One Year in New York City

It’s been just over a year since we made the move to Brooklyn and now seems like an appropriate milestone in our story to reflect.

In choosing how best to approach my Big City reflection, I decided a chart of comparisons was the best tactic. After all, my experience here – much like living in the Caribbean – has been a series of expectations versus reality, or give and take.

The Good

The Not So Good

NY is an amazing place to live if you’re an artist and appreciate art. From Broadway to museums to outstanding graffiti artwork, it is home to creative beauty everywhere. Everyone comes to NYC to “make it big” and, as a result, the streets are full of beggars, selling their artwork for pennies, dancers performing in the sweltering heat for a few dollars from onlookers and musicians playing heartbreaking works to annoyed commuters in the filthy subway.
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There is no lack of entertainment 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. See a play, watch a comedian, tour a museum, run around Central Park, attend a festival, ride a bike around Manhattan, go club hopping… You’ll never have time to enjoy any of the fun stuff available because you will work 20 hours a day just to pay your $3,000 rent for a studio apartment in the basement of a high-rise in a desirable neighborhood.

If you want to have fun in NYC, be ridiculously rich or have a wealthy family that set up a huge trust fund for you.

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Public transportation can get you pretty much everywhere. Just jump on one train and use the interconnected web of trains and busses and ferries to go from one end of the multi-island city to the other. Oh, but don’t touch anything while you’re on the subway, because it is basically one huge, pulsing pile of filth and germs. Chances are, on every commute, you’ll see at least one of the following: rat, cockroach, bum taking a dump, hobo peeing, people spitting, vomit. But enjoy the show, you’re paying $2.75 each way; you might as well bring popcorn.
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The people The people
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For being one of the biggest metropolises in the world, NYC is amazingly dog-friendly! Apartments never seemed to me like the ideal place for a dog, but everywhere they are thriving. And people are really great dog owners in the city. They would do pretty much anything for their furry family members. The bad dog owners are the worst.

There are piles of dog crap everywhere because people want to own dogs without taking the responsibilities associated with it. And that’s frustrating for responsible pet owners who then have to clean their dog’s paws after walking through piles of unattended poop.

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The parks are truly wonderful. They’re managed well, maintained regularly and are a fabulous respite from the surrounding city. It’s actually totally possible to get lost in some of the parks (like Central Park or Prospect Park). They have winding paths and flowering trees and sweeping lawns. You can almost forget that you live in a huge, noisy city when you’re in those parks. Except you do live in a huge noisy city. And you have to go back to it. And caught in the crosshairs of pavement and concrete without even a green weed to look at, the city becomes an oppressing monstrous burden that leeches its toxins into you until all of that serenity from the parks’ nature has fled.
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The energy and dynamics of a city this size are fascinating. At all hours you can walk out your front door and something is going on – whether it’s late-night joggers or that all-night café down the street or just the hum of the palm reader’s neon sign. In Manhattan, there’s even more movement. Clubs stay open until 6am and live shows don’t begin until 2 in the morning.

During the day you can walk down the street and pass fifty different conversations in one block. Yoga classes take place in the botanical gardens in the morning and fishers cast their lines at dawn along the piers.

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The pollution is atrocious. And I don’t just mean the physical garbage – although that is absolutely a problem. There is noise pollution. I dread having my windows open during nice weather because of the sirens and car alarms and blaring music and screaming children and barking dogs and screeching tires, etc. For over a year we haven’t experienced true silence like we did in Grenada and like we did in Erie. Sometimes I just want to hang out my window and scream at everyone to shut up. But then I’d just be another crazy person in the pile of crazy people that accounts for half the population of the city.

Air pollution comes in the form of cigarette smoke and pot smoke and e-cig smoke and exhaust and construction dust.

Then there’s the garbage. Piles and piles of filth. On garbage day, I have to hold my breath when I walk past apartment buildings and their mountains of garbage bags lining the sidewalks. And the litter is all over. Daily I watch people throw their garbage on the ground. It just tumbles out of their open hands or pockets, like the trash is just being shed from these disgusting people.

The filth I can’t see makes me squirm. In a city of over 8 million, how many skin cells am I inhaling daily? Do I walk on an invisible cushion of eyelashes and skin flakes? Oh, God, the humanity! The humanity is shedding itself all over this city!!

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So what’s the determination?

Brooklyn isn’t too bad. It really does have a lot going for it. But neither Ivan nor I intend to remain in the city. In less than a year we’ll find out if we’re staying in NYC for another 3 years or more, or moving on elsewhere. Our aim is to land residency outside of the city for two main reasons, one of which is to have a better chance of saving money (totally impossible here).

NYC is pretty cool and we’re so lucky to have this opportunity to live here. Not many people have had the experiences that we have and we are so thankful for it.

Though the Big Apple is a little too much city for us, our hometown is definitely a little too rural. Our ideal location, a decade or two down the road when we finally decide to settle, will probably be a nice combination of the two.

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3 thoughts on “One Year in New York City

  1. Great article! I visit the Big Apple every two years to see a specialist there since 2005. I have always told people it is an amazing city to see and experience. However, it would be a very difficult life if you weren’t extremely wealthy, and I am far from that category :). I have observed people who live and work there and they seem to be very stressed and look very tired. I can’t imagine not being able to drive a few minutes to a grocery store. I would never want to worry about having to carry heavy items riding the bus or the subway.

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