The Real New York City
by: Mark Macias
New York is nothing like Paris; it is nothing like London; and it is not Spokane multiplied by sixty, or Detroit multiplied by four. It is by all odds the loftiest of cities.”
In 1948, the writer E.B. White rented a small, dingy, sweltering hotel room and scribbled these words for an essay, Here is New York. Roaming Manhattan, studying its skyline and gothic bridges, White was mesmerized by its crowds and how New Yorkers lived, packing themselves into subway cars and gigantic buildings as a routine way of life.
He wrote the quality of life was awful in NYC.
“Every facility is inadequate – the hospitals and schools and playgrounds are overcrowded, the express highways are feverish, the unimproved highways and bridges are bottlenecks; there is not enough air and not enough light, and there is usually either too much heat or too little,” White wrote.
“The city makes up for its hazards and deficiencies by supplying its citizens with massive doses of a supplementary vitamin – the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled.”
Or, more simply put, New York City has an amazing buzz.
The news hasn’t really changed since then.
The average New Yorker commutes more than an hour to work each way; public schools are under-funded and rent is astronomical. Even the studio apartments with just a smidgen of natural light boast of sunny views, as if it were a thoughtful addition by the owners. New York’s crime and squalor can still be shocking, though both have greatly diminished in the past twenty years.
Yet, despite all this, New York – or, more specifically, Manhattan – is perceived around the world as a glamorous place to live and work – an image perpetuated by the media, much of which is based in New York, financed or controlled from there.
Movies feature lovers kissing in the rain under a street lamp; TV sitcoms show thirty-somethings with spacious apartments, sipping exotic cocktails and dancing at the coolest clubs. And Madison Avenue depicts gorgeous women and men, walking through the streets of Manhattan wearing designer clothes and jewelry.
Do Carrie from Sex and the City or Phoebe from Friends represent the sexual and social life of female New Yorkers?
Take Jennifer Cohen, a single, 35-year-old living in Manhattan, who loves to shop, just like Samantha from Sex and the City. Yet Cohen – who moved to the city nearly nine years ago – admits that she’s struggling to live despite a salary of nearly $90,000.
“I think Sex and the City was bad because it made men think that women were really easy and always available,” Cohen said. “I don’t think that’s the true nature of women. At least that’s not the way I am, and my girlfriends are.”
However, she empathizes with the frustration of the characters in Sex and the City, who continually experience rejection in relationships.
“Men here in Manhattan are quick to think there’s always another beautiful woman around the corner,no matter how ugly they are. So they don’t want to get serious, or make a commitment. In other parts of the country, men will settle down because they know there aren’t that many pretty women out there.”
So what about these men, who move to New York from all over the world? Does the city change them, or does it just attract restless types? Cohen has no doubts.
“This is a city full of beautiful women and that does change men,” Cohen said. “In a place like Rochester, a guy would find a girl his age and stick with her because there aren’t a ton of options. Here it’s easy to meet new people and move on. So guys’ standards are high, I think unrealistically so.”
But your perspective is shaped by where you stand. Surely a woman who reports on nightlife would have some great stories about the glamorous side of Manhattan?
Julia Allison’s diary blog of her dating experiences is required reading for gossip columnists. An attractive brunette with a flirtatious manner, her legs are long and tanned, and her big brown eyes alluring. When she lived in Washington D.C., the tabloids wrote about how she dated the eligible Congressman Harold Ford, as she later related on her blog.
Then she moved to New York City.
“A few weeks ago, a young guy who had once eagerly asked me out emailed me a shockingly straightforward ‘I’m just not that into you (so please stop stalking me)’ blow off missive,” Julia blogs. “In the three months since I’ve been officially single, I’ve gotten several rejections like that. Oddly, my response to each of them has been identical; previously uninterested, now I was hooked! I wanted them all to fall madly in love with me and propose in Vegas, preferably next week.”
“Why was I once again susceptible to the irritating and completely masochistic ‘If he doesn’t like me, I like him even more’ syndrome? Why did my retarded brain fan the flames of desire every time a guy shot me down? What evolutionary or practical purpose does that serve, if any?”
Her experiences confirm what many women secretly confide.
New York men suck.
They’re selfish bastards, who only want to screw as many gorgeous women as possible. And that isn’t the only brutal reality in this hyper-competitive city.
Cohen laments, “What I’m paying in rent, I could easily afford an entire house in other parts of the country. But here, I live in a small bedroom with a loft bed, across the street from a methadone clinic. I have two roommates and no windows in the living room, no window in my bedroom. Our television is on top of a milk crate.”
Altogether, the three women pay $2100 a month for their apartment in a neighborhood fittingly called Hell’s Kitchen.
Allison’s worst gripe is the “the freaking noise. At 7 am. On a Saturday. Car alarms, ambulances, jackhammers, children shrieking. What are you shrieking about? Move to Brooklyn.”
But whether they complain about noise, the cost of living, commitment-phobic men or not enough women to screw, Manhattan’s residents rave about the excitement and opportunities available, and nearly everyone who has lived here for over a month has a funny story to tell.
“I didn’t say anything, but then I heard the girl asking the guy for drugs,” he said. ‘I’ll give it to you in a minute, but first you have to do something for me.’”
Cano said he heard the guy demand a blowjob and the girl comply. That’s when he made a dash for the door.
Cohen’s only-in-New-York story happened at a bar in the Village. She was drinking with her friend when a British band arrived. The singer walked straight up to her and asked, “Do you wanna go back to my hotel room and fuck?” He hadn’t even ordered a drink.
Cohen won’t divulge his identity, but she says it’s a well-known band and wants it known that she turned him down. Rubbing shoulders with celebrities is an aphrodisiac – even if you refuse to sleep with them. This year, Allison attended a gala for Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential” issue, whose guests included Lyndsay Lohan, Condoleeza Rice, Laura Bush, Henry Kissenger, the Presidential candidate John Edwards and New York’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg.
Most of these luminaries don’t live in New York, but that didn’t stop Time from inviting them to celebrate in America’s greatest city – or the recipients from relishing the connection. To feel part of New York is to feel special, privileged, fortunate.
As E.B. White affirmed, “New York will bestow the gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy…. It can destroy an individual, or it can fulfill him, depending a good deal on luck. No one should come to New York to live unless he is willing to be lucky.”