First of all, I’m well aware that anyone from New York will look at this, read part of it, and create a million and one reasons (excuses) for why they love New York City. It’s a lot like a raccoon mistakenly taking obsessive ownership of a stuffed animal some suburban family threw in the trash because they ran out of toilet paper and had to wipe their newborn’s diaper shit with it.
The first time I visited New York City was in 2015, when I jumped on a Megabus and endured 5 long hours of travel to get there. Once there, I was drowned in tall buildings, getting chills between where the sun actually reached the ground beneath me and where some architect decided their building was more important than sunlight.
The architecture was the least of my worries – in fact, I was more bewildered by it than anything else, and in retrospect the architecture of NYC is probably one of it’s only redeeming factors. The nonstop sound of horns beeping coming from people who seemingly believed that the overly-accessible button between their hands could make the rest of world faster began to eat away at my rather composed demeanor as I walked about, wondering where to go. The smell of smog contrasted against a cold and dewy summer morning made me sick – and paired with the never ending chain of people who disregarded anyone but themselves by smoking cigarettes to match was no better. New York City was instantly a sensory overload.
The people of New York seemed to revel in their own muck. Smiles caress their faces from ear to ear as if they somehow had a hand in shaping it, rather than just being a pawn in how it fell into their lap. What’s to be proud of? You’re 20 years old. They claimed pride at being able to dodge traffic and elude red lights, as if it were normal. Nowhere else in the world is it normal to have to risk your life every day just to get from one place to another. Why people wanted to look at themselves as if the danger of simply existing was a point of pride was beyond me. When I left NYC, there were no red lights to stop at, no cars to avoid, no sounds to drown out, no risk to exist.
New York wants to pride itself so much on being New York, but can’t even think of what it’s going to be proud of. Is it your sports team? Which one, of the multitude you have? The Jets and the Giants, the Rangers and the Islanders, the Yankees and the Mets, or the Nets and the Knicks? Or perhaps, you’re so unique you reach out and take on a different New York Team. Go Buffalos! Go Devils! Of the five prominent boroughs of New York City the only ones anyone my age seem to be able to afford are the same ones that end up in Superhero shows that need to be saved, or pop culture music as places poor people had to come out of. Why is everyone in NYC so damn keen on struggling?
A single bedroom, shared with others, will run you the same cost as a studio in Miami Beach, a three bedroom in North Dakota, or something double the size in North Carolina. You can live in San Diego for the cost of your groceries alone. It’s not that everyone loves to pride themselves on coming out of the struggle, it’s that nobody seems to ever leave it. There’s a whole world out there that doesn’t have giant rats eating away at your foundation. The mediocre pay received to live in an area so wildly rampant with STDs that they made a worldwide stage musical about it hardly seems worth it.
What’s the appeal? I don’t see it. I went through Times Square at night. I’ve been to concerts at Madison Square Garden. I’ve ridden the subway from one end to the other, been lost at the stroke of dawn drunken in my own stupor. I’ve cramped myself into a space and explored the hole-in-the-wall restaurants. It’s all the same. Day in, day out – it’s never going to change. New York City is one big experiment to see which rat gets to climb on the back of every other one to climb the walls out. Nowhere else in the world have I checked in to a hostel and been told that there may be bed bugs. Nowhere else in the world have I had wake up in the morning while its still dark, get out of work while its getting dark, and never be within a stone’s throw of the ocean. Why does nobody want to leave?
The second time I was in New York City we went to the skatepark, had tall boys on the stoop, and ate at the corner deli. Dollar pizza found its way into our day, at a restaurant lined with photos of celebrities that had eaten there. It was neither fascinating nor delicious. As I skateboarded and traveled across the USA with an incoming winter, I stopped in Des Moines and said I could see myself living there. I wasted away in Chicago and saw my reflection in the ponds and said that might be it. When I got to New York City, I couldn’t wait to leave.
Why anyone chooses to pay exorbitant amounts of money to live in a place that’s cold half the year is already beyond me. Why anyone chooses to rummage about, running into people who want nothing to do with them is beyond me. Why a culture built on being rough and tough and not looking anyone in the eyes is a point of pride is beyond me. When I travel, I meet people. I shake hands. I stay with strangers and chat with new people. I eat at new places. When I go to New York, it’s eyes down, bags held tight. I eat the same – falafel, pizza, chicken. Doesn’t matter. Nobody says hello, nobody tells me a story.
It’s the least welcoming place in the world and everybody seems to love it except for me. New York never did anything to me besides be what people want it to be – and unless I have to go, like I did for my last visit, I would never do it willingly.