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my kind of town?
new york state of mind
by mike julianelle
1.7.08
general

It hasn't even been three months since I landed in Brooklyn and I already have a new pair of glasses that makes me look like the lead singer from Barenaked Ladies. All I need now is a beret and a vegan girlfriend and it'll be like I was born here.

Brooklyn and its hipsters aside, the rap on New York city is that people here are assholes. Classless, big-mouthed jerks. But I was an asshole before I even got to New York. So what does that make me now? An asshole squared? At least I'm not a New York sports fan.

The truth is, there are a lot of assholes in New York, but I think that's mostly due to the fact that there is a lot of everything in New York. Most people are assholes, so why should one of the biggest cities in the world lack them? Especially when the Yankees and Jets play here.

New York City is definitely huge. But at the same time, it's very easy to make it small for yourself. There's really no need to leave whatever neighborhood you live in, whether it's uptown, midtown, downtown, UWS, UES, Harlem, SoHo, the Village, Chelsea or even one of the outer boroughs, where I live with my wife.

The majority of my time is spent in Brooklyn's Park Slope, where we live, and in Chelsea, where I work. We've explored a bunch of other areas and I have some favorites and some not so favorites, but overall, aside from size, New York isn't all that different from any other city. Certainly not different enough to have a superiority complex just because the inexplicably-considered-good-looking Sarah Jessica Parker spent some time pretending to have a sex life even though she looks like the witch from Snow White. A city is a city is a city. New York is bigger than most, but we all know size don't matter.

Seriously, after spending my entire life on the upper east coast, in Connecticut, Massachusetts and now New York, being a cynical asshole surrounded by other cynical assholes in a fast-paced environment clinging to all four seasons (barely) just seems normal. That said, there are definitely some different things about living in the Big Apple, not the least of which is these places called "Starbucks." They're these little stores that sell coffee and they're everywhere! Trust me, just wait until they come to your town. Only in New York!

One thing about Gotham that I can't help but notice is the sheer amount of people that are around, everywhere, all the time. Aside from a side street or two in my quieter (but not by much) Brooklyn neighborhood, there are few places one could consider oneself alone. In Boston it was possible to be one of a handful of lonely souls traversing the Common or Government Center. In Manhattan, you're lucky if, on the way to the bodega at 3am, you only walk past 15 people. Another thing is all the idiotic nicknames this city has. You thought I was serious when I called it Gotham above? That's almost as bad as using Mo Vaughn's pathetic nickname in public. Gotham, Metropolis, the Big Apple, the City that Never Sleeps...shut up.

Another interesting aspect of Metropolis is all the dirty foreigners that live here. Except I'm not sure these days who's more foreign (or more dirty), the English-speaking Americans or everyone else. When I visited Greece in the fall, it was interesting to feel so...unique. In Athens, at the airport, everywhere, it wasn't uncommon to hear five different languages within thirty seconds, none of them mine. NYC is nearly as cosmopolitan; sometimes I feel like the minority, quaintly using English to chat with my wife as we stroll down city streets.

One difference I was looking forward upon moving to the Big Apple was the sheer amount of places to see shows. Not "shows" as in Broadway shows, though plenty of those are in my future I'm sure ("The Seafarer" is well-acted but trite), but "shows" as in concerts at some of the countless venues the city offers. Unfortunately, due to the hectic nature of my brief time here, I have yet to take advantage of that aspect of my new New York surroundings. I didn't even get to go to Dane Cook's recent concert and shoot him in the face at close range, I was so busy!

As busy as I was, holiday season in the City That Never Sleeps wasn't without its charms, not the least of which was wearing my Sox cap in late November and getting begrudging congratulations from bitter strangers who'd much rather be giving me the finger except their team sucks. Also, being a dutiful husband, I went along to the Thanksgiving Day parade, checked out the tree at Rockefeller Center, experienced the life of salmon navigating the teeming sidewalks in front of famously decorated storefront windows, and more. I felt a bit like a tourist but hey, I guess I still kind of am. But now that I've done those things, I've DONE THOSE THINGS. Check 'em off the list and then throw the list out and set it on fire seriously I will DIVORCE YOU, WOMAN!

So far, in my short time here, I have few complaints...well, at least none that would have seemed out of place back in Boston, and you've probably heard most of those (I still hate religion). NYC is nothing special, really, and nothing to be in awe of or intimidated by. It's just a place to be. My favorite thing about it so far is their generous use of the phrase "happy hour." There are so many bars competing for drinkers that they practically give away beers (and by "give away" I mean cut the price from 6 bucks to 5 for two hours after work), inventing specials, having weekend happy hours, etc.

But other than being a fun place to experience from the bottom of a glass, I have been neither incredibly impressed nor majorly disappointed with my new town.

Maybe 5 years ago, when I was a single guy living the single life, it would have been the place to be. I'm sure sharing a small apartment with two or three friends, using a convenient drug-delivery service (you can get anything delivered in New York!), living above your means and ogling the incredible amount of gorgeous women one sees on a daily basis throughout this town is pretty fucking spectacular as a 25 year old. I am pretty sure I could live here for 20 more years and still never experience half of what makes this place so great.

Maybe I got here too late. I'm not 25 and single and high. But that's not to say that NYC doesn't offer plenty for a 31 year old pussy-whipped drunk (alcohol is legal!). Hopefully come 2008, I'll finally get to experience some of this place without feeling like one of those stunned Japanese people staring up at the signs in Times Square with cameras around their necks. I mean, seriously, you're from Japan. It looks like fucking Blade Runner over there compared to our bush league billboards. Settle down.


ABOUT MIKE JULIANELLE

Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".

more about mike julianelle

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COMMENTS

maigen thomas
1.7.08 @ 12:17p

In Vancouver, at the corner of Robson and Burrard (major intersection in the Shopping District) there USED to be a Starbucks on three corners and a Pastels (cafe) on one. Pastels (unsurprisingly) closed, and one of the *$ is gone, too.

What is surprising, though, is the remaining two kitty cornered Starbucks BOTH do non-stop business. Ridiculous.

brian anderson
1.7.08 @ 1:26p

"Experienced the life of salmon navigating the teeming sidewalks in front of famously decorated storefront windows." This is *exactly* right, although I never knew how to phrase it so well. The store windows and Rockefeller Center at Christmas were the few places in the world that made me feel like I just couldn't handle the rush of humanity squashed together into far too small a space. Is it possible to have a combination of agoraphobia and claustrophobia?

But yeah, I like New York. It's a city, only bigger. The deep Noo Yawk accents kind of grate a bit, though.

dan gonzalez
1.7.08 @ 10:36p

New York has had some big assholes before, like Woody Allen and George Steinbrenner, but those pussies don't hold a candle to you or Michael Bloomberg.

Everyone talks about New York like it's one big town, but the fact is it's five different citie, all rolled into one. They call them boroughs, all of which recurse into various conglomerations of municipalities and neighborhoods, some ethnic, some whatever else.. But aside from Manhatten, which is truly the big city, metro New York City is nothing but a highly-dense juxtaposition of typical American cowtowns.

As an example, tell some bartender in the Bronx that you heard Grimaldi's in Brooklyn was the best pizza in the city, and then ask how I do I get there, and hear him say "I dunno. I give a fuck about Brooklyn?". (A lot of people in metro New York tend to end their statements with question marks, as if they're not really sure what the hell is what in their own great city.)

Anyway, the whole place is both under-rated and over-rated, but I can rarely think of a better place to spend some quality time. And now, We're counting on you, Mike, to replace all these local question marks with periods and exclamation points.

Sure, you're gonna have to lie to your wife, and quite possibly ditch her for 72 hours straight only to wake up somewhere near Rockaway Beach with no clear recollection as to where your pants are, but it will be worth it.


heather millen
1.8.08 @ 10:16a

Sure, you're gonna have to lie to your wife, and quite possibly ditch her for 72 hours straight only to wake up somewhere near Rockaway Beach with no clear recollection as to where your pants are, but it will be worth it.


That's no fun! Wife wants to come with!

My first reactions to NYC are very similar. Even in Times Square where my office is, it really is just one of many small parts that make the bigger whole. Even if it is full of NYC's BIGGEST assholes - the tourists.

And our neighborhood in Brooklyn may be the friendliest, neighborhood-iest place I've ever lived. Bartenders remember you, everyone is willing to tell you about your new neighborhood, and it just feels like a nice place to come home to.

But if Grimaldi's is the best pizza in NYC, I'm in for a world of hurt.

mike julianelle
1.8.08 @ 10:31a

At least it didn't cost us a hundred bucks!

adam kraemer
1.8.08 @ 1:11p

I wouldn't break down NYC by borough, Dan. Well, I would, but I agree that it's really a city of neighborhoods (as are most of the cities I know). It's not just that the Bronx bartender (why would you be in a bar in the Bronx?) doesn't know Brooklyn, but the likelihood is that he doesn't know the other sections of the Bronx, either.

The only exception, of course, is Manhattan, where people know neighborhoods other than their own. And even then, having lived there a few times in the last 9 years, I know that you don't have to leave your 4-block radius to have everything you need.

But, yeah, New York is just like every other city, except more so. It's got more people and taller buildings. So there's that. And, I'd argue, it's got consistently better food. Which is to say that if a restaurant really sucks, it's not likely to be around for very long.

Oh, and the best pizza in the city is Pizza Booth, on Bleecker. Or is it Pizza Box?

[edited]

mike julianelle
1.9.08 @ 2:39p

Speaking of all the neighborhoods and boroughs in "NYC," one of the coolest experiences so far was heading up to our roof on New Year's Eve to catch the fireworks from Brooklyn's nearby Prospect Park.

Little did we know we'd not only be able to see Brooklyn's fireworks AND Manhattan's, but also 4-5 OTHER fireworks displays, each impressive in their own right, presumably from the other boroughs and perhaps even New Jersey! Fireworks across the horizon, in every direction.

That was really amazing, and I don't even LIKE fireworks!



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