Are you okay? Is New York getting to you? Are things not going according to plan?
Stop whining. For fuck’s sake.
The plan you don’t plan for isn’t the plan you planned but it’s usually more original. Isn’t that why you moved to New York? To be original?
God, you didn’t move to play make-believe, did you?
Because New York is a penal colony. Part Troy, part mall. The rivers and oceans are natural moats keeping the maniacs in, and the rest of the country relatively safe
It’s overcrowded, noisy, and in the summer it smells like a mass grave.
Men masturbate on subway trains. Everybody is in a hurry to get somewhere important always at all times. Money is Jesus.
Winter and New York have been at war for centuries.
The only personal journey New York is interested in is the one that ends with you paying your yearly city income tax.
New York is being too broke to afford furniture and fighting over a discarded table left out on the street at 5AM with an ancient grandmother who could bench press a compact car. You lose.
New York is getting laid off, and then getting laid off again. A few years later, the day of yet another layoff, New York is your credit card getting declined at CVS. You were buying a personal ointment and Cup O’ Noodles.
New York is getting mugged and then, later, at an Irish bar having a Serbian, a Moroccan, and a Turk drunkenly swearing they’ll break the legs of whoever stole your iPod full of shitty indie music that all sounds like a little boy singing sad songs from the bottom of a well.
New York isn’t your fantasy. You’re the fantasy in New York’s imagination. One day the fever will break and every New Yorker will immediately cease to be.
If New York were a cat, it would eat your face after you collapsed in the kitchen from a heart attack.
New York is Galactus. New York is Cthulhu. New York doesn’t change; it mutates. Evolves. In two hundred years it will have a hundred thousand centipede legs and the entire mass will migrate south before the first arctic blast.
When did you think you were the center of New York’s universe? Why did you think that? Shame on you. Your Instagrams aren’t that great.
No one “wins” New York. Ha, ha.
You will lose. Everyone loses. The point is losing in the most unexpected, poignant way possible for as long as you can.
Jay Z and Beyonce are doing okay.
Struggle, motherfucker. Hustle. Fail, fail again, fail until you forget what succeeding is, and then, on your deathbed, as you’re full of rotten phlegm and regret, you can look back and crack a smile that you almost won a couple, and survived everything else.
Hell, maybe your kin will survive the apocalypse and sing mighty ballads of your tragic battles by a roaring bonfire.
But until then — accept that your umbrellas will turn themselves inside out. That your rent is a tumor in the guts of your bank account. Complain that you deserve a raise, that the N train never, ever, ever runs when you need it to run (and that it’s probably personal,) and that New York is a giant meat grinder extruding tons of chewed up dreams.
Complaining is the only right you have as a New Yorker. Whining is what children do. To complain is to tell the truth. People who refuse to complain, and insist on having a positive outlook, are monsters. Their optimism is a poison. If given the chance they will sell you out.
New York will kick you in the hole, but it will never stab you in the back. It will, however, stab you multiple times right in your face.
I’m not saying give up the battle. Just know that, sometimes, it’s okay to flip off the cold, indifferent universe. The universe is not “The Force” from Star Wars. The universe is an endless cosmic ocean of fire and ice and violence and suffocating nothing.
Just avoid people who smile too much. Especially when smiling is not the appropriate emotional response to a situation.
Avoid the romantics who suggest strolling ethnic neighborhoods like they’re inspiration zoos.
It took ten years before the Greeks and the Bangladeshis in my neighborhood stopped sneering when I spent my money in their crappy corner groceries and made eye contact with me. But once I had grudgingly earned their respect, you know what? They turned out to be wise, jolly, lovable scamps who taught me to love life to its fullest, while speaking broken English.
That’s a lie, of course. They were all assholes. Just cranky, angry people.
We got along. I am honest with myself.
I am an asshole.
Avoid the cool kids who hate tourists because this is a port city, not some provincial backwater. Only tourists hate other tourists.
A tourist is, after all, a mark. New York loves an easy dollar. That old slogan “I Love New York” was just part of a long con.
New York City does not lie. Its honesty is the only thing that makes this cold chunk of over-developed concrete special. Complain. Life can suck. It really can.
Just when you think your heart can’t be broken into enough pieces, those tiny shards break into thousands of more splinters that break into millions of flecks of glitter.
It’s cold. You’re broke. Dad’s dead. It hurts.
Money only buys two things: lavish self-deceptions and comfortable suffering.
If you can afford either, then I say go for it.
But the overwhelming majority of us can’t, so sing the blues. Bitch and moan when it hurts and frustrates.
Complaining is the natural opera of New York. The arias spill out onto the streets, over tablecloth, between smartphones.
That’s all you get.
New York City doesn’t love you. Why would you think you’re in a relationship with New York? It’s not a boyfriend or a parent. New York will never give you its approval because New York City is too busy being New York City to care about you.
New York’s indifference to your plight makes you strong. Fall to your knees and thank New York for making you strong.
New York doesn’t miss me. I don’t even think New York knows I’m gone.
I thought about writing one of those “Why I Left New York” essays on the off chance that New York would notice. I knew better.
Why did I leave New York?
For a job. I took a job. A good job.
Also, let’s be honest, because I am a wimp.
L.A. smells like flowers all the fucking time and I think that smell is pumped in from kind of secret reservoir of perfume. But I didn’t leave New York because I fell out of love with the city.
If New York had voice mail I would leave it insane messages day and night. I would tell it how much I love and miss it. The energy. The culture. The Jamaican meat pies.
There would be sobbing.
I would text it “hi” and “sup” and “r u ok” constantly.
I love New York. My love is strong. My love is psycho.
If I ever move back, if I’m even allowed to return, New York will briefly study my face and mutter “Who the fuck are you?”
If not, I will always look back on getting my ass kicked fondly because that pain is proof that I had a relationship with New York’s steel-toed boot.
My back once went out on my way to work, and New York did nothing as I squirmed in unbelievable agony on the streets of Queens. I dragged myself by my bloody fingertips five blocks back to my apartment.
Isn’t that beautiful?
If you love something, let it go. If it doesn’t come back, boo-hoo, write an essay.
There are plenty of great reasons to live on the West Coast. Tacos. Fish tacos. I can spend my days literally staring directly into the warm Southern California sun.
New York doesn’t get jealous. New York doesn’t care about Los Angeles.
But I am starting to care. Just a teensy bit. I just wish more people out here on the fringe of our civilization would complain more about traffic, flip-flops, and kale.
You know, the fact that L.A. is universally despised by the rest of the country is almost endearing. New Yorkers love an underdog.
Or they should.
[PHOTO CREDIT: This is a view out of my old apartment window in Astoria, Queens. I lived there for 165 years. Queens is great because it isn’t Brooklyn.]