"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

New York Minute

One of the benefits of living up in the Bronx is that I always get a seat on my way to work. By the time we reach Washington Heights, the train is packed. Today, it was crowded and a few people in my car were short-tempered. Nothing dramatic, just cranky on a Monday morning, negotiating space. I looked up and took it all in and thought, It’s amazing that more fights don’t break out. But the social contract holds together–most of the time.

Sometimes I wonder what life must be like away from so many people? Would it be peaceful and a relief? Or would I miss the agitation, conflict, and the pleasure of meeting a stranger’s eye and smiling ever so slightly?


1 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jan 31, 2011 9:11 am

Tough call Al, but I'll take proximity over isolation.

2 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 31, 2011 9:20 am

Yeah, I don't have a point of reference so I can't really call it.

3 Raf   ~  Jan 31, 2011 9:56 am

I'd miss it, but there are times when I need a break. At least here, the concept of personal space exists. I had the misfortune of getting on a bus in Peru during rush hour, that was a mess.

Fights probably don't break out, because it's too crowded. :)

4 williamnyy23   ~  Jan 31, 2011 10:19 am

[3] I thought public transportation in NY was crowded until I boarded a city bus in Lima. Actually, it's not so much that they are crowded, but the method of collecting the fare is so unorganized that you never feel as if you have the right to be on the bus. If a fight broke out on those buses, they might tip over.

5 NoamSane   ~  Jan 31, 2011 10:21 am

I can't pretend to really know you AB, but I bet you'd miss the city. Me, I just moved up the river to Beacon after 10 years in NYC (and most of the last twenty in cities--Boston, San Fran, Oakland, NYC) and I'm loving it up here. When I'm constantly surrounded by thousands of people it messes with my head. My music is flowing out like it hasn't in years. But I grew up in Hudson Valley.

6 ms october   ~  Jan 31, 2011 10:28 am

i grew up in alabama and the isolation was one of the reasons i left and came to nyc. i do like a break every so often, but i miss the hum after a while and want to get back to the crowd. i couldn't imagine going back to that kind of living.

my mom grew up in india and lived in london for a time. she has spent close to 40 years in alabama and she has adjusted pretty well to the peace and quiet; although she finds it dull and boring sometimes. my grandmother lives in a suburb of dallas and she hates the quiet isolation.

7 RIYank   ~  Jan 31, 2011 10:54 am

I can say with some confidence that you would miss it.

I grew up in NYC. I now live in the boondocks.
There are certainly advantages -- I love the feeling of leaving the crowded city at 5:00 on a hot summer day to head home, away from the madding crowds (not to mention the sweaty heat). And, it's quiet.

But man, I do miss the noise and the funk.

8 Bronx Boy in NC   ~  Jan 31, 2011 11:22 am

Three years removed from my two-subway commute, I gotta say it's weird at first, but your barometric setpoint for human interaction changes eventually.

When I was newly installed in NC I told friends back home it was strangely pleasant, emphasis on the strange. On a job-hunting trip here I got drive-through lunch, and in the 30 seconds it took the lady to hand me my burger and fries, she called me "sweetheart" four times. That thing you mention -- the eye contact and the smile -- is indeed routine.

(Also I'm sitting in my office and I'm looking out the window at my car right now. I could just get in it anytime. That was certainly an adjustment from taking a subway to a train to a taxi to retrieve my car from my parents' house for some planned-in-advance trip somewhere.)

People can still be dicks here -- IMHO they are rotten drivers, none of whom would survive a trip from one end of the FDR to the other -- but it's more a case of blithe inadvertentness than of aggression or social armor.

Is it peaceful and a relief, as you asked? Yes.

Would you miss the agitation and conflict? Yes.

Also there's barbecue. And it was about 65 degrees here yesterday.

9 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 31, 2011 11:55 am

I think I would like parts of not being in New York but also miss it too.

10 YankeeAbby   ~  Jan 31, 2011 1:37 pm

[8] I lived down in Va. Beach from 2000-2005, worked in downtown Norfolk as well, and I felt the same way about living there. There's a strange balance happening. The southern hospitality and charm runs rampant no doubt (kids were calling me "ma'am"...I was 32 years old at the time!!!).

Try as they might to put some "big city" style into the downtown areas of Norfolk AND the Va. Beach oceanfront, it still had something of a small-town, college/tourist feel. But that was also the good part too. Such a fun & friendly vibe. There wasn't the arrogance of NYC nightlife and it was peaceful on the weekend mornings. No train traffic, no airplanes a la LaGuardia airport flying over my head.

[Also there’s barbecue]
Oh, MAN!!! Do I miss NC barbecue!!!

11 Dockside Courtesies   ~  Jan 31, 2011 2:53 pm

Bronx Boy in NC wrote: " IMHO they are rotten drivers, none of whom would survive a trip from one end of the FDR to the other — but it’s more a case of blithe inadvertentness than of aggression or social armor."

When I lived in NC for a couple of years, on single-lane roads, of which there are many, the drivers were big into tailgating, to get you to drive faster. A different kind of aggression than city driving, but aggressive nonetheless. I concluded it was some kind of NASCAR mentality.

12 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 31, 2011 3:20 pm

I grew up in the Hudson Valley; Beacon was always a place you either stayed away from or tried to get away from. It's done a complete 180 in that respect. But when I lived in Dutchess County, I could not wait to get away. Now, I appreciate having had the experience and often visit to relive the glad memories I had of visiting various towns, parks, stores, etc, or just taking in the feeling you get when you're gliding down a scenic path you know intimately with someone who's experiencing it for the first time. But I don't think I can go back; the bad things that happened outweighed the good and haven't gone away.

Now that I've been in (or as of last May very very near) NYC, I can say I hate living in the city with an equal passion; it's lost or losing a lot of it's unique character for me and is turning into a corporate playground, too pricey and agitated for common folk. I do like working here in the film and television industry; knowing most of the neighborhoods and what they contain that would be useful to production, or just appreciating the old glory of architecture and the remnants of the character that made this city famous.

So, in essence I'm between a rock and a hard place; the memories of growing up where I did are too haunting for me to return, and the present situation is intolerable. But that's just my opinion. I don't know where I belong yet, but thanks to New York I'm prepared for anything. In that, I would certainly miss it, but I would also appreciate where I am.

13 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 31, 2011 7:47 pm

I grew up in Yonkers and fled to Iowa for college, came back, lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn for five years, then back to Iowa for more school. Now in New Haven.

I miss the city all the time. Iowa was idyllic in many ways, and was very restorative, but the homogeneity of the place can be maddening, not to mention the "food."

I miss the architecture, the pace, the superabundance of small businesses, which have so much character because they are operated with love and passion, the sense of perspective the crowds and anonymity offer, the intensity of so much creative energy, etc. etc.

In short, NY is an extreme place to live and obviously that is both blessing and curse. In the end, though, it's home, so even if I didn't care about all the particulars, per se, the draw of home would still bring me back.

I'll be back there just as soon as I am able.

14 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Jan 31, 2011 7:51 pm

I also miss reading on the subway and about a million other things.

15 Raf   ~  Feb 1, 2011 1:30 pm

[14] I miss girl watching. Doing it on the Metro-North isn't the same.

16 weeping for brunnhilde   ~  Feb 1, 2011 9:58 pm

[15] Hear, hear.

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