Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Big Bad Apple

A few posts ago, the lovely Dayna commented:

I love reading about people brave enough to move to the big NYC! I will live vicariously through your stories!

I'm certain Dayna meant this in the nicest way possible. You'll see no condemnation or critique of her here.

But let's get this straight: New York is not scary. Not one little bit.

When I was still living in The Boonies (aka, the Buffalo vicinity)and people heard that I was preparing for a move to NYC, they invariably gave one of two (well, three) responses.

The Admirer

Wow, that's cool. I love New York.

The Realist

Wow, that's cool. I love New York. But you must be some kind of fucktard to pay those prices.

The Incredulous

New York? Wow. I've never been that brave.

New York is probably the most guarded, locked-down city in the U.S. - except Washington D.C., perhaps. Yes, 9/11 happened here, and everyone knows how horrible that was. Now, I'm about to make a controversial, crass, down-right-cold-and-unfeeling pronouncement here, and that just might piss you off. Feel free to comment. BUT...

A few thousand people were unjustifiably killed, and that's undeniably tragic and BAD. But that was out of a population of eight million plus.

In other words, the probability that you are in direct danger is extremely small.

Moreover, the city, the state of New York, and the Federal government are quite aware of the fact that NYC is on the all time top ten list of "We'd like to blow THAT up!" terrorist targets. I realize I'm being glib, and that my words might imply more trust in the competence of the Fed than I actually hold. Still, if more Horrible Things happen in the near future, I have a lot more confidence in how NYC might handle it than I would in, say, Des Moines (no offense, Des Moines. I'm sure your anti-terrorism task force is a fine one.)

Terrorism aside, the grit and pluck and sheer ballsiness of the city and the people who live here consistently surprises me.

Let's get this other thing straight. I'm not a native. You can tell I come from middle-America when I am hesitant in ordering a coffee, when I stare in amazement at the guy telling the other guy in line to shut the fuck up, already, when I'm the one on line not moving fast enough, and somebody mutters, "What are you doing, taking a nap here?" and I sheepishly glance away in shame. I am sometimes passive aggressive. New York is never passive aggressive. Many of the monied, rarified masses who have moved to Manhattan in the last decade or so are also passive aggressive, but they are decidedly not natives, either. My boyfriend has offered me honorary citizenship (he's originally from Brooklyn,) but I just can't seem to pull it off.

So, yeah, I guess that could be scary. Or off-putting. It's also really endearing, particularly when the guy in line making the funny crack is telling it to you, or when someone treats you like an asshole and that same guy sticks up for you. Ballsiness and heart go hand in hand. Folks all around you on the street aren't afraid to tell it like it is. That's what I call rarified, and it's refreshing.

So... hmmmm... it's crowded. There's not a whole lot of fresh air, or open space. Housing costs are a bitch. All of these seem like perfectly good reasons not to live here, but it's only fair to chalk those up to preference rather than fear.

Crime? Crime rates have plummeted in correlation with the economic boom in the nineties. Despite the economic slump, crime has stayed down. Homicides continue to drop. I haven't heard any recent urban-mugging-horror tales, though they certainly still happen. I suspect that a mugger would be much more likely to go for some Upper Eastsider with something to MUG than your average joe on the street.

It did happen to Tim a couple of years ago. He went out for drinks with some friends and passed out on the train home. It was his own fault - you've got to watch your back, after all. He lost his cell phone, an ATM card, and the jeans he was wearing (no, he didn't wet himself. They sliced out his pocket to get the stuff.) On second thought, that IS scary - but he came away unscathed and cursing his own lack of self-control.

And yes, there are certainly neighborhoods in which you are much more likely to get jacked or hit by a stray bullett. You are also highly unlikely to visit those neighborhoods if you've moved here from some idyllic suburb. If you're from New York and you're reading this, you probably share an apartment in the East Village or in Williamsburg and you're probably not a native, either. I know I'm making a lot of assumptions here, and I encourage you to call me on it if I'm all wrong. Email! Comment! Chances are, if you're computer savvy and have enough leisure time to be poking around the blogosphere, you don't live in East New York, Brooklyn, or Morrisania, Bronx, or the Edgemere Projects in Far Rockaway, Queens; I'll take it all the way and assume that you have never visited those neighborhoods, either. I know I haven't.

Which makes it safe to say that you're probably not going to get shot, nor are you going to get jacked or jumped or any of the other words we've made up for the bad things that happen to people in impoverished neighborhoods.

If you're NOT from New York and you're reading this, well, you're probably of one of the three attitudes I outlined above. And if you're of the second variety (i.e., "You pay how much in rent? Yeah, you really are a fucktard.") you're really smart. Can I move in with you? No, just kidding.

But, if you think it's scary.... well, it's so not. There's a Disney store in Times Square where there used to be peep shows, people! Come visit. You'll like it. I promise.


At 8:56 PM, Blogger Jen(nifer) said...

I can not visit until I get a job.

Or rich boyfriend takes me...

; )

Or someone buys all my books online for 270% of what I am posting them for!

But sometime soon...I promise...before the 3-0.

At 9:22 PM, Blogger Katie said...

You mean MY 30? Cause I'm really not as worked up about it as all of the other crazy 29 year olds out there. I'm convinced it's an "I jumped the biological clock with college unplanned pregnancy" thing.

At 11:50 PM, Blogger Jen(nifer) said...

Or you just sat around with naked men in our apartment, and jumped one and bam! : )

I just mean, I want to visit...badly! And well, I want to do this before the end of the year, which happens to be, a birthday!

Maybe we can go to chi-chi's on the 30th.

At 12:19 AM, Blogger Katie said...

Um, well, if the jumping took two years, that might be accurate. And did I mention all of the "not-from-a mall-food-court" food in New York? Dear God. That's enough reason to visit in itself. Cheap, even. We don't need no stinkin' Mario Battali reataurants.

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Dave said...

I had a similar course of events before I moved to NYC- my family completely freaked out, my friends thought I was crazy, and my co-workers were pissed that I was leaving.

Now, more than 5 years since I last lived there, I desperately miss my apartment in Brooklyn, my office at 57th and 7th, everything.

Thankfully I get to live vicariously through your stories, which, of course, make me want to go back.

At 11:47 PM, Blogger Ontario Emperor said...

I am not afraid of being killed by terrorists, should I visit New York again.

Over the last several years, I have paid numerous visits to a Top Terrorist Target (founded 1955), and have not been reduced to Jello by these visits.

I have to admit that I'm not in a rush to visit the Middle East, but New York can be handled.

Of course, I've only been to Manhattan; perhaps Staten Island would leave me paralyzed in fear.


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