I live in the city.
I moved down here in June of 2000, with the wide eyes of a 22 year old who's most vivid memory of NYC was a school trip in the 6th grade. The city seemed large and magnificent compared to my little beach hometown in CT. It was also really hot, but more on that later.
It's been a little over five years of living here. Mephistopholes and I elected to settle in an up-and-coming part of Brooklyn all those years ago and we haven't strayed far. Williamsburg and the L train have meant home for five years, even though we've lived in 3 different apartments. My neighborhood is 1 part hipster, 1 part Polish immigrant and 1 part other (being the general city mix of black, latino, homeless, junkie, Asian, prostitute). Williamsburg is just an East River away from the majestic skyline of Manhattan and I like that.
Friends of mine moved down to the city with me or shortly after. There was a sharp transistionary period for most of them as they figured out how to cope with the hardships of urban life. I think most of this hardship had to do with not knowing exactly what to do with their lives, something that I even grapple with now. Each one of them got over the Six-month Hump and now lives a somewhat productive life either taking away my hazardous waste or teaching children how to make movies or keeping money out of the hands of accident victims.
But I've noticed a recent trend amongst my circle of friends, even infecting my dear Mephistopholes. "I hate this city." "Nobody cares about anyone here." "This is not how people are supposed to live." "I would never bring up a child here." "This place sucks your soul." I honestly do not understand these sentiments. This is not to say that I don't feel unhappy sometimes. Any reader of this blog will know that I haven't been a Smiling Sam these last few months, but I never once accused this great city of being the cause. When I hear these accusations, I get upset. There is a physical feeling of hurt that contracts my chest when I hear, "I hate this city." I've been trying to understand a couple of things, why people say these things, and why I get so affected by it.
There is so much oppurtunity in New York. Maybe too much. If you want to be a musician or a publisher or an actor or an investment banker or a construction worker, New York is the place to do it. It is a city of superlatives. It is a city of acheivement. For many years, I considered merely living in the city as an acheivement. But all of the possibility for acheivement also makes this city feel extremely competitive. There are no longer any small ponds. There are only big fish eating the smaller ones in the largest pond in the world.
So I can understand feeling that there is a lack of compassion in the City and that is because everyone you meet is trying to acheive something. They don't care if they step on you on the subway or in their climb to the top. This can be frustrating or hurtful but I got over it during the Six-Month Hump. It is precisely what makes the city so great, this need to acheive. Without it, there would be no skyscrapers or Broadway shows or New York Yankees (yes, I hate the bombers but you have to admit they are a part of the greatness of this city.) The alternative is a podunk town in Montana with one gas station and a second-run movie theater. People are nice and happy as punch in Montana but they don't really do anything, do they? (This is in no way an indictment of Montana and if anyone from Big Sky Country actually reads this, please note that I could just as easily use Michigan or Missouri or any other state that starts with an M.)
Now as to why it bothers me so much when people curse the city, this enters the grey area of public opinion.
I have to stop here as I am now about to go home. As much as I like blogging, it is not enough to keep me here at work past 6pm. I will pick up this discussion on the morrow. Farewell.