I grew up in Wyoming and this country girl enjoyed the simplicity of being raised in a town of 5,000 people. Although I was small-town, I had a strong sense of purpose, the safety of my community, and all the rural fun that Wyoming had to offer.
Between my Junior and Senior years studying Interior Design at BYU-I, I chose to intern for a design firm (Foley and Cox Interiors) in New York City, and this has been the cause of my misery ever since. It must have been the hit-you-in-the-face realization that I had spent the majority of my life living in a wide-open state that had only 1/16th of the population as my newfound, overcrowded island—but I fell in LOVE with the Big Apple and have been missing it since I left last fall.
New York—it’s a zoo—literally (note the turtle in the stroller?), but a wonderfully fascinating one. I would like to write what I remember about the city: what impressed me, what is commonplace there that initially seemed so foreign, what I enjoyed, and what I didn’t enjoy. This may be painfully boring for you and may seem obsessive on my part (it is), but the beauty of this blog is that I can write the city out of my system, and you can close this window at any time. And now we begin…
Heartbeat of the City:
New York is shamelessly full of ENERGY. The city never stops pulsating with life, from the white-collared working man who is so infatuated with his career that he lives in his office, to the Latinos whose loud music blasts too late into the night for comfort. Even the streets are like a living organism. Sidewalks transform into the veins of the city—pulsating with hundreds of hurried pedestrians each with a definite destination and sense of purpose.
The energy is contagious.
New York is financially extreme. It is not uncommon to see the richest of men in the world walking alongside the poorest of men. The everyday comforts that the middle class and some poor enjoy throughout the rest of America are considered luxuries in Manhattan. Only the elite can afford cars for example. Aside from a vehicle’s initial expense, the cost of a parking garage alone can cost upwards of $400. Space is the city’s most scarce and costly resource. Where a three-bedroom home can cost as little as $150,000 in Wyoming, a penthouse of that size can easily start at five million dollars on the Upper Eastside.
On the other end... my three roommates and I each paid roughly $800 a month for our puny and not-so-nice apartment on the Upper Westside (lobby as seen below).
I can imagine the feeling a New Yorker must have after shopping at a Walmart for the first time. It has to be similar to my first experience in Mexico when I guiltily felt I had blatantly robbed children! It seemed there was no mathematical way that they were making a profit off of the Chiclets and tacos being sold on the streets of Tiwana for mere pennies.
However, upon arriving in Manhattan, I experienced the opposite—I was the victim. $6.00 for a gallon of milk? $11.00 for a jar of jam?! Absurd! Unethical! I missed Walmart and Costco. I missed their bulk products at a minimal cost. I missed their 6’ wide isles and standard-sized carts and thought, “if these people knew what they were missing…”
Initially the grocery store intimidated me from the marked price of food to the claustrophobia of such a tight space. As I would push my miniature-sized cart through miniature-sized isles (one person at a time—not convenient for a highly populated city), foreign, organic labels would peer down at me from too high of shelves in a dangerous attempt to save space. One word: compact. Very compact.
However, I remember being impressed by the large amount of precious space that the market sacrificed for cheese. Stinky cheese. Fuzzy green cheese. 25 lb wheels of cheese, and cheese I probably shouldn’t have sampled.
However, I found grocery shopping a delight once I became used to its new environment. The produce was actually quite outstanding; trying new organic brands was exciting; and the diversity of the foods was always a curious thing to me. What would anyone use pickled pig’s feet or fuzzy green cheese for? Beats me. I guess that if you are going to feed diverse people, you had better sell diverse foods.
Overall, Manhattan is grimy from the streets to some of its hosts. It is far from clean and even further from being pristine. That, I suppose, is the result of too many people in too little a space, but somehow, you learn to love it.
Now this isn’t news to a New Yorker, but it knocked me off my feet the first time I saw it: at about 5:00 every evening, all of the businesses and apartments will begin throwing their trash filled bags into heaps on the sidewalk. By the end of the day, there will be a small hill in front of most every building. It seemed a very strange thing, since my family burns our trash in a 50 gallon barrel, which most New Yorkers would NOT find environmentally friendly.
In response to the hills of rubbish, the garbage truck would come roaring in at 1:00 every morning and would nosily go to work with no apparent consideration to those who might be sleeping.
Central Park is a glorious place—honestly the best thing the city has going for itself. Without it, I am convinced that 8,000,000 urbanized city-dwellers would go mad in a concrete jungle for want of Mother Nature.
I am normally very private when around strangers. I generally want to do my own little hum-de-dum thing without anyone watching. If I am going to run slowly, I don’t want other people to see. If I’m going to read a book in the grass, I want people to leave me alone and not ask what I’m reading. However, in the Park… that is basically unavoidable. Instead, there is this great sense of community.
Almost daily I would throw on my running shoes, jog the three blocks to the park, and merge into the heavily trafficked trail with other runners/bikers. Oddly, those running companions immediately became my unspoken friends. Some would shout words of encouragement as I passed, and others would never make eye contact, but we all shared something in common: our love for nature, exercise, semi-fresh air, and sunlight. That was enough to bind us in some strange way.
Through this experience and others, I became convinced that in such a large population, people have the need to find connections that quietly link them to other people, even if those people are unfamiliar. Curious really. Although most New Yorkers are highly suspicious of most strangers (necessarily so), they can be very friendly. It is simply a matter of tapping into that link and earning a little bit of trust, and BANG—you both feel that you have one more friend in such a vast world… even if it is momentary.
Whew. It feels good to get this off my chest. Right now I feel comparable to a brace-face girl who expresses her deep infatuation by writing and rewriting her crush’s name in red pen on her binder… only I just made my love affair embarrassingly public.
My goal is to eventually burry this entry deep into the archives of my blog as I post things that will hopefully be more interesting to my readers as a whole, so don’t let my lengthy story prevent you from taking interest in my future posts!