Sunday, October 14, 2012

Living in Manhattan

 My friend Jo emailed me this morning and asked me about New York as she weighs her options on settling in the US mainland. I started to write her an email response but got lost int he length of my draft that I decided to create a blog post with it. Of course I replied to her in a more brief narrative but she inspired to list down what I love about being home in this crazy loony city the world calls Manhattan.

I have celebrated 10 years living, working and loving in New York. Regrets? Other than being away from my parents, I wouldn’t think of living anywhere else.

I usually tell people who say they want to come and live here to try it out first.  Come for a vacation, stay a bit longer, and see if you can see yourself here long-term.  Like any city it is densely populated, noisy and dirty i.e. there is trash everywhere. It doesn't take long to realize that here there are good people and there are also bad people who will bark ugly things at you or worse, run away with your purse.  For those who make your day nicer always remember to smile back. To the rest, hold your head high, don't take anything personally and always assume they lack a screw or two upstairs.

New York summers are hot and humid, the winters are often cold and biting but you always look forward to spring when everything is bright and colorful and also autumn when the leaves turn gold and the world exudes a bit of romantic.  In the same breath, every season still brings so much to look forward to being in Manhattan - summer to me mean concerts at the park, short trips to the beaches of the Hamptons or Fire Island; in the winter it is always with childlike joy that I watch the first snowfall and marvel at how blizzards blanket the city in white to make it like a postcard. 

I like that on TV and in the movies, Manhattan is the center of the universe.  All the superheroes reside here (or some version of New York City) – Superman’s Gotham City is really NYC, Spiderman is from Queens, Tony Stark aka Iron Man is a Manhattanite, and of course, there is Batman. And let us not forget the “Men in Black’ who descends into this city on Halloween, incidentally the most crazy day of the year when everyone – kids and adults and all in between including their dogs will dress up in a costume.

And being the center of the universe means being able to get anywhere without a need to own your spaceship.  We have one of the most efficient public transportation system in the world and we often take it for granted.  The bus is never on time (late by a 1 to 2 minutes), the subway trains are always packed like sardine cans in the rush hour and the cab drivers trained at Six Flags. But this is what makes this city so unique and absolutely urbane. From the city all means of transportation to get-away is within easy access. Heaven help you if you need to go to Jersey because there are buses that leave from Port Authority and trains that take off from Penn Station. And to cross to Hoboken you have the PATH trains. To go to the more suburgatorial New York upstate counties and Connecticut, Grand Central is the hub for the Metro North trains that will bring you there. And no, bigger houses and backyards have never successfully lured me if it meant being away from the city of lights and mice.

Shoebox living.  You do not know what that means until you have rented a studio in Manhattan. Unless you are willing to shell out your life’s worth of savings for rent, it will probably range from somewhere between 200 to 350 square foot apartment with often a sink and a fridge intended for a hotel room.  When I first moved to Manhattan from Manila I rented a 350-square foot apartment.  It was the size of my parent’s bedroom, maybe even smaller. I thought it was a good start-up apartment, that I would eventually get a traditional space (you know, a living room, dining room, bedrooms and lots of walls separating them). But ten years later I am still here.  Have I tried to scout a bigger space? Yes, but realized that would mean going home at the end of the day and staying home because these homes are often too far from the city. And who needs a big space if I am hardly home? And I am rarely home. Not in the evenings after work, not in the weekends when the weather is great (or even when it is not). Even when I am sick I cannot stay home – I get cabin fever! The good thing is living small have taught me not to accumulate stuff. And cleaning is cheap. A swifter and a quick vacuuming now and then, no major drama.

We have good schools here, some of the best I have been told. The urban landscape is dotted with parks and promenades along the river and playgrounds and that famous 843 acre expanse called Central Park. There are churches every few blocks of every worship, people really go to libraries to borrow books (I do!), every block is blessed with a Starbucks, a halal cart and a fruitcart. We have sports teams galore – Giants, Jets, Devils, Islanders, Rangers, Nets, Knicks, Rangers, Red Bull, Liberty, Mets and the best of them all - the Yankees.

So these are some of the reasons I still love New York. And as I travel I may be bewitched by a city or two, New York will always be my one true love.