With the risk of dating myself, the year I moved into the city Madonna’s “Borderline” was a hit on MTV. Although I grew up in northern New Jersey and have traveled the world, over the past few decades your Guy’s Guy has become an authentic bona fide New Yorker. I’m not talking about the Hillary Clinton kind of New Yorker who comes from Illinois and needs five swipes of her borrowed Metro card to make her way through the turnstile. I’m talking about a night crawling, tar beach sun tanning, pizza eating, Yankees loving, roach killing, after midnight subway riding, “You lookin’ at me?” kind of urban warrior who has survived and thrived in the world’s greatest city for the past thirty years. Yeah, I’m that kind of New Yorker, amigo. And if you’ve read my blog you know that I adore this crazy-ass town. So, having been there and done that while putting up with the noise, trash, corruption, rats, blackouts, economic downturns, and even the 80’s, I claim my right to criticize my fair city when criticism is due. You can call me a crank or the guy who shouts, “Get off of my lawn”, but I’ve earned my due, so at least listen up.
With all that in mind, I give you my Guys’ Guy’s Guide to Things That Can Suck about New York. Drum roll, please…
1. Weekend subway service- Are you kidding me? Who wants to spend an extra hour or two milling around the 14th station waiting for a severely overcrowded A train on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon? Weekend train service in New York is a chaotic mash up of delays, re-routed trains, and more delays. And as everyone knows, unless the station has Wi-Fi, hanging out on the platform watching rats scamper back and forth makes for anything but a winning weekend afternoon. The fares keep going up and the service keeps going down. These are the same complaints New Yorker’s had when I first moved in to the city all those years ago. Enough already. And, I’m not even getting into the filthy, often broken elevators that usually smell of urine. MTA, get your act together. More trains, cleaner trains, cleaner stations, clearer announcements…
2. Manhattan keeps losing its character- Although I love the other boroughs and get the whole Brooklyn thing; I’ve always lived in Manhattan. When you come from New Jersey, the city always meant Manhattan with all of its different neighborhoods and quirks. And the one constant about Manhattan is that it keeps changing. Unfortunately, over time Manhattan has grown bigger, taller, more structured and sanitized. It’s never boring, but I preferred the times when independent shops and cool neighborhoods had a chance to thrive. Not anymore. Now in every hood there might be a Chucky Cheese, Baby Gap, and definitely a bank or drug chain store on every corner. That is boring. Nowadays you have to look hard and dig deep to still find that gritty NYC character in Manhattan. I live in Harlem, which still yields an old school vibe, although the coffee shops and bearded hipsters have finally discovered my neighborhood. Oh well, at least the value of my apartment has skyrocketed. Maybe I’ll move to the South Bronx next. Maybe not.
3. Rising cost of living – Although New York has the best variety of restaurants in the entire world, unless I am on an expense account I don’t go out as before to eat and drink. I don’t believe in paying twenty bucks (tax and tip included) for a good tasting cocktail or $300 to eat a GMO meal for two at a decent restaurant with loud music. And you know that the louder the music is, the worse the food. And rent prices in Manhattan are beyond ridiculous. A cup of coffee and a designer doughnut runs you ten bucks. A take out lunch is about $12. A haircut? Forgetaboutit! I bought a Wahl trimmer and it works just fine, thank you.
4. Noise and bright lights – I often hear jackhammers pounding on Sunday nights at midnight. Really. There seems to be no laws, or at least laws that are enforced about noise in this city. I live in a residential neighborhood, but the ultra hip coffee house around the corner stays open until 4am and features live music or dee jays seven nights a week. Before calling 311 to lodge a complaint, I asked the owner if she could turn the music down a bit after midnight. Her response was classic New York, in a bad way. She suggested that the next time I thought the music was too loud I should let her know so she could come up to my apartment, go into my bedroom and listen for herself. At which point she would tell me that the music wasn’t loud.
My other peeve is bright lights and such on the walls of residential neighborhoods. People seem to think you can project anything anywhere in this city. Last year a new chicken joint owned by a famous television chef opened on my corner. Seeing that the building across the street, which faced my apartment, was blank, they began showing a thirty-foot high video loop featuring a mash up of urban culture mixed with footage of chicken breasts basting in a pan or proudly strutting around every night, all night. I complained through 311and also deployed social media posts until thankfully, the videos were pulled. But no blank space can be left alone. The same building has been refurbished and the wall in question now has super-bright LED light strips shining directly towards my home. Just because people and business owners can’t leave any open space alone.
Although I enjoyed getting that out of my system, I did not even take on traffic, parking, Times Square, Port Authority, over flowing trashcans, dog shit and bikes on the sidewalk, etc. If I keep going I may end up moving back to Jersey. Nope, I think I’ll take a deep breath and get back to extolling the virtues of my favorite city. Peace.
This week’s GUY’S GUY of the WEEK is Mike Bloomberg, who over 12 years made a real difference in amenities and the overall quality of life in the city, even at the expense of some of the local character that we all miss in Manhattan. Of well, in New York, you can’t have everything.