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New York City

Here I am at Nintendo World. I got to play the new 3DS handheld unit. I was impressed by the glasses-free 3D effects, but the games were all lackluster. So, this toy seems *really* like just a toy.

I am blessed that Nintendo World is just a few blocks from my new office, so I can walk there over lunch. I also hit Lego World and Times Square. Now that it's getting warmer, it's a delight to be able to explore New York City without freezing my ass off. So, I am learning a lot about the city.

Here are some things I discovered about New York City!

There are no back alleys in Manhattan. You know all those movies where a criminal with a gun hides around a corner and lures unsuspecting victims into a trap? That doesn't happen here. There sometimes *are* spaces behind two buildings, but they are walled off and there is no way to visit them as public space.

Since there are no alleys, every restaurant, business, and apartment dumps their trash on the sidewalk. For large buildings, this means 50-100 plastic bags are heaped in a stinking pile that you have to walk by on every block. You'd think that there would be programs in place to reduce the amount of garbage, but you'd be wrong. Or, since they could estimate the average number of bags placed each morning at each spot, they'd build shelters or boxes to hide the sight and smell. But New Yorker just accept it, so it's like walking through a giant garbage dump.

New York City is dirty. Really filthy. When things get run-down in other cities, they replace them. They hire people to scrape gum off sidewalks and repaint over graffiti. not here. You often see walls and floors falling apart, black with grime. Nobody is responsible for them, so nobody cleans them or repairs them. I guess if you had ten thousand people walking through your living room every day, it would get pretty disgusting. Now imagine if three percent of those spit on the ground and drop garbage. And nobody cleans it up for years and years. That's New York City.

The place is expensive. My joke is that everything costs exactly twice what it should. I bought a can of coke for two dollars today. Rent for a one-bedroom apartment is about $2,000 a month. I am reminded of visiting Paris, when my traveling companion rants for a hour when he realized that his cup of coffee cost six american dollars after the rate conversion. I told him to pretend the Euros in his pocket were 'funny money", all in pinks and yellow and blue colors, like playing pieces in a board game. Six dollar coffee is the price for the ride. Were you really thirsty that morning, and did that coffee taste really good while sitting on the cafe overlooking the Seine river? Well, alright then.

There is a main street that runs east-west called "Houston". But it's not pronounced "Hew-ston" like you'd think. No, New Yorkers insist on calling the street "How-ston". Anyway, all east-west street north of it are named 1st street, 2nd street, and so on, all the way north to Central Park (at 59th street) and up even further past Harlem and 215th street). So it's pretty easy to know how far north you are on the island by the cross streets.

South of "Howston", however, is a maze of diagonal streets. it's fun an funky there, with fun neighborhoods like Soho ("South of Houston"), Little Italy, Chinatown, The Lower East Side, and Tribeca. However, I have to take a map when walking around down there, because I get really lost. Even though the 9/11 site is at the south of the island in the Financial District, it really isn't anyplace you'd stumble upon. In three months of living here, I haven't visited it yet.

One problem I have is that the city blocks in Manhattan are not squares. Instead, they are much wider than they are tall. For example, walking a city block north-south (for example, from 35th street to 36th street) is really fast. It's a short block with only about 6 or 7 stores on it, and I can walk it in a little over a minute. East-west blocks, however, are way bigger. They are about three times as long. Plus, there aren't as many stores on the east-west block, since they take so long to stroll down. So, they feel gloomy to me, and often devoid of stores except on each end.

The streets that go north-south are actually "avenues": 9th avenue, 8th avenue, 7th avenue, and so on. So, you can cell a taxis to take you to "24th between 6th and 7th," and they know exactly what you mean. Although you might not get a response... taxi drivers just kind of grunt and remain motionless and you have to guess whether they understood anything you said. Even though they aren't supposed to talk on their cell phones, they all do it 24/7. They have little earphone, and they talk really quietly in foreign languages and hope you don't tell them to hang up the phone. If you say that, or ask them to turn of their radio, they sulk for the rest of the trip.

The first two weeks I lived in New York, I took taxis everywhere. It cost about $10 to go from my apartment to anywhere within reason. Then, I got a subway pass, and that only cost $2.25 one-way. Taking the subway is harder than you'd think: first you need to find a subway that connects the two places you want to go (or near enough). Then, you have to enter on the correct side of the platform - it's frustrating to walk down all those stairs and realize you are on the wrong side of the tracks and have to go "up and over". Some stations are so big that the entire station takes up both downtown ("southbound") and uptown ("northbound") trains, but that's the exception.

As I said, the first few weeks, I took taxis, or just walked everywhere. It's wonderful to walk around NY... you discover cool new shops on every block. Most cities I've lived in have one or two fun areas (SF's Castro, Denver's Lodo), but this city must have hundreds of chocolate shops and cupcakeries. It's a shame rents are too high to support some other stores: I miss used book stores and pinball arcades, but will probably find those in Brooklyn or Queens in the future.

I have a progression of getting better at public transportation. I'm getting better at taking the subway... if auto traffic is heavy (which it almost always is), you can often get where you need to go by subway faster than a taxi. I impressed myself last week by managing to take one subway line, get off, and then get on another line on a transfer without screwing up, leaving the station, and having to pay again. As I said... baby steps!

I've also taken the "PATH" train, which goes to New Jersey. I've take a bus, but only with Thor. And I haven't had a need to rent a SmartCar since I still have my VW bug convertible in an expensive parking lot a block away from my apartment. I've found the hardest thing is to *leave8 the city. Taking the tunnel off the island takes about a half hour and ten dollars just to leave. It gives me a slight feeling of claustrophobia, because in the event of an accident or terrorist attack, I know I won't be able to get out of the city.

But then again, with all these wonderful riches and stores, who would want to leave! {grin} Street art. Bootleg sidewalk vendors. Food trucks. Theater with only twenty people in the audience. Seeing a movie studio making a film. Buying a CD from some guy you hear in the subway. Hipster walking carrying banjoes and monkeys and giant sunflowers. Whatever the latest fad is - or better yet, what the next fad WILL BE - they have it here. Come up and visit sometime!

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There is a main street that runs east-west called "Houston". But it's not pronounced "Hew-ston" like you'd think. No, New Yorkers insist on calling the street "How-ston".

Atlanta has (had?) a similarly-pronounced street, and Georgia has a similarly-pronounced county. Of course, Georgia also has Talliaferro County, pronounced "Tolliver". LOL

Urso told me that all the North-South streets in Atlanta were named "Peachtree" ;)

My all-time favourite book store in Atlanta was the long-since closed Oxford Books, which was on Peachtree Road at its intersection with Peachtree Place and Peachtree Battle Boulevard. :-P

When I first moved to the hardest thing for me was lack of personal space. It drove me crazy to always have somebody within a foot of me.

The subway is a learning experience but you'll get the hang of it.

I lived in New York in the Village near 7th Ave and 10th Street until about 1994. As a transplant, I went through a lot of the stuff you're experiencing.

The bad news; the garbage doesn't get any nicer as the temperature rises. Breathe through your mouth and walk quickly.

The good news; as you're finding there are lots and lots of diversions in Manhattan. Just about anything you'd like can be had at a price.

The really hard part of the NYC subway is getting across town. You've probably already figured out that you can do that at 14th and 42nd streets, but look at the diagonal lines (N, R) as well. You do know that the 1 2 3 and 4 5 6 run the most frequently in Manhattan, right?

And you're working close to one of my all time favorite shops in New York, De LaConcha tobacconists; 6th Ave between 56th and 57th. I mail order my pipe tobacco from them. BTW, only tourists call 6th Ave "Avenue of the Americas."

As for the $6 coffee in Paris? Did you know that almost all cafes in Paris have three prices? No, it's not French, Tourist and American; it's terrace, indoor seating and standing at the bar. That same coffee was probably $4 seated indoors and $2 standing at the bar. Something to consider the next time you're in Paris; do you just want a quick "cafe noir" to get you going to your next destination or do you want to linger on the terrace?

Because I never spend too too much time in NYC, I try and overlook the grime. But I see it. And wonder.

I like hearing your perspective as a transplant taking it all in.

And my hopes for the 3DS are low considering launch titles. In some ways I wish Nintendo would expand to be a software and hardware company, with the former licensing and distributing content to other platforms (phones).

Did you know there are crossings to the North and East without tolls? You can drive to Westchester, or Long Island (or The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens) without paying a toll. I keep thinking I'll come back for a visit and drive into Manhattan and find there is no more free street parking, and every crossing has a toll... It's been too long since I've driven in Manhattan. (Surely, I must have been there since this: http://johnkenny.net/gallery/nyc060512)

The reason people outgrow New York is the filth and the overcrowding. I used to think the world ended 50 miles from Manhattan Island, but like others, I've discovered there are other World Cities that are cleaner, less crowded and have nicer weather.

Houston, Texas and Houston Street were named after different people. (I love how the British pronounce both as "who-stun.")

As for the grid failure, Manhattan was settled from the southern tip north. I believe Wall Street was named for an actual wall that separated civilization from the savages. Even so, the grid isn't consistent until 14th street. My favorite example of grid failure is where West 4th Street crosses West 13th Street.

I used to love navigating the Subway, and always rode in the front so I could look out the window. It's amazing, but it's also noisy, filthy and really hot and smelly in the summer. (Oh, and cold in the winter.)

I've come to think the people who don't leave New York don't allow themselves to embrace alternatives. Eventually, it wears on you. It is simply harder to live in New York, and eventually you realize that anything you can do in New York can be done elsewhere. Think of this an experience that you'll look back upon when you and thornyc move back to San Francisco.

Edited at 2011-03-20 04:46 pm (UTC)

Why was i not informed of such a place of wonderment.

When I've visited the city, I noticed *all* of the things you mention (well, not the 3DS, since it wasn't invented 20yrs ago... ;o) ) but -- as a *visitor* -- it made the city even more exotic and...fun... :o)

GOD I need to get back there... @_@ Families and budgets are (all to often) not friendly towards a grizzly with a travelling spirit! ;o)

I was impressed by the glasses-free 3D effects, but the games were all lackluster.

I guess it's the classic case of software design lagging hardware design (gee, when does THAT ever happen?)

assuming you're going to stay in NYC, it's time to sell the insect. Do the math. Renting a car on the few occasions that make it useful works out to be MUCH cheaper, and simpler.

Check out the Strand - an excellent used book store. I'm also a fan of the housing works used book store over on Crosby (?) by Houston.

Between my initial intro to NYC, in 1980, and the last time I visited....I forget when... about 1999, the increase of cleanliness amazed me!

They STILL need to assign every resident a square of sidewalk, though, to get rid of the gum!

I would rather be charged with getting rid of every resident that spits their gum out on the sidewalk.

The, "nip it in the bud" approach..... very Fifian!

i've always dreamed of living in New York, but it sounds scary, especially considering how bad my sense of direction is

it has been too long since I have been on here last. Anyway...Congrats on the move!

Ya know, I've been in this city almost a year now, (Next month will be the anniversary.) and I still feel like there are SO many things that I have yet to do, see, eat, experience, etc...

Have you even begun to check out the areas outside of the Rock? Queens is cute, but I'm really starting to fall in love with Brooklyn. Very different vibe from Manhattan.

meh, Brandon Boyer already has his 3ds. But he's famous.

cars in manhattan are crazy expensive. on-street parking is nuts and will get you towed really often. parking lots cost way way way too much. there's an 18.something % tax on parking rates, which you can get a waiver for if you're actually a manhattan resident though.

re: subways... there's an app for that. several of them, actually.

re: dirty stinky garbage. yes. it's everywhere. no dumpsters, garbage everywhere, i know this well, it's what I do. :) technically, building owners are responsible for the sidewalk in front of the building, but... you'll see when it gets warmer, store owners and such "watering the sidewalk" in an effort to wash the nasty into the street.

This was a really fun and informative read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on your new home.

I've only been to NYC on a stopover to Europe. I remember the city smelling like cigarettes and urine, and it has made me avoid visiting ever since.

I've been to other world metropolises that smelled better: London, Paris, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Chicago, Taibei, Saigon, San Francisco. Beijing and Guangzhou certainly smelled worse than NYC, but in none of them was garbage piled high on the sidewalk.

I've heard it's best to visit NYC with someone who knows it. Someday, maybe.

I think your experience pretty much sums up the initial experience for all new New Yorkers. I am still getting the hang of the subway sometimes, and I have been here more than a decade, LOL.

I still think that the excitement and the fact that there is always something you can learn or do here really makes up for the negatives.

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