This week’s reports from the city’s reality
Ever since my first summer in Cambridge, I’ve appreciated the beauty of roof access. Views aside, the ability to get up above everything can be very calming. With the exception of my second apartment (which still had a second story porch), every place I’ve ever lived has had it until now. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to brag. They were never glamorous (though the one in Sunnyside did have a fantastic view of the Manhattan skyline) and I didn’t need them to be. All I’ve ever needed is enough space for a lawn chair, a book and perhaps a beer. If I’m feeling especially social, maybe I’ll make a phone call. When I learned that my current apartment didn’t have roof access, I was disappointed. Once I saw that the ladder was literally right outside my window, though, I couldn’t help but check it out. Aside from a paint encrusted shoe, the roof is pretty basic, but it’s mine. Since we live on the top floor, I don’t have to worry about disturbing anyone underneath and I also know that no one else will be up there. Katie thinks it’s dangerous for me to climb the ladder so I don’t do it often, but this week it’s been calling to me. I can barely finish this paragraph right now, knowing that when I’m done I can go back up. Maybe it’s because I’ve been re-evaluating my place in the city lately, but right now I just need a breath of fresh air.
The MTA is both a gift and a curse to New Yorkers. After nearly two months of nightly and weekend service changes on the G line (I still love you G train, despite it all), I’m getting a little fed up with the MTA’s crazy track work and the inconvenience it causes to my life. Then I do something like take the F down to Coney Island and suddenly the MTA seems magical again. Its ability to get us to Midtown Manhattan and the beach theme park that is Coney Island with equal ease seems amazing to someone who grew up in the suburbs. The fact that all of these vastly different areas can exist in one city is crazy enough, but that you can get just about anywhere with $2.50 and a little time is amazing.
Living in New York is bound to produce some “what the fuck” moments, but entire days of such puzzlement are unique occasions. My entire Monday was one long WTF moment. First, there was cat shit on the (indoor) staircase leading out of my house on my way out the door in the morning. No one in the house owns a cat; apparently one has ensconced itself in the basement, occasionally screeching but refusing to leave. Then at least four people on my train ride to work were having animated imaginary conversations with invisible companions, some using hand gestures similar to those performed by interpretive dancers. Self-talk is pretty standard fare for a subway trip, but the sheer volume of these characters made me think an acting convention had to have been taking place somewhere around town. Then I visited the hell on earth known as the Target in Marble Hill, where children run wild with no restraint whatsoever. While innocently examining a storage shelf, a baby ran up behind me and slapped me square on the ass. My palm open and ready to smack someone, I turned to see the child looking up at me with giant eyes and a binky sticking out of his mouth. Yes, Monday had “what the fuck” written all over it.
Recently I’ve realized why New Yorkers run to Long Island as soon as the summer hits. The wave of oppressive heat and humidity in the city shortens tempers and slows everyone to a sluggish pace. It makes me wonder why I’ve been looking forward to the sunny season all year. Getting the opportunity to drive out to the end of Long Island’s north fork was a needed relief from it all. It’s not the Hamptons — most of the residents still live and work on the island year round — but still, seeing a different side of the more fortunate vacationers and the kids working off their summers in restaurants is refreshing. They’re… nice. There’s something about the fresh air (and the proliferation of wineries) that makes NYC residents seem less like sleepy drones and more like the lively, interesting people that you expect to populate the city. After a couple days, I didn’t even think it was weird that strangers would wave to me. I thought leaving the clean air and the smell of the ocean would be hard — and it was — but a few days away from the smog and traffic of Jersey was invigorating.
Forget East New York, the South Bronx, or Bushwick — the scariest place in New York City is a doctor’s office. As a child, I have hopeful, even fond memories of these places. I never had any serious health problems, my parents had us well-insured and I had the security of knowing my family was behind me every step of the way. Years later, it isn’t such a rosy picture. I live on my own. I sit in overcrowded waiting rooms at Beth Israel surrounded by strangers, and I am the one patient under the age of 30. I still have insurance, though it isn’t as comprehensive as I would like, and after two visits to the doctor to get a recurring urinary tract infection checked out (something I shouldn’t be having), I went into the urologist for an ultra sound. Results are pending, but by Monday I should have a better idea of what I’m dealing with. The doctors told me not to worry. The likelihood of cancer or any other life-threatening ailment is low, but still, part of me longs for the days when a lollipop and a pat on the head were all I needed.
Yesterday I was riding particularly high off that wonderful feeling one gets after having paid some bills online, the feeling that starts in the gut when most of the last month’s income has suddenly vanished into the void. Seeking further excitement in the immediate aftermath of depleting my bank account, I headed to the post office to pick up a couple packages. The walk there was warm and sweaty, and as I stood in the pale, green fluorescence of the mailroom, I wondered what kind of benefits mail-people receive. It was oddly busy for noontime and there was an ominous, frantic air about the place that seemed to stick to everyone in the humidity. There were crying babies, zigzag lines, flashing signs and a terribly confused elderly gentleman wandering in and out of line at the package pick up. After about 20 minutes of stagnance, a guy wandered in from the sidewalk and began shouting, “God Bless Everybody! God is GOOD today,” at full volume and began asking people for money shortly thereafter. During this most fevered moment where all noise and peripheral conversation crescendoed around my own nervous pitch, I saw the faces of my mailroom compatriots tighten slightly in an effort to collectively bear the circumstances. I relaxed a bit, got my packages and sauntered back out into the heat.