A Wonderful Town

Life is not a cosmopolitan, my friends.

When I lived in Philadelphia, I met an alarming number of people who were convinced that “Sex and the City” was a realistic portrayal of life in New York.

And so to all those who think I spend my days walking the beat in Manolo Blahniks, drinking cosmos and lunching on weekdays with my BFFs, I present to you a real typical day in New York.

Your alarm goes off in the small apartment you pay for with 75 percent of your salary. You are already awake and completely exhausted, having been unable to sleep due to the garbage trucks that made their way up Broadway at intervals reminiscent of the Chinese water torture.  In the shower, you lather up and then realize too late that the building turned the water off at 9 am sharp for “necessary repairs.”  You did not know, until that moment, that water could break. Thankfully, you’re able to get some of the shower gel off using a bottle of Poland Spring and a plant sprayer, which is not at all awkward and does not at all flood your bathroom.

Even though you’ve spent thousands trying to keep up with the (Samantha) Joneses, you have nothing to wear and end up hating your outfit. You head out feeling absolutely revolting, as you weren’t able to wash your hair and your skin is covered in a soapy film that’s causing severe pruritus. The good news is that you wore your new, high-heeled sandals to perk up the outfit you hate. The bad news is that it starts to pour on your way to the subway and you didn’t bring an umbrella. The new sandals, previously quite beautiful, are quickly ruined, and so slippery that you trip – but do not fall – on a crack in the pavement. No one asks if you are okay.  Your foot lands in something you pray is DOG shit.

You have to swipe your wet MetroCard three times before it’s accepted. At the exact moment you walk through the turnstile, the train pulls away. But that’s okay – the platform makes an incredibly comfortable waiting area. There’s absolutely no air, your iPod is dead, a not-so-faint hint of pee lingers in the mist and a talented Mariachi band is giving a free concert.

Twenty minutes later, the next downtown train arrives, so packed that riders have their faces smushed up against the petri dish windows. You’re able to contort yourself into one of the cars, joined by the Mariachi band, but there is even less air inside and the 75-year-old man in glittered tights and a red Speedo just caressed one of your ass cheeks. Halfway between 50th and 42nd Streets, the lights go out and the train stops. You’re about to panic, but then you hear this reassuring message from Charlie Brown’s teacher over the loudspeaker.



After what seems like a smelly eternity, you are moving again. You sigh in relief as you approach your stop, 23rd Street, but the train flies by and doesn’t stop again until 14th Street. Apparently, the MTA has decided this particular train will make express stops only, but didn’t see any reason to inform the passengers.

You are now absurdly late. You race up and down two flights of stairs to get on an uptown train, pretty sure you’re going to pass out. You don’t, but you do come alarmingly close to puking from the sight and stench of the hairy-chinned homeless woman who sits down right next to you even though there are empty seats aplenty.

At last you arrive at 23rd Street, in desperate need of coffee.  It is no longer raining, but the line at Dunkin Donuts is insane. Naturally, the person right in front of you is picking 64 Munchkins one by one and asking probing questions as she goes along.

What part of CHOCOLATE FROSTED do you not understand?! Is jelly filling SUCH a difficult concept to grasp?! And for the love of GOD, just accept that the Boston Kreme Munchkin is a figment of your imagination. No, they did not have it last week.

You do eventually leave with your iced beverage, but you’ve been trapped in there so long that another downpour is in progress. You run into the bodega next door and buy the last flimsy umbrella, which costs $12 and will be completely broken within five minutes. Just as you are about to drop everything you’re toting, you see that a douchebag you once dated, liked and got harshly dissed by is fast approaching. You dodge him, but there’s no chance he didn’t see you in all your drowned rat glory.  There’s also no chance he did see your engagement ring, as it is obscured by the iced coffee, so you have no choice but to assume he assumes you are still pining for him 10 years later.

When you arrive at your office, there is a gaggle of hipsters smoking a foot away from the door, but nary a one offers to open it for you.  To get in, you are forced to hold your umbrella horizontally and place the iced coffee under your chin, only to spill it over the soaking wet white shirt you’re wearing. But that’s okay. It’s always nice when your boss and the publisher of an important trade magazine with whom you are scheduled to meet can see your underwears.

At last, you make it to your desk. You plan to send an email apologizing for being late, but there is no internet connection. Your colleagues can all get online just fine, but you can’t. The IT guy isn’t answering his phone, and you have no more coffee except what is staining your shirt. But you’re in New York, where you can order in Burmese food at 3 in the morning! Why not order a replacement coffee? You do, and a mere hour later you get it – even though you ordered it hot this time, it’s iced by this point and the half-and-half is sitting in curdled swirls at the camel-colored surface.

You are now officially the unwitting protagonist in the 2010 remake of the classic 1972 children’s book “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” You curse the city. You wonder why you ever complained about living in the Midwest. You miss the ease of Arch Street in the City of Brotherly Love, where your commute was one block on foot and you could run home to use your own private bathroom any time you wanted.  You don’t understand why your parents can’t retire to Florida like normal Jews of their vintage, giving you a warm, easy place to escape. You curse the city again and decide you are just going to sit at your desk forever, rather than go back out into concrete  jungle.

But lunch is inevitable.  When your internet is up and running, your inbox tells you that there are three fabulous sample sales within walking distance. On Twitter you see that the Treats Truck, Cupcake Stop and Joyride Truck are all parked a block or two away.  “Law and Order” is filming across the street, so you catch glimpses of the tasty Jeremy Sisto and also pass by McSteamy and possibly John Mayer.  You can replace your still-wet white top with a more stylie one from your choice of Intermix, BCBG, H&M, Old Navy, Anthropologie, Banana Republic, Gap, Club Monaco, Lucky, Ann Taylor and/or J.Crew. Right on the street, you can buy a $12 necklace to jazz it up and then pick up gourmet hot dogs, sushi, Mexican, Chinese, deli, pizza, Mediterranean, comfort food, French macaroons, Cuban, vegan, kosher, Halal, soup or a smoothie for lunch.  You can hear 10 different languages on your way back to the office.  You can walk to the Metropolitan Pavilion and audition to be an extra in the next “Men in Black” movie (if you’re shorter than 4’10” and are comfortable wearing vintage alien prosthetics).

In your fresh top and new jewels,  you head back to your loft-like office space and catch a glimpse of the Empire State Building.  Just as you are contentedly remembering why you came to the Big Apple 15 years ago and why you  missed it so much when you were gone, a taxi hydroplanes through a muddy puddle, covering your lower half in urban crud. You can’t help but conjure a slightly dejected tutu-clad Carrie Bradshaw in the opening credits of “Sex and the City.”

Perhaps those Scrapple-lovin’ peeps in Philly are righter than you thought.

A Wonderful Town

41 thoughts on “A Wonderful Town

  1. As a teenager living in a small town in Canada where the most exciting thing that happens is the town aquiring a new snowplow, this sounds like a dream come true. I’d take the bent umbrella and drenched, coffee stained shirt over the comfortable but utterly boring place I live in anytime. Maybe one day…

  2. Truth be told, I am TERRIFIED of NYC. I should write about how I do NYC. It is a blog unto itself. Each summer I come to the City to try to conquer my weird City-phobia and negotiate the City myself. But I know soooo many people, I end up just calling people who will meet me wherever I am and they generally tell me to “just stay where I am” and they actually come to me and take me to their favorite places until it is time for them to go – and then I call the next friend who asks me where I am and tells me to stay put because she will “come and get me.” And they do. Can you imagine? So much learned helplessness.

    Just know that you are one of the brave ones. You know how to take trains and not end up in Connecticut.



  3. I didn’t really enjoy NYC when I was there. Its like Los Angeles but more… more people, more dirty, more rudeness, more noise, more trash etc…

    BUT I see everyone else’s pictures and experiences and its not the same as mine… so I’m starting to wonder if I should give NYC another chance…

  4. Stopping by via No Shoe Left Behind via Freshly Pressed. I am so glad I did. Love your writing and let me tell you, you had me right there with you. Excellent post.

  5. marlin says:

    I admit I went to “No shoe left behind” because of a photo of 3 attractive women. 😛

    There I gave in to the plea to look after this article.

    Was nice, but did reinforce that NY is not a place I wanna be.

    Some of the misery though is self chosen. Why, if you are late, need to get food and Coffee first?

    Anyway, t’was hilarious. But frightening.. 😉

  6. First time Mom...with a capital 'M'! says:

    I was literally laughing out loud when you said “Your foot lands in something you pray is DOG shit.” And by the time I was approaching the end I started laughing again because just like a movie where you can predict the end I realized what you were going to say…your posts are hilarious…

  7. Hi Traci- just read your blogpost- out loud- while laughing / cringing simultaneously. Just brillaint. Ma’am.

    Miss the city, I do, but not for the chaos shared above. Well, maybe I kinda miss that too, in some oddball way.
    Thnaks for the post- I’m a believer, and will be back to see what’s next ’round here. Love your posts, and I’m sure my lovely sweetheart will too.
    Cheers, M.

  8. I was just reminiscing about my elementary ed days traveling good old SEPTA in Philadelphia in the late 70’s and early 80’s on another blog post this week. Your ‘day’ really took me back. I am missing big city life today – bad umbrellas and all.

  9. I just moved (back) to the Midwest after five years in NYC. You have nailed A Day in the Life SO well. I had such a love hate relationship with that city. Ensconced in my living room where there is complete silence but for the heat that’s on (by my own hand and at the temperature I want it), your words took me back. I miss the architecture and some of the conveniences (AND the trucks….sigh) but you do such a great job of getting down to the nitty gritty of what it takes to live there. Lots of give and take, with a lot of the taking on New York’s part. Great job!

    Zoe of zoesays.com

  10. I came to your blog after a refer from No Shoe Left Behind and I’m so glad I did! I absolutely love what you wrote. There’s no way I’m hating New York, yes, even with that pee-infiltrated subway. Afterall, WHO doesn’t want to be a part of New York, New York?
    I’ll be coming back for more! Thanks for the post!

  11. Ahhh….once you reminded me of the stale urine aroma of the subways, this post took me right back over the Hudson to my old stompin’ grounds. But what – no mention of the rats?? No one masturbated on the train next you you?? Must have been a quiet day.

  12. Love this post! I could totally see the times when NYC would be a pain in the ass, but it sounds like it’s benefits very much outweigh it’s bad points. However, I’ve talked to a few people in our New York office, and the trend seems to be after around 6 or 7 years, they are over it. They are ready to move out of the city and have somewhat of a less chaotic lifestyle. Think that’ll ever happen to you?

  13. I guess I should move to New York two after readin this. Sounds like a lot of fun, to have these memories about your day. Especially when you are laying in a comfortable bed, writing a blog about it. Hehe.

  14. Anonymous says:

    As a native New Yorker, I love this place, and clearly, so many others do as well, otherwise it wouldn’t be so crowded. I work near you, but by walk to the Cupcake Stop is about 10 blocks. We are at the center of the universe! Still, on a rainy day, you are spot on. Umbrellas are dangerous in a crowded city!

  15. Wow, really never thought that living in New York would be so much stress. Though of course there are many positive that I, a lowly British tourist, saw on my visit there 6 years ago! I did however get the unfortunate, though I assume regular, opportunity to see a man convulsing on the ground with merely whites of his eyes as many people walked on by giving the occasionally, inquisitive glance. However, as I was only 11 at the time I wasn’t in the position to do anything. Coming off this tangent … great blog entry! A certain eye opener!

  16. Great post! And to think I was jealous of my older sister who moved to NYC and didn’t bring me with her.
    I did get to visit a few times and found that subway riders are…very interesting. The city is a great place for people-watching. 🙂
    On the whole, I found the people there to be friendly and polite, so I was always confused by the “angry New Yorker” stereotype.

  17. LOVE this post. As a recent transplant to NYC from way up North in Canada ;), I love your take on the average day. I have soo many friends who are jealous of our move and I remind them that life is not always glamorous!!

    I am soo glad that I stumbled upon your site, I will definitely be back to read more!

  18. […] When I lived in Philadelphia, I met an alarming number of people who were convinced that “Sex and the City” was a realistic portrayal of life in New York. And so to all those who think I spend my days walking the beat in Manolo Blahniks, drinking cosmos and lunching on weekdays with my BFFs, I present to you a real typical da … Read More […]

  19. “Please be dog shit, please be dog shit, please be dog shit”.

    Hard to fathom. Scary too. Poor li’l T. 😉

    My misconception with NY was that the whole state looked pretty much like NY City. After driving through the state a couple of times I have a whole new appreciation for NY. All the mountains and trees. Beautiful in the Fall.

    As always, great post.

  20. MPC says:

    Oh God! I have made a terrible mistake. I knew I should have stayed in the loving embrace of fair Queen Charlotte. Life is so much easier there, but on the other hand North Carolina style Burmese cuisine isn’t that good, so maybe New York isn’t so bad.

    Boy it really makes you think.

  21. Nancy says:

    This piece was thoroughly enjoyable, and made me feel great nostalgia and affection for New York, where I wore my engagement ring through similar experiences, and simultaneously grateful for my Midwestern life with wedding ring (in spite of the heat). I look forward to your next post!

  22. Laura Hannah says:

    So – life in the Midwest might not be all bad – except it’s the middle of summer and we can’t take our kids outside to play because it’s so stinkin hot we’ve had a Heat Alert for almost the whole month of July!

    I so enjoy reading your blog – you are a great writer!

  23. Sistah says:

    Dear Letter T- This is the piece that will make you millions. I urge you to submit it to any and all NYC publications including New York Times, New York Magazine, Elle, Glamour, Cosmo and the likes. Go for it!

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