Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"You Can Stare Into the Abyss, But It's Staring Right Back"

Today marks one month since I moved in to the NYU apartment (and thus shifting from a New York vacation to New York living). In honor of that, I'm taking a moment to reflect a little what I've learned about life in the city.

*I Don't Like Getting Drinks from Starbucks Anymore*
In Charleston, many of my days were brightened by my favorite Starbucks drink: tall nonfat no water chai tea latte. I loved them, and would take almost any excuse to visit a Starbucks and snag one. But, unlike Charleston, New York is brimming with local coffee shops, almost all of which offer better quality than Starbucks. The food is tastier (pastries and the meals available), the drinks are bigger, and a lot of them seem interested in helping the environment (Think Coffee divides their trash section into compost, paper recycling, and plastic recycling).

But the one that killed Starbucks is Mud Coffee. In every other coffee place, chai tea lattes taste pretty much the same as the ones at Starbucks. But the ones at Mud are amazing. They've left Starbucks seeming bland and too sweet. So now, rather than go to the Starbucks practically across the street, I trot down Broadway to the Mud Truck or head over to the Lower East Side to visit the store. That's not to say I never visit Starbucks. There's one on pretty much every corner, and it's one of the few places in New York where you don't have to be a customer to use the bathroom.

*Eye Contact with Strangers is Always Incorrect
When I tell people that in Charleston we commonly make eye contact with other people on the street, people think it's strange. They imagine we go around staring at each other or something. Well, we don't, but we also don't go to the extreme lengths to pretend no one else is around that New Yorkers do. I've mainly noticed this when I go running. When you're running in Charleston and you pass another runner, you generally make eye contact and give the other one some kind of nod or wave of acknowledgement. Not so here. It actually took several weeks for me to stop expecting it, but I've learned to put myself in the imaginary tunnel everyone else seems to be in.

*I am a Braver Runner
Another running related story, but when I took up running at home, every time I wanted to go I would drive the 15-20 minutes to Hampton Park, the nearest place with safe running trails. The idea of running down the sidewalk seemed crazy to me - I didn't want to get in anyone's way, I was afraid of looking silly, etc. But here everyone feels entitled to the space they're in (whether they should or not), and you'd have to do something really silly to stand out. As a result, I'm totally comfortable heading out the door and down the sidewalk whenever I feel like the exercise.
The Hudson River Greenway, about a ten minute run from my place

*I Completely Hate Taxis Here
They are insanely aggressive on the road, they go way too fast down my street, and they honk way too often. I have ridden in them twice since I moved in here; one trip ended with tears, and both ended with nausea. I go to great lengths to avoid them. This is limited to New York - my taxi experiences in other cities (D.C., London) were quite pleasant.

*Eating is an Ordeal
New Yorkers eat out for every meal. This isn't really an exaggeration, or a statement about how crowded restaurants are at all hours (during the week waits are minimal to reasonable). But without cars and with tiny kitchens, New York is not a city that favors cooking. As a result, most people eat everything on the go, stocking their kitchens with the barest of snack food. I enjoy cooking, but getting groceries is tough when you have to either walk back with your load or choose your items online. As a result, I swing back and forth between dealing with the arduous task of acquiring supplies and caving to the convenient and delicious on the go food. This is something I'm still struggling to get a grip on, but I think my love affair with the Chelsea Market will help me find more stable balance. Maybe next month.

*There's Always More
Even though I walk everywhere (almost) and I make a real effort to see and do a lot, I simultaneously feel like I'm getting a handle on it here and that I've barely scraped the surface. I'm not sure you could really take advantage of everything New York has to offer even if you devoted your life to it.

Sometimes I feel like I'm part of it all, and other times I feel like I'm peeking into a strange world from the outside. Overall I'm enjoying all the new experiences a lot, and I'm very happy to be here. It can all be a bit tiring though.


  1. I wanna be 22 and go to grad school in NY. Come to think of it I'm pretty sure I applied to go to grad school in ny and ...

  2. Ican understand all the stimulation, etc is tiring. I get tired reading about it. Is it a southern thing to smile and acknowledge another person you meet or a big city difference. Say, in Atlanta do people wear a protective bubble? Don't know. Mud is not a good name for good coffee. Joan

  3. Ok, so I had the Chai latte at the Mud truck thinking of you. Either I forgot what Chais taste like or the guy messed it up, or Chais aren't for me, because it tasted so gross to me! It tasted like it had 5 pumps of vanilla syrup in it and it was so sweet i couldnt drink it. it wasnt nutmeggy and cinammony and kind of spicy like a good chai latte, it was basically like a vanilla milk drink. Should I blame that particular barista?

  4. I would definitely blame the barista; I've never had a chai there that tasted like vanilla! Maybe they made you the wrong drink? Their stuff is usually way in the cinnamon/nutmeg neighborhood. Rich, but definitely spicy. Clearly, a witch has laid some kind of Mud curse on you. I see no other explanation for your consistent bad luck at one of my favorite places!