Sunday, January 10, 2010

Things I <3 about New York

I'm leaving for Jamaica in the morning and I'm not sure if I'll be back to try and live in New York city anytime soon. I've been in NYC for the past few months and I feel like I've spent a distressing amount of that time engaged in the near-insufferable pastime of complaining about the city and what it has been offering me and whinging about things I don't like about it. I apologize to anyone who has had to entertain this nonsense. As a form of penance, here are a few little things that I truly do appreciate about this place, and of course this is just the tip of the iceburg.

Cheap food. This is a no-brainer. There are more under-ten-dollar meal options in New York than you can imagine and virtually every ethnic subgenre is represented. If you've been following this blog even intermittently you've already seen how much I appreciate and take advantage of this.

Talking to convenience store/deli/diner employees and cab drivers late at night. Somewhere in that giddy liminal space of an NYC party night you are bound to encounter a member of the sober, (generally) affable, and accommodating legion of New York's graveyard shift workers. Quite often, these folks are from exotic and far-flung places, and if you show even a rudimentary knowledge of their homeland and it's current events they usually will swell with pride and let you in on their opinions on them. If you read an international news story in the morning, there is a good chance that you could encounter someone from the location of that dateline later that night who can give you their insider's take. The fact that these opinions can often be eccentric, paranoid, racially charged or misinformed is irrelevant.
Talking to someone who is not condescending, belligerent or completely ignorant at that time of night is usually a refreshing change for them and they will express gratitude that you are even interested in their story. One of the best experiences I had in New York was talking to a fair skinned, blue-eyed ethnic Muslim from Azerbaijan who was slinging cheese fries and chili dogs in an all-night kiosk near St. Marks place. When I asked him about his faith his face lit up and he showed me how in between pumping nacho cheese he was reading the complete works of Rumi and the other ecstatic Sufi poets, in Farsi, on a bulky, outdated P.C. under the service window. "I do not drink, no drugs," he told me, "This poems, is my drug."
These type of encounters are readily attainable any night in New York. Just don't expect a discount.

Hot people. Sorry, rest of America, but most of them are here. Although being surrounded by babes all the time can be a curse as well as a blessing, there is no denying that if you spend a few months in New York and then fly into the Midwestern airport of your choosing, you will feel like you've been living in a cartoon and the producers have just suddenly outsourced the character design to some foreign firm with a drastically lower pay scale and quality standards.

Stomping on metal bulkhead covers, especially while walking home late at night. They are springy and make a satisfying booming sound. It's like jumping in puddles without the mess.

Watching people wearing earbuds groove to their music on the train. You can sort of guess what genre they are listening to from the manner in which they lightly tap their feet, silently snap, and rock back forth. There is a limit to my enjoyment of their enjoyment of their music, though: once they start to whistle or sing along it is funny for a like a minute and then just gets annoying.
I also appreciate that most of the Mexicans I have stood near that are wearing earbuds on the train are listening to Cumbia, which I can deduce from the tell-tale "Chi-chichi-Chi-chichi" of the claves in the song that they are listening to at what must be an ear-splitting volume. This makes me offer them an non-verbal, gestural "Que onda, guey?".
Tzochitl Soundsystem VS Toy Selectah – Hay Guey (via audioporncentral)

Seeing the City through the eyes of it's tourists. It's easy to take the place where you are living for granted and get jaded. But, when I see packs of Chilean hipsters or Parisian teenagers wearing brand-new Chuck Taylors, Wayfearers, and some design t-shirt they just bought walking around New York, taking in everything with an awe-struck look that seems to say "We are really here! I is a Ramone now?", you can't help but get a little excitement-by-osmosis.

Dancing to New York hip hop classics with New Yorkers
. As much as I've enjoyed the resurgence of disco, boogie and 80s funk that seems to be going on with the hipster DJ set in New York right now, there's still nothing that beats dancing to that rap shit with people that grew up in New York. It seems like no matter how lilly-white your party is there will always be at least one group of black or Puerto rican girls there looking fly and if you put on something like

they will go off. There is something Pavlovian that happens when real New Yorkers hear the first bars of "Hypnotize"- if they don't start dancing immediately, when Biggie says "Sicker than your average" they are powerless to resist. Follow that up with something like

Then you'll see big smiles all around, no more mean mugging, drinks in the air, mouthing lyrics and licking shots at the DJ. "Where Brooklyn at? Where Brooklyn at?"

One thing I don't like about New York, though is people's tendency to pontificate about it endlessly so I'll stop there. Next up on Animal Blanco: top things I like about sitting on a Caribbean beach eating fresh seafood and drinking an ice cold Red Stripe.

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