NYC: First-Time Observations

This past weekend, I made my first ever trip to NYC. Yes, I've been to Uzbekistan and lived almost 2 years in Spain. But I've never been to NYC!

As you know I made some amazing friends on my recent Central Asia trip, and five of them, including Mr. Monsoon Diaries himself, Calvin Sun, live in New York. I thought it was well worth a trip!

So what does someone who has never been to New York think about New York? Here are some observations I had:

  1. It's all the pop culture made you think it would be! There's the Met staircase that Serena and Blair sit on! There's the train where Louis CK lost Jane. This is the city where Holden Caufield was super lonely and whined about everyone being phonies. There's the river named after the man that future Mr. Ezra Koenig-Weinmann croons about on Modern Vampires in the City! There's where the real-life Typhoid Mary was quarantined! My poor friends heard me reference Gossip Girl, Broad City, Louie, and countless other TV shows and movies on this trip. 
  2. It's nothing like you think it'll be. The Upper East side was filled with completely normal "99%ers." No elderly woman wearing an ascot talked about horses she had to replace. Ilana and Abbi LIED TO ME. It's not super busy, at least outside of the major downtown landmarks. It's just as busy as Chicago would be on a pleasant weekend afternoon. 
  3. It's big (duh). But not as big as I thought it would be. I allotted myself around 30-40 minutes to get anywhere via walking or public transit and I was fine. Granted, I was mostly in Manhattan or Queens, but still. 
  4. NYC people...are just like us. I expected everyone to be just super glamorous all the time. Yes, I did see two leggy model-types who stepped right out of a TopShop ad wearing super daringly stylish clothes wandering around town in platform heels. And I did see a heterosexual couple so gorgeous that I interrupted Yvonne just to point them out to her. However, I also saw some people wearing blue and white Asics and fanny packs while walking in the Upper East side. 
  5. Celebrities don't live here! I didn't see one. Unless you count Elmo at Times Square. Therefore, logic concludes that they don't exist. 
  6. It's dirty. I knew this one ahead of time, but yes, it's dirty. Trash bags on the sidewalks! Filthy! 
  7. In Chicago, our train cars and buses say "No eating, drinking, gambling or radio playing." In NYC, the signs read "No eating, drinking, spitting or radio playing." Spitting? Gross! That's that much of an issue that you need to put up a sign? I guess this also falls under observation #6. 
  8. Because of the massive population, there's just more stuff. More booths at the farmer's market. More fabric stores! More uniquely ethnic restaurants to explore (Burmese, anyone?). More exciting and wonderful things. 
  9. People love blue hair! My purple hair in August of last year garnered me compliments left and right, nearly every single day. Since then, however, the compliments have faded. I go to New York for two days, and I receive no less than five compliments on my hair. They like me! They really, really like me! This brings me to my next point...
  10. The people aren't rude/terse/brusque/mean. As someone without a smart phone or a map, I had to ask for directions a couple times. It was never a problem because every person, including a man hurrying to lunch and a woman working her security shift, was happy to help. Also, I hung out with a group of five amazing people from this city, so I kind of already knew it would be a kind place!
  11. Their subway system is not all that it's chalked up to be. My dad raved about the NY subway system for ages, and a city girl like me wasn't shy to test it out. But after being required to purchase a ticket on a machine that only accepted change ($2.50 in coins nearly emptied my wallet), I wasn't sold. Even if the Chicago Ventra system isn't perfect, we at least can accept dollars on our buses. I also hated the way the subway lists directions by way of a stop in the direction of travel. Example, a train goes from point A to point Z. You are at point K and want to go in the direction of Z. Instead of saying "train towards Z" it will say "train towards M." This is the most frustrating thing I've ever experienced. Well, I hope M is on my way to Z, since I'm getting off at S! All foreign cities where I've traveled and used the train system use the "A direction" and "Z direction" for clarity, including Chicago. But not NY! They think they're special. 
  12. It's not super expensive, with the exception of the $9 milkshake. (What is with that insanity!? First in Miami, now here? Unbelievable. But good. Don't you doubt that I bought it.) There was a place in St. Mark's that sold $5 mimosas. I don't think they exist that cheap in Chicago! You heard it here, first: NYC is the new Milwaukee of budget dining.

But these are all first-time observations. I plan to make many more future trips to have a more fleshed-out view of this magnificent city.