Saturday, September 5, 2009

Why I do not love NY.

As I continue to fantasize about leaving New York soon and for good, I thought it was time for me to get out of my system a few of the reasons I hate this place so much:

1. It is deafening. There's a John Cheever story whose protagonist, a 1950s New Yorker, is startled by the sound of a bus outside his window. Cheever plops down a line that might be the most resonant thing I've read since moving to NYC (despite the fact that I don't like Cheever that much): "It seemed to him that the penetrating noise of the city had a mortal effect on the precious lives on the city's inhabitants and that it should be muffled."

I have worn earplugs every day since May 2007. At first I only wore them in bed, to hide explosive bus brakes outside my bedroom window and the sounds of people shouting to each other, which, even if jocular or celebratory, always sound to my WASP ears like fighting. I quickly graduated to wearing them on the subway. An express train barreling through a station, squealing brakes, intercom announcements = repetitive aural rape.

It's not just my sensitivity, which is admittedly high*: research backs me up on this shit. I've since learned to keep my 'plugs in from the moment I leave my apartment to the moment I step into my office building, and likewise the reverse.

2. It smells like piss. The streets, the subway stations, even the subway cars. I've always been aware of what piss smells like (I have, in fact, been pissing all my life), but since moving here I have learned to identify all piss varieties, on a spectrum that includes alcoholic, dehydrated, and kidney-failure pathologies. On the Times Square platform where I change lines every morning, there is a reflective, congealed film underfoot. By smell, you know a train is on its way even before hearing it because the train pushes out a cylindrical piss cloud from where it had been patiently baking inside the tunnel.

3. It's fucking expensive. This one's obvious, but I'll never get used to it. I'll be brief: The other day I was staring in the window of a store selling interesting items, and I saw this:
These knick-knacks (specifically, the owl, the squirrel, and the polar bear platter) filled me with a kind of hysterical longing I didn't understand. And then I did understand: I hadn't bought a single knick-knack since moving here two years ago. I have almost no disposable income because I spend nearly half of my net income on rent.

4. There are too many people. My significant other once astutely commented that there are so many people in this city that it cheapens life. I see waves of people walking in the same direction (e.g., to a subway station at rush hour), and I become panicky and hateful and excrete cortisol. About a month ago, I realized what an asshole I'd become when I scoffed at a comment made by the S.O.'s little brother, who was visiting on his way to college. We were watching people zombie-shuffle in a human column boarding the Staten Island Ferry when he marveled that each of these people had a soul, and a life, and wasn't that overwhelming? Yes. Yes, it is. To the point where you are comfortable seeing others not as souls but as retarded fucking assholes who are (more crucially) in your way.**

* I don't normally relate to this kind of self-diagnosis--in fact, I hate what it implies about me--but when I took this quiz I literally selected
all of the check boxes.

** Not to imply that there isn't an overabundance of R.F.A.s here.

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