- Mattie Jo Cowsert
Yesterday I was at a playground with a 3 year old (I literally spend so little time with adults) in Central Park. Now, City kids are particularly terrible at using their imaginations and making new friends (I get it. There are a lot of strangers here), so I always try to scout out kids who look their age, introduce them, meet their parents, and there we have it: A spontaneous playdate (why is this so difficult? In my neighborhood, we just walked over to a person’s house in the middle of mealtime and promptly destroyed their home with a dress-up clothes typhoon. Who needs formalities?)! This usually leads to me having interesting conversations with the parents and eventually telling them the kid isn’t mine. That I’m an actress and I can barely afford this Vegan cookie I’m eating for lunch. Anyway…
This time, the grown up I struck conversation with was a grandmother visiting from California. I have no idea where this woman left her manners, but she immediately started shit talking New York City. The complaints were as follows:
I have a 3 story home in California alone and my daughter chooses to live in 500 square feet on the 5th floor of a building with no elevator! I have to plan my packing around making it up those stairs everyday. Not to mention I’m with my grandson. And they just had another baby! I can’t believe they pay what they do to live in this City. And carrying groceries? Forget about it. When I go to the grocery store, I get my groceries and take them home in my car! We have to walk everywhere in this City. The subways are just so crowded and uncomfortable I feel terrible taking my grandson on them. Everything here is just so hard. *Breath* Do you like living here?
Glad you asked, Grandma.
Look, I get it. She’s kinda old. Like maybe early 60’s and the City is definitely not the place for stressed joints. But, like, everything she said was very insulting. I didn’t correct her because I am a Midwesterner and we respect our elders. I just nodded, laughed, and said “Yes I love New York. I want to live here forever. However, I know it’s not for everyone.” But if I was going to give a stranger old lady a piece of my mind, here’s what I would say (Proper paragraph structure omitted for diatribe effect):
First of all, contrary to popular belief, living in New York City is easy as hell. Literally anything is deliverable if you're not into running errands. You don't even have to drive a car if you don't want to. You just hop on a train or in someone else’s car and you get places! Heard of Seamless? It’s a company that will deliver vegan, gluten-free, Ethiopian food to your door at 2am if you are really drunk and in the mood for vegan, gluten-free, Ethiopian food. Betchya can’t find that in the wide-open spaces of wherever the hell else it is people live that isn't the best city on earth.
First of all, contrary to popular belief, living in New York City is easy as hell
People who don’t live in New York complain about the subways for totally different reasons than NYC residents. We complain because Europe has it so much better (#socialism), tourists complain because they love their dumb cars. The reality is, I can get anywhere in my giant City for $32/week. Tell me another U.S. city with that kind of affordability. And if the subways are being terrible (which does happen and is very frustrating), I can afford to take one of the many car services -LYFT, Uber, Via, GETT, Juno, Yellow Cab- provided in New York City because I pay so little for my main source of transportation.
Complaining about having to walk to a store is just plain silly. Um, there are slightly more expensive, little Wal-Marts known as Duane Reade on every corner. And if you’re into supporting your local businesses, there are about a million Bodegas owned by immigrants who could probably tell you all the reasons they also love New York City. There is inevitably a grocery store or produce stand within 5 minutes of you at any given point. Also, only being able to buy what you can physically carry is awesome! It limits waste and makes you way more mindful of your consuming habits. And if you’re not into that, pay to have your groceries delivered! Problem solved.
Can’t afford a gym because you’re busy paying for grocery delivery? That’s okay, HAVE YOU SEEN OUR PARKS. They’re fucking incredible! Walk 10 minutes in any direction, you’ll find one because New York City landscape architects are the bomb dot com. Which leads me to WHY DOES WALKING CONSTITUTE DIFFICULTY? If you can’t walk up 5 flights of stairs or 5-10 minutes to a subway stop without hating the rest of your day, maybe you’re out of shape. And that’s not New York City’s fault. Also, building up is a GREAT thing. It’s called efficient use of space. You know what isn’t an efficient use of space? The 72 strip malls in your town containing multiple stores that will go out of business within 5 months of opening. Strip malls are not only visually disgusting, they’re big for no reason. If you’re gunna make a building that large, fill it with refugees, not a Dress Barn.
Strip malls are not only visually disgusting, they’re big for no reason
Price of living? Yes, we pay a fuckton of money to live in small spaces and even more fucktons for more space. But who are you that you think you’re just entitled to a bunch of space? My ex-boyfriend grew up in a 2 bedroom apartment with 9 siblings. Fuck you and your giant house full of lamps you bought at a thrift store 8 years ago and cleaning supplies you haven’t used since the 90s. Living in small spaces, again, makes one
way more mindful of what one actually needs. And yes, it’s expensive. But you know what isn’t expensive? Flights to anywhere because everything flies out of New York. Concerts to that super obscure band you found on Spotify last month. Museums (The Met is free. FREE) of art, natural history, sex, math, science, Indian American history, a table display of vaginas. Movie screenings in all the beautiful parks I mentioned previously (complete with a free DeeJay set if you arrive early enough). Access to short stays right outside of the City (the train/bus system in New England is incredible) when you need a break. Encountering people every single day that are totally different than you. I was walking from 145th street to 147th to my apartment the other day and saw a group of gay musical theatre dudes, a Muslim family, a group of women in traditional Trinidadian clothing, a Mexican family buying produce from the Bengali guy who owns the produce stand, and then of course me. There is more diversity on two blocks of New York City than entire states that take 12 hours to drive across. Living physically close to so many different kinds of people is honestly the best part of living here. Besides the view of Jersey (this is a joke).
BEYOND ALL OF THAT, it is mandatory, MANDATORY to recycle in New York. As in, illegal to not do so. There are stands in every neighborhood where you can drop your compost or old clothes for textile recycling. You can also choose green energy over your standard provider for an additional $7/month because you know, we actually understand that taking care of the planet should be a top priority. And don't even get me started on healthcare and government assistance. Lucky for women and people living in poverty, the New York system actually wants to work for us. There are City MDs (little ER's) every couple of blocks (so emergency rooms aren't flooded and people can get care), free clinics, even government funded therapists for rape victims. You can use your food stamps at the Farmers Market. There are a multitude of farming/gardening after school programs. These programs really get to the root of the issue (See what I did there) in impoverished communities by teaching the kids about food production, the importance of healthy eating, and attachment to the food we consume. Think about it, if you actually grew the food on your plate, you would probably appreciate and savor it so much more. You would also be a million times healthier than the dude purchasing hormone induced iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch and calling it a salad. So instead of complaining that all poor people just use their food stamps for Zingers and Hot Chips, New York provides opportunity for education and work. CRAZY I KNOW. I will definitely need another blog entry to discuss how we’ve really got some work to do as a nation to stop fucking victim shaming poor people.
If you actually grew the food on your plate, you would probably appreciate and savor it so much more
The point is, New York City is fucking incredible. And if you are here visiting, maybe don’t shit talk it to a stranger in Central Park. And I promise not to come to your city or town and complain about parking, traffic, or how Joe's Crab Shack is the most exotic food outing.