Ten. Years.,

published at 10:06am on 06/14/09

Ten years ago, just about this time of year, I moved to New York.


Friday nights around one in the morning, the streets of the Village are filled with groups of men and women drifting from bar to bar. The men and women are rarely together at this time of night. The couples have all gone home already, having taken in a movie and a drink, and are now at home, asleep, comfortable knowing that they are together. The couples who have formed at a bar that evening, “coupled” only in that there are two of them, and they are together, have gone home for the evening, awkwardly pushing at each other in doorways, discovering each other in bed. At one in the morning, the groups that are left on the street are the men and the women who do not belong to either of these two categories. They have left their first bar, having found nobody suitable (or perhaps they weren’t even looking) and they have moved on to their second. They are with their friends, and they are talking about women, or men, or perhaps art, or love, but those things are all kind of the same, anyway. A taxi full of men idles next to a taxi containing one of the aforementioned couples, and the man at the window leans out of the taxi to shout “show us your tits,” to the woman in the cab next to him. “Don’t worry about him,” he say, gesturing to the man sitting next to her, “show us your tits.” And the light turns green and the traffic starts moving again and the man in the taxi with his friends is still leaning out of the window making obscene gestures with his hand, his tongue, and his cheek.


I stand on a street corner giving directions to a friend of mine. As he walks away, a well-dressed couple walks up to me and asks if I can help them with directions. They are looking for a movie theatre. Someone has told them to walk down the avenue until they find one. I name two independent theaters that I know in the neighborhood and they hold out a flyer for a third. “Oh,” I say, “is that the theater you’re looking for?” “No, no,” the woman says, folding up the green sheet of paper. “We want to go see ‘The Hangover.'” Remember to always clarify the question before giving an answer. Later, a man calls out to me “hey buddy, hey buddy,” and I walk right past him.


New Yorkers have, at their disposal, an almost infinite number of activities to do on any given day. This weekend alone I had on my calendar a talent show, two concerts, a documentary screening, a potluck dinner, dim sum, dinner with a friend and a BBQ event. This is not including the outdoor art festival or the weekend-long music festival. I woke up on Saturday in a state of panic. I woke up not wanting to do anything, but was overwhelmed by the number of things that I would not be doing if I chose to not do any of it. I padded around my apartment for about an hour, worrying about all of the things that I did not want to do and thinking about how I might go about doing them, until I realized that I was under no obligation to do any of it. Instead, I went out for a bike ride and did laundry. As I scrubbed soap into the stains on my shirt collar, I decided that there are worse things in life than having too many options.


Riding a bicycle is one of the most exciting and efficient ways of getting around this city. In the past several years I have become one of those people who would prefer to hop on a bike than get on the subway in order to get from point A to point B. And in that time I have also discovered that there are two distinct classes of people in this town: those who share this philosophy with me, and those who wish us dead. While pedestrians in this town have no particular respect for automobiles, they do not, in general hate the car drivers themselves. One may dislike traffic, or one may dislike SUVs, or one may dislike the fact that, on occasion, someone will blow through your neighborhood without a muffler, but on a car-by-car basis, people rarely get angry at the driver. Pedestrians hate cyclists, however. People will actively go out of their way to tell you how much they dislike the fact that you ride a bicycle. The other day, as I weaved through a crosswalk that was full of people crossing against a light, someone shouted after me “why don’t you ride on the sidewalk?” And followed this with an expletive. A friend had a man crossing the street walk out of his way to kick her back tire. And when I am forced into a sea of taxis and garbage trucks because a delivery guy decides he’s going to come barreling down the bike line against traffic, I know exactly where these people are coming from. Fucking cyclists.


I called the city the other day to file a noise complaint about the screeching noise coming from the rooftop next to my apartment. It keeps me up at night and I have considered that if this noise does not stop, I may have to move. I called the city to file a noise complaint and realized that I have become that guy. I am perfectly ok with this.


I have never felt more at home than I have living here. Well, ok. Maybe one other time.

Filed under: Observations, Personal

At 12:45 pm on 06.14.09, Francis Hwang said,

Looks like you got to NYC maybe two weeks before I did. Funny, that. I remember I could barely sleep for the first month or so, I was so amped to be here.

At 5:39 pm on 06.17.09, Danielle said,

Ten years this week since I moved to Somerville. At the time, I remember, it depressed me that I would never be able to participate in even the tiniest fraction of all the events in NYC.

Some Saturday afternoons I stay home too.

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