Since coming to NYC, every visitor I have had inevitably responds the same way. After about a day in the city, they remark, “Ugh. How do you do this? I could never live here.” Their specific reasons vary—“too many people” being the chief complaint—and although I actually agree with them on most accounts, I, for whatever reason, still love living here.
I wasn’t quite able to figure out why I love living here—since I’m not particularly partial to living in a concrete jungle, being hassled daily by hundreds of harried strangers, or having my nose assaulted by the smell of piss, garbage, cigarettes, and BO everywhere I turn—until yesterday, when I found myself explaining to het another acquaintance sight-unseen what I love about living in NYC.
Actually, it was when I was recounting what I had told this acquaintance on Facebook (we had recently reunited, not having spoken since high school) to a colleague of mine, when we went running at lunch. (Running always helps me think, and talking things out helps even more.) ”I love the fact that I can go virtually anywhere without a car,” I told him in little gasps. “Trains, buses, subways—they’re all such popular modes of transportation, so they’re well-kept and fabulously available. I can walk down the street and catch a subway in the next few minutes. It’s not like the suburbs, where if you don’t have a bus schedule telling you the 45-minute-apart pickup times, you’re stuck. I don’t want to own a car until I’m, like, 40.”
“And,” I added, “everything’s right here. Like, if I forget an ingredient for whatever I’m making or I want some chips or something, there’s a bodega right there on the corner I can run to. And if it’s not open, there’s probably another one less than a block away. It’s all designed for a walking lifestyle, and I like that.”
”And everything’s so close!” I stopped and corrected myself. “I don’t mean the shops and stuff—although they’re pretty shoved together too, when you think about it—but I mean all the major cities on the east coast. Like, I’m going to Boston this weekend. It’s a five-hour trip and is costing me what, $40? If I were trying to get there from Pittsburgh, it’d be more than ten hours, and I don’t even want to think how expensive. And we can go to DC, and Philly….”
I thought for a minute. “You know, I think living in NYC is the closest you can get to living in Europe without actually going to Europe. You know? No other city in the United States has the same mix of ethnicities; you can’t hear such a broad spectrum of languages everywhere. I love that—being surrounded by all the culture. I loved that when I was in England. And in Europe, everything’s so close together, you’re bound to encounter a whole bunch of different languages and cultures.”
And that was it, that was what I loved about living here: the fact that it was as close to being back in Europe as I’d ever be without actually being back in Europe. Everything I loved about living there, I am experiencing here: easy and available public transportation, communities built around foot-transportation lifestyles, big cities located nearby and made accessible by cheap transportation, and a plethora of languages and cultures just swirling around me. Plus, with the added bonus of the NYC’s “everything’s available 24/7” mentality.
Sure, I miss grass and trees as much as any other former suburbanite. (Central Park is a nice substitute, but there’s nothing like living in a community called Forest Hills. That’s what escapes upstate are for.) Yes, the rank smells do vex me, particularly because I seem to have an extra-sensitive nose (and if you don’t believe me, just ask my mother). That’s why I keep my bedroom smelling as pleasant as possible. No, I do not like paying a fortune to live virtually on top of my roommates (imagine trying to cook at the same time as two Chinese girls on literally 1.5 feet of countertop), and no I do not like sandwiching myself between short greasy Mexican men every day on my subway commute to work. (I’m sorry if that sounds racist, but their hair is very greasy, and because all that grease is clearly intentional, I feel no embarrassment in saying so.) Nor do I like waiting in an hour-long line at Marshall’s just to buy a $12 pair of running shorts, never mind the wrestling matches I had to engage in just to get across the store to that line. But these are the sacrifices I am willing to make, for now, to enjoy the perks NYC has to offer. This is my life right now, and truth be told, I am liking it.