New York: The City that Never Sweeps. Amid the piles of refuse and swarms of man-eating rats, there are enduring myths that have carried from one generation to the next like old wives’ tales. Not necessarily myths like the origin of the word “knickerbocker” or how the Dutch fleeced local Indians with a trunk of beads and some pelts, I’m talking about the lies we tell ourselves which make living in a city of nine million people remotely palatable. We don’t have to live with the lies any longer, only the soul-crushing misery of being anonymous yet surrounded at all times.
Living in New York City, I don’t need to have a car.
You hear this one mainly from young professionals who live in crowded neighborhoods where discovering a secure parking spot is less probable than finding a winning lottery ticket. Let’s be real now: living in New York City, it isn’t reasonable to have a car, whether you want one or not. And while it is relatively easy to travel around the city on mass transit, it is goddamned near impossible to get any further than Yonkers or Jersey City without some planning. So let’s not act like New York has done you some kind of favor by making it prohibitive for you to own a car. Whether it’s via sky-high insurance rates or draconian alternate side of the street parking rules, the choice has been taken away from you, and your exuberance over this fact is reminiscent of Stockholm Syndrome.
Only in New York City.
This is often uttered by passers-by having witnessed something abominable, like a homeless guy shitting into a coffee can at a crowded intersection or some lunatic being hog-tied by cops after sexually assaulting random women on Forty-Second Street. These things don’t happen only in New York City, in fact you can see incidences like these happening in rural America all the time on television shows like COPS and World’s Wildest Sexually Assaulting Lunatics. But the real issue here isn’t that it’s erroneous to claim certain sickening events as being indigenous to New York, but that we really shouldn’t accept this kind of shit anywhere. The attitude is that the city is too crowded, we’re too busy, there’s too much visual stimulation to worry about some guy having a stroke with his eyes bugging out in Washington Square Park. The full phrase should go, “Only in New York City would we watch some toothless, piss-soaked maniac heckle grade school girls and do absolutely nothing about it.”
If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.
Okay, so this is actually a song lyric, but it does also appear to be a popular delusion among New York City dwellers. The idea of New York being a boundless city of endless opportunity is a pervasive one that goes back almost to its very inception. And perhaps it was true, at one time. Now, there may be just as many opportunities as there were in 1911, but there are about fifty times as many people competing for them. And lord help you if you want to make it in the arts in New York City, you’ve never seen more disaffected live crowds or dismissive art patrons in your life. You’ll be breaking your neck to churn out high-quality canvases and meanwhile some undergrad art student will become the local darling for spray painting bird stencils on old blocks of wood or something. If you enjoy being a small fish in a big pond, then New York City is for you. Not just for the dearth of opportunity but because it will really excite your masochistic side.
My apartment is very cozy.
No, your apartment is not very cozy. It’s very small. You’ve stuffed it with high-end electronics and expensive cooking utensils that you’ve no idea how to use, but it hasn’t made the space any larger. If anything, you’re just whittling away at the little real estate you’ve got with kitschy throw pillows and oversized, shitty paintings your friends did. There are people in third world countries who’ve got more living space than you do, and despite the fact that they have to poop in a hole in the ground, at least that doesn’t unexpectedly back up and splash toilet water everywhere once a week. If you weren’t captivated by the encompassing New York lie that makes you eat shit and like it, you’d probably rebel. But as it is, you’re so shell shocked from having to stand elbow to elbow with smelly people during your commute home every evening, the two-hundred square feet of space you’re renting for an exorbitant sum seems like a relief. Just imagine what kind of car you could get with the rent that you pay.