Man, they say, is a creature of habit. Since time immemorial, members of the species homo sapiens have engaged in rites of passage and traditions, some born of superstition, others of necessity. Most, I imagine, were annual, timed to coincide with the seasons, and others with the phases of the moon, or the migration of animals and tribes.
These days, aside from the vestiges of those bygone rites, our livelihoods really aren't contingent on praying to the gods for a good harvest, or celebrating the fact that the days actually do start to get longer at the winter solstice (it helps that we now know why that is). But old habits die hard. Simply because science and society have changed, this does not mean that we have shed our basic drives, just the manner in which we respond to them.
That said, every year, I update my profile on a couple of different internet dating sites.
It's nothing big; just making sure my job is listed correctly (Medical Editor), my zip code is current (11105), and, if I mention it in my profile, that the count is right for the number of years I've lived in New York (10).
Wait a minute. Hold the phone. Take a step back. Put down the duck. Find your pants.
Ten years? Really?
Uh-huh. Just did the math in my head. Moved here in September '98 for grad school. So technically more than ten. But I'm a rounder (I've joined a gym, though, so that will hopefully change).
A number of years ago, when I had just moved here, I wrote a pair of columns I called New York Survival Guides. In them, I included a bunch of tips for new transplants, based on my first couple of years of life in the Big Apple. I think the first tip might have been to never refer to New York City as "the Big Apple." Or it might have been to stop staring at all the tall buildings.
Regardless, I also remember hearing, sometime during that early part of my NYC tenure that you're not a "real" New Yorker unless you've been here for ten years. So I guess you stupid kids better cut it out with the racket before I have to come down there and give you something to yell about. Madone.
Point is, I've been living in one of the largest, most vibrant, most crowded, least forgiving cities in the world for over a decade. And I may have learned a few more things to impart to the casually visiting and the recently relocated alike. Or I may be a day behind deadline with nothing else to write about.
1) Contrary to popular belief, New Yorkers love helping people, especially the lost.
I know it's a cliché -- the rude New Yorker, rushing past the clueless tourist, hardly taking time to tell him where he can stick his "excuse me, I'm lost."
Q. "How do I get to the Empire State Building?"
A. "I got your Empire State Building right here, jackoff. It's the tallest friggin' building in the entire city, since 9/11, may they rest in peace. Try looking up, asshole."
The thing is, though, that's just not how it actually works. A much more realistic exchange would go something like this:
Q. "How do I get to the Empire State Building?"
A. "Well, let's see, from here, you can either walk over to Park Ave., and hop on the 6 train, going uptown. You'll get off at 33rd Street. Head up to 34th -- there's a Duane Reade on the corner -- make a left and it's a few blocks down. Or you can walk over to Fifth Avenue first and hop on the uptown N -- there's a Duane Reade just in from the corner -- go to 34th Street. Head east on 34th about half a block. You can't miss it."
I'm not saying the stereotype is entirely unjustified, but it's more a sense of entitlement than it is any sort of inherent rudeness on our parts. We live in the biggest, most amazing city in America, and we've got things to do. If anything, it's a lack of patience, really. If you ask me to repeat those directions, you're gonna start cutting into my time. If you saunter onto the subway, the doors might close on my arm. If you stand there at Wendy's because you hadn't considered the possibility that they might ask you what kind of food you wanted, you're shortening my lunch hour and extending the time it takes before I can get my chicken sandwich.
By contrast, Boston -- a city I've lived in and have plenty of fond memories of -- actually is filled with people who would like nothing more than to not help you. Try asking directions there and it's more like, "Why are you talking to me? I don't know you. Are you trying to make me mad?" I always had a suspicion that this is just a cover, as the Boston streets are so convoluted that even someone who grew up in the North End would have trouble giving you directions from the Fleet Center to the other Fleet Center without actually taking you there himself. It's a lot easier to say, "ask a cop," than it is to say, "That's a wicked tough one. I have no idea."
Point is, if you're not from here, or if you're new to the City, and you find yourself in a bind, ask a New Yorker. Sure, helping you does enable us to feel even more superior, but it doesn't mean you won't get results.
2) Some bars cater to fans of certain teams.
The New York area has a lot of professional sports teams. To my knowlege, it's 2 baseball teams, 2 football teams, 2 basketball teams, 2 hockey teams, and the Islanders.
Because of the sheer number of residents who came here from somewhere else, however, this city is not solely the demesne of New York/North Jersey/Long Island sports fans. And every single professional team across this great nation that has more than two dozen fans living here (not tough to do when you're a city of 8 million) has a bar semi-dedicated to it. Throw in college football and basketball teams and it's a good thing we have a lot of bars. Seriously, name your team (on a national level, of course) and I can practically guarantee you that there's a TV in a bar somewhere that will be showing all of their games.
A fan of Duke basketball? Check out The Village Pourhouse. Want every single Duke fan to die in a horrible flaming Moe? Brother Jimmy's might be your spot. Ohio? Blondies. Penn State? Tonic East.
Same goes for professional teams, and no one's more vocal about supporting their hometown favorites than actual New York City rivals. A Philadelphia Eagles fan (and, really, who isn't?) would feel right at home at the Town Tavern -- the game, a cheesesteak, and Yuengling on tap. Even Red Sox fans have places they can go, a fact I wish I'd known when I planned my birthday party this past year at Fitzgerald's during a playoff game. I'm still getting e-mails from people saying they were there and couldn't find me.
Regardless, if you're not a New York native, this is useful information.
And, no, despite my spirited letter-writing campaign, there is no Tufts bar, as of yet. Mailing the letters would have helped.
3) That smell, it turns out, actually is New Jersey.
No, it's true. After repeated complaints to the city, some calls dating back as far as 2005, investigators have finally tracked the occasionally pervasive smell of maple syrup to a factory in our neighbor across the Hudson (that big piece of water we land planes on).
The good news: it's an ester made from fenugreek seeds, which is a fancy way of saying it's a harmless artificial smell used in the process of creating artificial maple syrup. The bad news: it is not the harbinger of giant waffles.
4) A lot of the places you may rent do not allow you to adjust your own heat.
Landlords, as a rule, don't like to spend money when they don't need to, especially if it's not technically spent on themselves. In an effort to control heating costs, a lot of apartments come sans thermostat. It's not that you don't have heat; you do. You just can't control it.
My current apartment is like this. I don't know where the thermostat is. I'm guessing it's in the basement, near the heater, but I am about 0% sure of this. When it gets cold out, say below 45ºF, my heat kicks on. If it's a day like the ones we've had since the start of the New Year, my heat's pumping on and off all day. I don't know how many of you are familiar with steam radiators, but they're about the temperature of, um, well, steam. Steam is hot. My apartment, when the outside temperature rises above 37.6º can be upwards of 75º. Which is a little too hot.
But not to worry; the landlord has a plan. He knows that it's not necessary for my apartment to be tropical. And he knows that most people are asleep between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. So he turns off the heat entirely during that time.
I know it might sound like I'm making this up, but I swear to you, this is the second place I've lived with this system. I've discovered that if I can fall asleep around 12:30 with my apartment a nice toasty 78º, when I wake up in the morning, my place is actually 100% comfortable for taking a shower.
I used to have a girlfriend who couldn't get behind the "fall asleep under a heat lamp" system, so she'd insist that we open my bedroom window before heading to bed (yes, I've shared a bed with a woman). This was a great plan at midnight. The room was still hot from the day, but a nice 32º breeze through the window really helped with the comfort level. Until 5 a.m. When the heat had been off for five hours and my window was still open. You get the picture.
"But can't you turn off your radiators by hand during the day?" the masses occasionally cry. I tried that once. Steam, among its most useful characteristics, has been known to build some pressure when it's not released. You haven't truly lived until you've seen your radiator cap go flying off as the top three feet of your bedroom -- from the ceiling down -- turn into a cloud. On New Year's Day.
So I don't do that anymore.
My point is that this will maybe happen to you sometimes. Live with it.
5) Find yourself a copy of Time Out New York
Seriously. I'm not shilling for the magazine or anything, but since my mom bought me the subscription, I've found it immensely useful. The features have a lot of great advice (it turns out that one way to make extra cash in New York is to work at the part-time job I already work at). The event listings are so extensive it's overwhelming at times ("Wait -- that Nelson Mandela book reading at the Museum of Sex totally conflicts with that Intro to Mint Juleps class."). And while I don't own birds, I can only imagine that the paper it's printed on would make a great cage liner.
Seriously, even if you're only in the City for the weekend or if you've lived here for 10 years (that's approximately 3,700 days for me), it's a great tool for finding things to do. I'm not saying it's indispensable or anything; I managed to survive for years without it (though that was, in large part, due to not needing a magazine in order to know that bars are open at night). However, if you are looking for something to do that doesn't involve killing brain cells, it's the way to go.
Well, that's it for this installment. If you are a recent arrival, or just looking for advice on living here, I'm officially, as I stated, a "real" New Yorker, so feel free to contact me via this Web site with any questions about this grand metropolis of ours.
And for those of you who already live in New York and just skipped down to the end to save time, I'll sum it up quickly so you can go back to griping about the economy or the closing of the Knitting Factory: Ask directions. Find a place to cheer for your team. No impending waffles. You'll be hot, you'll be cold. Do stuff.
Yup, that about covers it.
A native of Elkins Park, PA, Adam Kraemer spends way too much of his time repeating "K-R-A-E..." He moved to New York City in 1998 and earned Master's in Journalism at NYU; don't let his writing fool you. He feels he is best known for saying the things no one is thinking, but afterwards wish they had been. He spends his free time wondering where all his free time goes and why he can never come up with a decent kicker for the ends of his articles.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
2.11.09 @ 9:39a
There's no other place like it in the whole wide world! When my daughter still lived in the city I was known to have ridden a train from Florida for 24 hours in order to see a Van Gogh exhibit at the Met. As a Mets fan I loved riding the number 7 train out to Flushing with all my fellow fans. It's the only train on which people actually talk to each other, and everybody is wearing SOMEthing with a Mets logo on it. My considered personal opinion, as a sometime resident of the city and an oftentimes visitor is that New Yorkers are the most helpful, kind and polite people in the world, which is certainly contrary to popular opinion. Three of my favourite things in the whole world are Mets: the art museum, the opera and the MLB team.
2.11.09 @ 11:54a
Well, I agree with everything but the MLB part.
People talk on Yankees subways, too.
2.13.09 @ 8:30a
Well, Adam, how would a Mets fan who avoids the damnYankees and their fans ever know that? Huh? I prolly should have added a "that I know of" phrase. Okay, so Yankees fans might be human, too. That's as far as I'm gonna go.
2.13.09 @ 10:45a
Hey, you being a Mets fan not only offends my sensibilities as a Yankees fan, but in so far as I grew up (and still am) a Phillies fan, I have to say that you're showing exceedingly poor judgment.
And I'm not the one who started with the mud slinging, neither.
dr. jay gross
2.16.09 @ 10:55a
Get a life - become a Steelers fan and learn how to win! It becomes a habit like 'the rites of spring'.
2.18.09 @ 5:34p
Aw, Adam, I didn't mean to sling mud, certainly not your way, anyhow. My favourite MLB player of all time, Lenny Dykstra, played for both the Mets and the Phillies, so the Phillies have a soft spot in my bleeding little heart, too. I've never even been to Yankee Stadium because before they left for California, I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and learned to hate the damnYankees at a very early age. Sorry 'bout that. To add to the tale, my favourite step-father was from Boston, and you know how those people feel about your precious Yankees!!!
2.19.09 @ 11:48a
No, that I can see. Generally, I'm a Phillies fan and a fan of whatever AL team is located where I'm living. Currently, it's the Yanks. When I was in college, I was a Sox fan.
2.20.09 @ 9:48a
This is all I have to say about the AL: if the pitcher doesn't bat it ain't BASEBALL. End of story.