[I was musing over a title for this post, and then a lyric popped into my head: “New York, I love you, but you’re bringing me down.” I googled the song and realized that it’s LCD Soundsystem, which gave me a laugh because we stayed in an AirBNB in Brooklyn above a wine bar owned by a member of LCD Soundsystem and Dana kept saying, “You must know one of their songs!” Turns out I do.]
If you know me, you know that although I have lived in Southern California my WHOLE LIFE, my family is from the East Coast, people always think I’m from New York (or San Francisco), and I wanted to move to NYC after college but… didn’t. Something I’ve always kind of regretted, because I think to live there one either needs to be in the young and struggling phase of life… or rich. (And both the food and publishing scenes are big there, so it’s also a career what-if.)
You also know that I love to eat, so there’s the siren song of all the foods that NYC claims to do best — bagels, pizza, hot dogs, black and white cookies, deli, etc.
My sister (Dana) and I live in the Silver Lake area, which is often compared to Williamsburg in Brooklyn — and also, a lot of New Yorkers relocate to our neighborhood — so for her 30th birthday we decided to rent an AirBNB in Williamsburg and have an if-we-lived-here, coastal-swap fantasy.
I’d only ever done quick day trips or hotel stays to Manhattan, so I was really excited to finally experience Brooklyn “like a local” (but… let’s be real, still a tourist).
Honestly, I wish I’d taken this trip years ago, because I would have saved myself a lot of “should I live there right now?” angst. Because as enjoyable as The Big Apple is to visit, three truths became clear to me:
1) It’s always sweaty in NYC
We went last weekend, so… early October. Neither the hottest nor coldest time of year. Probably very temperate. It was cloudy and ranged from 60-80 degrees, about the same as the weather right now in Los Angeles.
But somehow we sweated our FACES off, almost constantly. I attribute this to the humidity, and also to the fact that in Los Angeles, when you go into buildings they are pretty much always air conditioned. In New York, it’s the reverse — the buildings are heated. So even if it’s cold out, you’re sickeningly hot half the time and have to wear, like, a tank top under your winter coat. (Last time I was in NYC in December this phenomenon made me LITERALLY ill… and then I had to ride the subway trying not to barf.)
I have described this problem of “always sweating no matter the weather” to several of my friends and colleagues who have lived in NYC and they were like, YUP! So it’s not just me. (The good side of this is that we walked an average of 10+ miles a day, so… you’d be in great shape if you could resist all the tempting foods along the walk.)
Every time we returned to our AirBNB, we wanted to take a quick rinse-off shower and change our sweated-out clothes.
If I lived in NYC I’d require at least triple my wardrobe, but wouldn’t have anywhere to put it… and probably wouldn’t have an in-house washer-dryer either. Or, like our AirBNB, we’d be in a 4th-floor walkup with basement laundry. Which brings me to…
2) Walk-ups are a pain in the ass (literally, it will hurt your butt muscles)
Okay, I know that not everybody lives in a walk-up, but just saying. I grew up in a ranch house. I have lived in buildings without elevators where I had to walk up one or two floors, but the staircases were never long or steep.
Our AirBNB was super great and cute and in a prime spot, and lots of families lived there. And they had to lug ALL THEIR STUFF and their KIDS up and down narrow, steep, long staircases.
It is a wonder to me that any parent in NYC ever looks put-together. I saw one fancy-looking young mom pushing a stroller in the subway and was like HOW DO YOU LIVE.
Our seatmate on our flight back said that you get used to it, and you get a great butt. So maybe it’s a pro. But I get, like, stair vertigo. So, I don’t know.
3) BASEMENTS IN THE SIDEWALK ARE A DEATHTRAP
In the modern world of texting, I have to wonder how often people fall in those open basements outside stores and restaurants that just basically have a ladder in them. And how often KIDS fall down them? Every time I walked past one I was gripped with fear.
It’s only a matter of time before you try to step out of the way of one of NYC’s TEN THOUSAND BILLION JOGGERS and fall to your death.
Also, one night some guys were throwing bags filled with restaurant-trash out of one of those basements and could have hit us.
Basically living in NYC is like always being in a video game where you have to dodge obstacles.
ALL THAT SAID, we had a lovely visit. We walked across bridges, rode ferries, had Big Gay Ice Cream TWICE, ate at all sorts of fun places, including an awesome Japanese-Jewish fusion restaurant (matzo ball ramen!), listened to old people jam in Washington Square Park, shopped, went to a speakeasy, etc etc. And there’s a romance to New York — I mean, my favorite rom com is When Harry Met Sally.
I would go back to visit in a HEARTBEAT. And I would still love to be bicoastal, somehow — if I were rich, or on someone else’s dime.
But I returned home with a new appreciation for… not living in New York City. As my Brooklyn-born colleague said, “New York is a struggle, New York will fight you.”
Los Angeles, you may be letting me coast out here on the West Coast, but… that’s okay. To quote another song… “I’m yours.” (And this could be a whole ‘nother post, but… our food is nothing to sneeze at.)
PS: Literally THIS MONTH a whole bunch of NYC/Brooklyn places have opened locations in LA: Milk Bar, Roberta’s pizza, Ample Hills ice cream… so you can have a New York-themed food crawl right here in LA. No open basements necessary!