Friday, February 18, 2011

New York Minutes: the imagined reality

New York City is a place that captures the minds (though not always the hearts) of ordinary folks all over the country. People are infatuated with the romance of it all: the lights, the taxis, the alcohol, the powerful and the power-hungry. The reality of it is, however, is that the New York many people are so in love with is one they have never been to, and nor should they ever hope to visit. The New York the population at large loves is the one in the movies and played out on small screens. It is romanticized, made to look lovely, and popularized by stereotype.

I'll pick a little example that saddens me to bring up. My beloved Sex and the City is so horrible innaccurate it makes me want to cry. Sex and the City is the reason an entire generation of girls fell in love with New York. Oh, girls. We were so misguided. But living here has really made me watch my favorite show with a more critical eye. For instance, how the hell is Carrie Bradshaw not destitute? Money is simply no object for these women. Let me tell you, people, you CANNOT make a living off of writing one little column in a newspaper and gallivanting all around Manhattan. You would starve to death and then your parents would be forced to pay off your 10 maxed out credit cards and all of your delinquent cable bills and your bounced rent checks. Or you would have to be a high end call girl. Carrie takes cabs everywhere. She's seen in the swankiest bars with the wealthiest of Manhattan socialites. Let me tell you this: if you are in your mid twenties, supporting yourself, that is, paying your rent, working full time, paying ALL of your bills, and still grocery shopping, you ARE NOT taking cabs everywhere in this city. You just aren't. There is only one scene EVER in the entire series that shows Carrie (or anyone, for that matter) deigning to enter a subway station. And as for brushing shoulders with the "elite", maybe that comes from her longevity in the City, but the only time I ever brush shoulders with anyone that makes over 75k is on the subway. And guys, they're all wearing wedding bands (or they're gay...I can tell by the footwear...honest).

Anyway, my thoughts are a little all over the place on this one. But my whole point is that storylines and nice lighting and soundtracks make New York seem so much nicer than it really is. You never think about how big it really is until someone talking about how their friend so and so lives in Brooklyn or Queens and how you know you would never see them because all five boroughs are such different worlds. Hell, even different neighborhoods might as well be hours apart. Maybe the most annoying thing about Hollywood, etc.'s depcitions of New York is that all the characters have great jobs, they wear the nicest clothes, and always went to an Ivy League school.

Let me tell you about the real New York: it's a struggle. Nobody has a job they like. You're always a paycheck away from poverty. There are holes in the soles of your boots because you would rather eat this week than buy another pair. But you're getting by and it feels nice to pay for the roof over your head, to leave work and pop on your favorite tunes and look up at the lights of Times Square and say: Wow, I really, honest to goodness live here. The real New York isn't about living in a movie. It's about real living. The real New York has an intensity and energy that can never be depicted through the careful, trained eye of a camera. New York is gritty, New York is grey, New York is a windstorm. It glows red red red and it's radioactive. You hurry up and wait, hurry up and wait, your heart pounds, your palms sweat. But to be in the percieved center, caught in the honking and the noise, to be with friends you love in the middle of, well, everything, is better than almost anything I've ever done.


  1. The last paragraph of this entry is....simply fantastic.

  2. Just came across your blog - it's super interesting and I love reading fellow NYC-ers points of view. Hope you check out mine!

  3. I'm also pretty sure that Carrie's worn out vagina would make a flpp, flpp, flpp sound like a flag flapping in the wind...

  4. hahaha...i'm pretty sure you're right. and thank you, Mrs. Davis. a rare flash of inspiration :)