and a few dozen different writing gigs since; roughly three completed novels and 500 blog posts on, it’s safe to say I’m never going to figure out what the fuck Flying Squid was supposed to mean.

Folders of Nothing

That one not-quite-a-sentence is the only thing in a Word file I found in a folder titled “One Week” (a subfolder in my “My Writing” folder); in that folder there’s a “One Week” file that contains 2,000 words about a guy named Scott working at a bookstore. Maybe it was going to be a short story, more likely it was the sputtering start of a novel that never went anywhere. More than a few of my discarded stories and novels involved guys working at a bookstore, something I’m intimately familiar with. They say, “Write what you know;” but, god, that shit’s boring. I like writing what I don’t know.

Which is why this “My Writing” folder houses a platoon of half-considered attempts at novels and short stories that died before they even had the chance to become ponderous nonsense.

There’s “Bosworth,” from 2011 and 2012 (my time in Seattle), which, at 4,500 words (and an outline) was one of my more drawn out abortions. It was my attempt at some sort of Bukowski pastiche, a novel about an acerbic drunk who befriends a total square and is a non-stop fount of biting one-liners. Turns out, I was not a non-stop fount.

There’s something from 2007 (I was in Costa Mesa) entitled “Ellis Island and the Gay Messiah,” which isn’t even 500 words, but I love the title (admittedly, it’s stolen from a Rufus Wainwright song).

There’s something called “Sanctum,” which is probably the most fully realized of my long-dead novel attempts, including six different character descriptions. That was also in Seattle, though the idea began years before that; I made an attempt at starting it up again the next year while I was living in New Orleans, to no avail. Maybe I’ll get back to that one day.

There’s even my half-assed attempt at a TV show pilot, simply called Sojourner, about an atheist woman who gets in a relationship with a Christian man. That one, which has its own soundtrack, started while I was in Brooklyn, but I quickly realized TV writing isn’t for me.

Those are a just a few of the writing projects I’ve begun and abandoned, and that doesn’t even include the short stories and character sketches that didn’t make it past a few paragraphs (the less said about the poems the better).

Even with that graveyard of novel ideas, I still have two new ideas I’m developing and two novels I’ve completed writing since the beginning of the COVID-19 lockdowns. One of those, I recently realized while looking through old files, I initially thought up back in 2010, but didn’t start writing as a novel until 2014 when I was freshly arrived in Brooklyn. And then, of course, there’s Yahweh’s Children, the one novel I’ve finished and self-published (oh, excuse me, I’m supposed to call it “indie published” now).

Around the time I got sick of editing, re-editing, and re-re-editing Yahweh’s Children, and finally just threw it up online, I told myself I would never write another novel again. But, goddamn it, the words keep coming and if I don’t write them down, they keep me up at night. A girl named Effie stole many a night’s sleep from me until I wrote her story.

Will either of the two novels I’ve finished writing in the last two years ever see the light of day? I don’t know. If not, they’d join the first three novels I wrote between the ages of 18 and 23 that will all but certainly never be read. But I hated those novels and I mostly like these ones; I’d sure like to see them find an audience one day. They’re good, if I do say so myself, and, frankly, if I do say so myself, that’s saying something because I loathe most everything I write.

And then there are those two other novel ideas – one a relatively new, Vonnegut-inspired satire, the other an old story inspired by my youth in the church that comes back to me every few years – that I suppose I’ll eventually feel obligated to start writing. I have long given up on the fantasy of being a world-renowned novelist (I know too much about the industry to believe that), but I still find a weird pleasure in the process. Masochistic, of course.

In the meantime, I’ll keep churning out nonsense here and elsewhere, because as aware as I am that this is just screaming into the void, I can’t stop. I’d never get any sleep again if I did.

10 Cities

EXCERPT: 15 Years after Katrina: Understanding the storm’s lasting impact on New Orleans

The full story can be read at The Millennial Source.

The Superdome and the Super Bowl

I lived in New Orleans for a year, from 2012 to 2013, arriving in the city on September 1, 2012, four days after Hurricane Isaac. That Category 1 storm briefly passed over New Orleans, almost seven years to the day after the city was hit by Katrina – a Category 5 storm. Other than the French Quarter, most of the city was without electricity for half a week or longer.

My first few days in the city were spent sweating through intense heat and humidity. The city’s water supply was also temporarily put under a boil advisory, meaning tap water needed to be boiled before it could be consumed. Arriving in the wake of a hurricane was a harsh introduction to the city, even though Isaac had been far less destructive than Katrina.

Within a month of moving to the city, I took a job at a restaurant in the Central Business District. One of my co-workers there was Chris Woods, currently an English teacher at Jesuit High School in Mid-City, the same school he attended as a teenager.

Woods and I worked together the night of Super Bowl XLVII, which was being held at the recently renamed Mercedes-Benz Superdome less than a mile away. It was an eventful Super Bowl: the Baltimore Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers 34-31, Beyoncé headlined an extravagant halftime show and, dramatically, the stadium’s power went out for 34 minutes in the 3rd quarter.

With the eyes of the world on the city for the biggest sporting event of the year, the power outage was a reminder that New Orleans remained a work-in-progress seven and a half years after Katrina.

The Superdome infamously played an important role during Katrina, housing nearly 16,000 people throughout the storm’s barrage and in the days after the hurricane struck. It provided lifesaving shelter, but after it lost electricity, the stadium also became a sweltering cage for many locals who didn’t or couldn’t evacuate.

Repairs to the Superdome cost US$366 million, a substantial sum, though relatively minor compared to the multibillion-dollar price tags of new stadiums in the National Football League.

In the lead up to Super Bowl XLVII, which occurred in the middle of that year’s Mardi Gras festivities, the city raced to prepare for the surge of football revelers and national attention it was sure to receive. Besides beautifying parts of the city that would see increased tourism, the city council invested considerable effort in repairing sidewalks.

The neighborhood I briefly lived in, St. Roch, noticeably transformed during my year in New Orleans. At the end of my former street sat a historic food market that was nearly destroyed during Katrina. By the time I moved away, the dilapidated building had gotten a face-lift, though finishing the project would take a few months more. The St. Roch Market reopened in 2015.

[Read the full article here]

Disheveled (St Roch Market)

Returning to the Road: The 60th anniversary of On the Road

“That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

Truman Capote’s famous dismissal of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road has been spat at me dozens of times. The book that, for a time in American history, defined “hip” is now a very uncool thing to like. To be fan of the book, as I am, is to come to terms with troublesome characters and cultural representation that hasn’t aged well. Perhaps, though, the book’s greatest sin is that it aims for profundity – and achieves it.

Today marks the 60th anniversary of the publication of Kerouac’s most famous literary work.

On the Road 1st Paperback Edition Cover (1958)

The story of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty is so ingrained in our cultural consciousness that any discussion of it almost feels like parody; but I’ll do it anyway. The thinly-veiled memoir-turned-novel tells of the aimless escapades of Kerouac and his friends from 1947 to 1950. The novel, which Kerouac famously typed on a single “scroll” of paper over three weeks while his then-wife fed him drugs, was published in 1957. The real story of the book’s creation, like the story itself, is lengthier and less sexy than the legend, but what difference does it make?

On the Road is one of the defining American myths, like Johnny Appleseed or George Washington’s cherry tree or Trickle Down Economics. Its veracity is less important than what it says about the culture that created it. As the United States is currently embroiled in startling regressive fights over nativism and isolationism, let’s remember that On the Road, more than almost any other book by an American author (certainly more than Capote) spoke to our nation’s historical roots as a nation of immigrants and wanderers.

There’s no escaping it: Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty, and almost all of the other (male) characters in On the Road are loathsome people. They’re selfish and loutish, at times cruel, abusive towards the women in their lives, and ultimately wanton addicts that can barely stand themselves, let alone one another. In a word, On the Road is problematic.

So is history. So is art. So is life. I do not meant to wipe away the offenses of the characters or the real life people on whom they’re based, but rather to argue that there’s still a baby in that dirty bath water.

All art, especially historical works – and at 60-years-old, On the Road qualifies as an artifact – requires acknowledging flaws along with merits. Kerouac had questionable racial politics, no doubt, but for his time, the book’s sympathetic portrayal of the Hispanic immigrant populace was incredibly progressive. Frankly, it’s fairly progressive for our time. Despite all that Kerouac gets wrong in terms of cultural misappropriation and othering, he was at least willing to surmount walls to engage with different cultures.

Kerouac writes with considerable sympathy, especially for the cavalcade of degenerates that made up his beatnik circle. Dean Moriarty, in particular, was the quintessential anti-hero decades before such figures were the center of every TV show. There’s clearly a touch of Dean in Don Draper. The most common criticism I see lobbed at On the Road is that it glorifies these unlikeable characters as heroes. On the contrary, though, the desperate finale in Mexico is a denouement in the vein of Breaking Bad. We’re meant to live vicariously through these characters, but that doesn’t mean we’re meant to absolve them of all sins.

As far as Capote’s charges of “typing,” well, there’s really no accounting for taste. More than a few respected writers, both living and dead, have hailed Kerouac as an innovator and an influence, for what that’s worth. Kerouac’s breathless writing technique could certainly lead to paragraphs that feel aimless or empty, but there are also passages of pulsating beauty, exhilarating in their jazz-infused momentum and startling in their revelatory power.

For those who hate the book, for whom the characters are irredeemably repugnant and the writing is slapdash puffery, I make no effort to convince you otherwise. No, I’m writing for a different audience, for Kerouac’s audience, a crowd that has shrunk over the decades but that I suspect still exists in greater numbers than one might expect. It’s okay, you can come out of hiding.

kerouac-by-ginsberg

Reading On the Road as a teenager should be transformative, the eye-opening experience when you realize that the world extends beyond your own yard and everyone’s life doesn’t have to follow a single path. For most readers, that philosophy resonates for a few years until they get a job or finish college with a stack of debt. Then, On the Road suddenly morphs into something far less profound, something childish.

Maybe you backpacked Europe or tried to make it as a musician for a few years. There might have been some poetry readings or even a Buddhist phase. Admit it: you were once idealistic. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.

Grotesquely, the Beat Generation was long ago co-opted by corporate interests and sold as action figures and t-shirts, as is the fate for all forms of art and rebellion. There is no counterculture movement that can’t be neutered and decimated with a logo or a catchphrase. When a thousand drop-outs followed in Kerouac’s footsteps and hitchhiked across America, they were merely substituting one form of conformity for another.

The lesson of Kerouac’s travels is not that travel makes you free or that America is a nation of squares. What On the Road conveys is that we are all on a journey, that the perfect metaphor for life is the road, and ultimately, we alone are responsible for choosing – and reaching – our destination. Do with that what you will.

For me, that meant 10 Cities/10 Years: I took a decade out of my life to move across the country, meeting people from every corner of America and experiencing its wealth of stories. Diversity is a pleasure.

My copy

A year after finishing my project, I re-read On the Road for the first time since I was in college. I wondered – worried, really – that the book would have greatly diminished in the interim years, that adulthood would have dulled its potency.

Instead, I found that the book had evolved just as I had through my own journeys. No longer a guide to the unfettered thrill of escaping, the novel was a ledger for the costs and rewards of pursuing a dream. That was a life of travel for me, but it could be anything to anyone, the pursuit of any passion.

As you read this, I am currently embarking on a new travel journey, this time abroad. Though I’m eschewing a schedule like I had with 10 Cities/10 Years, the spirit that embodied that project remains. I will follow opportunities where they lead me. I will make my way as I always have, by working hard, saving money, and taking risks.

Before I departed, I’ll sold or gave away most of the few possessions I still owned. Things are a burden. I held onto a few essentials, though: Clothes, a laptop, old journals, and, of course, a dog-eared copy of On the Road.

New York City: Final Thoughts on the Big Apple

New York City, split into five boroughs and a thousand neighborhoods, cannot be defined as one thing. When someone dismisses this city with some hoary cliché about hipsters or millionaires, I know they’ve never actually spent any time here. This city has as many personalities and styles as it has corner bodegas.

I’ve lived in Brooklyn, worked in Manhattan, rarely been to Queens, coasted through the Bronx, and touched my toes on Staten Island. I’ve had one experience of the city, and it is hardly representative. But it is still authentic.

As I’ve done for previous cities I’ve lived in and left, I’m taking time to look back on my time here and grade various aspects of the city. Let me stress, though it should be obvious, that these grades are based on my experiences which have been shaped by a lot of factors that are not universal. This isn’t an attempt to give a definitive grade of the city, only to organize my final thoughts on yet another one of my short term homes.

Let’s get going.

Empty Subway

Public Transportation – Hoo boy, this is a loaded topic right now. On the one hand, New York’s subway system is the most extensive in the country, one of the biggest in the world, and connects culturally distinct neighborhoods to create a melting pot like no other place in the world. All that, and it has free wifi.

On the other hand(s), MTA is riddled with systemic problems and hopelessly obsolete equipment, all coming together to create one of the greatest metropolitan clusterfucks of all time. It’d be impressive if it wasn’t so damn infuriating. Hurricane Sandy only exacerbated the issues and an already strained system – which has a ridership far outpacing its capacity – is currently in a transitional period. Repairs and improvements are possible, but the costs will be staggering and will necessitate massive disruptions, all of which might prove worth it in ten or fifteen years, but for current New Yorkers (not especially known as being even-keeled), it is going to be a nightmare. (One of a number of reasons I’m happy to be leaving now.)

There’s a lot of blame to go around, though currently it’s mostly falling on Governor Cuomo. There’s no question that he deserves a chunk of it, but in reality, the underlying problems are the result of a kick-the-can mentality that has existed for decades. This city – and state – needs to act now or matters will only get worse and worse.

And, yet, if I’m being honest, I’ve personally been quite lucky. When I first moved to the city, I was on the C and A lines, which are inconsistent and overcrowded, but by no means the worst in the system and generally within spitting distance of being on time. Better still, since moving to Crown Heights, I’m right off of the 2, 3, 4, and 5 lines, four of the most accessible and reliable routes in the city. That might change when other lines get shut down for repairs, but for my time here, it’s been ideal.

To give a fair overall grade, I have to consider both my personal experience and the general quality of the system. I’d give it top marks if I were only reflecting my experience, and it’d barely get a passing grade if I were solely grading on the big picture. So splitting the difference:

Grade: B-

City Planning – From the very first time I walked through Manhattan, some fifteen years ago, I was awestruck by the sheer grandeur and scope of this modern wonder. When people think of a city, whether they’ve been here or not, they’re thinking of New York. As far as modern metropolises go, it remains the truest form.

There are a lot of ways in which NYC is falling behind other major cities (see: Public Transportation), but it will forever remain one of the most unique and successfully laid out cities in the world. Even more impressive, a lot of its “city planning” was achieved by mere chance, a natural evolution guided less by intentional design than by individual actors pursuing their own interests and somehow forming a cohesive whole.

Yes, many neighbors make strange bedfellows: Chinatown and its pervasive fish smell flows over to some of the most expensive and ostentatious avenues in the city. That’s just part of the charm. There is nothing I enjoy more than taking a walk through urban spaces, and what New York offers more than any other US city is an unending kaleidoscope of facades and personalities. Sure, in a post-Giuliani world, it’s lost much of its aura of danger, and Times Square is a logo-ejaculating neon nightmare, but there’s still plenty of grime to be found if that’s your bag, and if that’s not your bag, something more to your tastes is only a short subway ride away (assuming no delays).

NYC is massive. While there are many neighborhoods that feel downright suburban and there’s no shortage of economically impoverished areas (I’ll leave the debate over gentrification for someone else), this city manages to both be an explorer’s delight and still absolutely accommodating to a homebody. I can’t tell you how many Brooklynites I’ve met who rarely leave their neighborhood, let alone the borough. Truly, something for everyone.

Grade: A

4th Avenue Pub Bulb.jpg

Bars/Nightlife – Um, yeah, New York has nightlife. What really needs to be said? If you like to drink and hang out late with other people who do, you are never going to be out of luck in this city. When I first moved to the city, I happened to move into one of the few bar deserts in all of Brooklyn, a yet-to-be-gentrified portion of Bed-Stuy where you could walk for fifteen minutes in any direction and not find a watering hole. Truly, a rare spot. It didn’t last long, because at the beginning of my second year in that apartment, I stumbled across The Evergreen, newly opened and within walking distance of my apartment.

Other establishments were starting to open in the area by the time I moved to Crown Heights, a neighborhood that has no such dry spots. It matters not where you live, though, because a train or a bus or a car will deposit you into some form of nightlife within minutes.

In terms of bars, Manhattan is overrun with the flashy, expensive joints (meh), Irish pubs, and dives that still charge you ten bucks for well whiskey. Brooklyn does hipster and trendy, naturally, but you’ll also find plenty of true dives and neighborhood haunts and whatever else might be to your taste. Of course there are clubs and secret raves and strip clubs and whatever it is that floats your boat. Oh yeah, they have boat parties, too.

The point is, if you come to New York City looking for nightlife, you’d have to be a real twit not to find a scene for you.

Grade: A

Little Dancer of Fourteen Years

Art Scene – When you think of art scenes, New York City is always going to come to mind. Granted, that’s partly due to its history: whether you’re thinking of the writers of the 1920s or Andy Warhol’s Factory, this city has been synonymous with art since the 19th century.

Even now, there’s Broadway, and the Met, and Carnegie Hall, and all the other famous venues, big and small. TV and movie crews are a fairly regular sight, especially in Brooklyn, and every major musical act in the world passes through here for at least one night. If you’re looking for big name performers, they’ll be here.

The real test of a city, though, is how well it fosters the smaller art scenes; do artists still come here to pursue their dream at the cost of everything else? Of course. Does anything come of it? Of course, for some. A lot’s been made of the city’s astronomical rent prices pushing out struggling artists and hampering similar art scenes from growing up here, and there’s unquestionably some truth to that, but frankly, we’re living in a pretty terrible time to be an artist no matter where you’re living. I would know. At least in NYC, you’re likely to find a sympathetic audience. Well, not antagonistic, at least.

In my three years here, I’ve attended massive arena concerts, shows in the park, and intimate venue gigs; I’ve been to an independent movie premiere, an off-off-Broadway play, and burlesque, drag, and fashion shows; I’ve read my terrible poetry to a too-kind audience and watched a woman perform a folk opera; I have been to museums and galleries, passed buskers on the streets and subways, and checked out street dance crews. Oh, and I’ve seen a few dozen movies. If I wasn’t such a lazy bastard, I could have seen a whole lot more, too.

The point is, New York City might not be the most hospitable place for artists, but art lovers really have nothing to complain about.

Grade (Music): A; Grade (Everything else): A

Poles

Living – By certain metrics, New York City is the most expensive city in the country (in terms of affordable housing options, San Francisco and Boston are actually less viable), so that is going to affect one’s way of life here. Sure, if you come here to work on Wall Street (or to indulge your fetish for grown men in superhero get-ups), you’re going to be living large. For most of us, though, the astronomical cost of living puts a damper on life.

And yet, for every $34 cocktail, there’s a half dozen free concerts or movie nights. There are always free days at museums and the botanic gardens, and if all you’re looking for is to get drunk, there are cheap options. No, you’re probably not going to find New Orleans’ rock bottom prices (and no Nickel Shot Nights), but a night of drinking doesn’t have to cause you to break your lease (unless you have one of those friends that insists on drinking in the Lower East Side). The point is, moving to the city does not require one become a monk, just savvy.

Then there’s the issue of housing. The stereotype is real: Some NYC apartments really are hamster cages without the views. If you’re deadset on living in the trendiest neighborhoods (did you immediately think Williamsburg? Congratulations, you’re already passé), then sure, expect to squeeze a twin bed into a closet. Otherwise, there are plenty of very good areas in this city that have reasonably affordable, human-sized digs still in walking distance of public transportation (see above for that mixed bag). Who knows how much longer that will be true?

Affordable is, of course, a subjective term. When I’ve told family members back in Kansas what I pay for rent, they balk, and my rent is one of the cheapest in the city. Some people come to this city with lucrative job offers, while many others don’t enjoy that privilege. Like most American cities, New York is basically intentionally pricing out the poor. On the other hand, NYC has embraced the $15 minimum wage (it’s being gradually phased in over a number of years), so that’s small relief.

The bottom line is, this city is expensive – depressingly so – but if your dream is to live here, to make it here, that dream is still within reach. You’ll just have to hustle.

Grade: B-

The Eclipse

People – Man, what can you say about New Yorkers that hasn’t already been said by every single movie and TV show you’ve ever seen? Well, a lot, actually, because media representations are always incomplete at best, or bullshit at worst.

Are the characters from Girls real? You betcha. Sex and the City? Probably, but I couldn’t afford to hang out with them. Friends? If you mean white people, then yes. Looking for something less Caucasian? Well, Spike Lee’s joints truthfully capture an aspect of the New York (Brooklyn) way of life, but those are more historical documents these days. For every popular depiction of New York City out there, there are still plenty of stones unturned. Some people will never see themselves represented on TV.

Let’s just say it: New Yorkers are loud, impatient, and rude. They wouldn’t argue the point. But I’ve only lived here a few years and I was already two out of three before I got here, so I don’t think you can blame that on the city. Get past the stereotypes and the fear, and the people here are really just a microcosm of all of society. Sure, that’s a cliché of all cities, but more than any other city in the country, NYC truly defies easy generalizations. People from all over the country and the world have traveled to live here. How could only one personality type exist here?

Also, nice people are the worst.

My experience of the people in this city, both locals and my fellow transplants, is that they’re generally friendly, at times confrontational, but usually happy to let live. They get heated about politics and sports, and they can sit in a bar and talk to a stranger for three hours about their favorite bands. They’ll screw you over from time to time, but they’ll also watch your back; their faces will light up when you walk in after a month’s absence. They’re people. This is New York. This is everywhere.

And if you’re wondering, “Do they think they’re better than me?” Yeah, probably. But if you’re worried about that, then aren’t they?

Grade: A