1. The subway
8:45am Tuesday. Squeezed into a tin can with the population of a small Vermont town. Trying not to breathe through my nose because it smells like vomit and cumin and oh great, the train is stopping between stations and the lights just went out, which means it’s show time for the mariachi band. Welcome to the C train! The MTA says more than 5.5 million commuters take the subway on an average weekday and it seems like all of them are on the train right now.
That said, I recently drove from Colorado Springs to Mount Rushmore to the Badlands and back to Denver. By the end of the trip, I never wanted to see the inside of a car again. On the subway, I can listen to show tunes on my iPhone, read my Kindle and arrive at my destination chilled out. No arguments over the radio, no fear of impending death while being passed on the right by a tractor-trailer during a thunderstorm and if I want one more margarita for the road because I deserve it, I can go for it without worrying about dying in a fiery crash or getting an expensive DUI.
2. Tiny apartments
After seven years of roommates ranging from crazy to psychotic — including a cokehead whose boyfriend stole $300 from my sock drawer — I finally quit the restaurant biz, got a day job and got my own place. So now I live my entire life in a room the size of my Arizona friend’s master bathroom and I want to punch everyone on House Hunters. Some people dream of a home with a three-car garage and a pool; I just want separate rooms in which to eat and sleep. I will know I’ve really made it when I move into a place with a washer AND a dryer.
Still, visiting friends in their 2,500-square-foot suburban Colonial is nice for the weekend, but by Sunday, I am exhausted from having to go up and down all those stairs. Luckily, I don’t have to spend my days off scouring Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware for a rustic mahogany credenza because my apartment only fits a bed, a couch and a bookcase. And I don’t have to clean three bathrooms or mow a lawn. I can use all that free time to plan my next trip out of NYC.
I work right next to Rockefeller Center. Going out for lunch, particularly during Christmas season, requires advanced planning and ninja skills, as well as provisions to ensure continuity of service at my job should I be crushed by a horde of Rotarians in blinding white Keds. According to NYC tourism officials, 56.4 million visited the city in 2014. That is a lot of people… especially when they are all blocking the way to the Korean BBQ truck on 52nd Street.
But then I go to visit family upstate where I have unimpeded access to all my destinations, and it’s boring. Sure, I can get to Ann Taylor Loft in a reasonable amount of time without having to stop while a high school cheerleading squad from Milwaukee takes a selfie in front of Radio City, but where is the fun in that? And how can I feel smug if nobody in my vicinity has waited in line for forty minutes to get into the American Girl store? How can I hone my jujitsu moves if there are no rampaging bands of Midwesterners to dodge? Where is the sport, the challenge?
“Rats on the west side, bed bugs uptown.” The Rolling Stones know whereof they speak. However, they forgot to mention the giant roaches innocuously called “water bugs” that I swear are sentient and have chased me across my apartment more than once. Disgusting right? But that is taking a limited view of the situation.
First of all, these critters are small. During the aforementioned trip to South Dakota, there were bison everywhere. Bison are big and SCARY. Water bugs, rats and bedbugs can’t trample you or ram your car. Aside from a bite from a possible plague-carrying rat, for which you’d have to get REALLY close, the wildlife in NYC is unlikely to kill you. Also, they make cheap pets. No $20 bags of gluten-free dog food necessary; they pretty much eat whatever you have around.
11pm and my upstairs neighbors have been shouting at each other for twenty-five minutes. At least if the husband is continuously screaming, “STOP JUDGING ME,” he is NOT playing Dixie Chicken on his guitar, which he does most evenings. In any case, the jack hammers will be starting soon — because what better time to begin road work than midnight — and that should drown out the yelling. In a waterfall of cacophony, the sirens will drown out the jack hammers and the helicopters will drown out the sirens. It’s poetic, really.
Compare that with my recent trip to Wellfleet, on Cape Cod, where the unnerving silence is broken only by pines swaying gently in the breeze and, oh god, is that a cricket? Is it going to attack me? Maybe I should bring it home for my pet water bug to play with.
My favorite movie is Saturday Night Fever because, hello, disco and John Travolta. Sadly, the mythical Brooklyn of the 1970s has been replaced by bewhiskered bartenders plying $16 “handcrafted” cocktails and skinny jeans-clad artists who work exclusively in motor oil and body fluids. The once agreeably desolate DUMBO neighborhood is now filled with European tourists and tech startups and it seems like every new HBO show is about Millennial angst in Greenpoint.
However, a few years ago while visiting friends in Methuen, Massachusetts, we had dinner out and were finished and home by 6:30 on a Friday night. It was quite disconcerting to be in for the evening before Happy Hour is even technically over. As we lounged in front of the fireplace and watched the Bruins, my thoughts strayed to another friend’s party in Williamsburg, beginning that night atmidnight. If I left right away, I could be there by the time it was in full swing. I felt guilty for thinking that, but dammit, the song isn’t “No Sleep Till Methuen.” In the end, I stayed, content in the knowledge that there will always be another midnight party in Brooklyn.