New York, in ten easy points

1. I completely fell in love with New York City. I had the same feeling of “I could live here very happily” as I did in Paris. I had a stronger feeling of that for New York than I did for San Francisco, and I’ve been in SF for over five years now. That said, there’s no way in hell that I’d want to be anything less than comfortably middle class in NYC. It is not a town I’d want to have to worry about money in, even after removing the improbability of buying real estate there.

2. New Yorkers are far friendlier than I expected. They’re much more sociable and helpful than San Franciscans. Sure, everyone thinks that people in SF (hell, in California in general) are laid-back, touchy-feely, friendly people, but dude, we’re so not friendly or sociable, especially compared to New Yorkers. People on the street were helpful, and in the shops, the workers were solicitous to a degree I felt surprising. Granted, I looked like I had enough money to purchase things in the shops I visited (and I did!), but there was no reticence in their engagement and willingness to help. In California, sales associates hang back and wait for you to ask if you need help and often make it seem like a boon granted from on high. (Having worked retail, I can talk.) Anyway, the sales people were solicitous from step one into the store, and that was quite nice.

3. Despite having grown up in a diverse region, and despite now living in SF, I usually feel like my color and ethnicity are salient here, especially when I’m having interactions that display my education or finances. I get a sense of “you don’t see one of those everyday” (an educated, well-heeled brown man) in SF, and I get it enough that it annoys, like a wool sweater when you’re not wearing a thick-enough shirt underneath. In New York, I felt like no one batted an eye, and more, than it didn’t even occur to people to bat an eye. Ch. and I talked about that–how there’s a large enough, successful enough, class of people of color that one just blends in. I suppose it’s odd to be thankful for a mental box in which to be tossed, but it’s a far less stressful feeling than being the source of crogglement as people cock their heads and try and fail to do so.

4. I got a very strong sense of people of color just being people in the eyes of their fellow New Yorkers. Strong enough that I noticed it, remarked upon, and realized how much that’s often not the case. I think that a large part of that for me is that race in the US has been and is still strongly a literally black-and-white affair, and feeling not-exactly-orthogonal-but-certainly-almost-tangential to that as a Latino, and that although I grew up with diversity, it didn’t include many black folks. So, when I was in NYC, and there are people of all colors, which I’m used to, but the ratios are different–i.e., there are more black people–and all those different folks are all over the social class map, it made it very clear to me, because it was visible and was so in the way that our national discourse frames these things, that people were going about just being people. And god, did that feel good. And fuck, did that make me angry about San Francisco.

5. Good lord, there’s always something going on in Manhattan, even at four o’clock in the morning. SF is a ridiculous town in this respect–it goes to sleep by ten, and by two it’s late, and your choices are very, very limited if you want something to eat after a long night out. There were people–lots of them!–out late.

6. Manhattan is a play of light and shadow, all falling across the glass canyon walls of the city.

7. My attitude for this trip was that it’s simply my first trip to NYC. That meant low stress, and that I had permission to not worry about not seeing it all. Which is good, since I saw very little. I didn’t get to see the Brooklyn Bridge or the Cloisters, and it was raining buckets the day we were to take the Staten Island Ferry and walk through High Line Park. So we didn’t. We wandered through Little Italy and Chinatown and SoHo and shopped (oh, John Fluevog, how I love you and your sales, even if you’ve completely sold out of the boots I’ve been coveting for a year), and eventually made it back to the hotel and ordered room service before heading to see a show.

8. Speaking of shows–they were incredible. My First Time was funny and fun, and they did a good job of blending the serious and sad and silly and funny stories. It wasn’t genius, but it was worth the ticket. In the Heights almost made me cry; I got teary-eyed, and it was fun, and I could relate. That was fantastic. Next to Normal was brilliant and marvelous and did make me cry–I sobbed–and I stood up and applauded when it was over. I rarely weep and rarely stand in ovation, but it deserved my tears and my praise.

9. The mini food crawl in Flushing’s Chinatown was made of awesome. Great food, and it was wonderful of E. to take us around.

10. I love subway and metro systems. New York’s is great. It’s not as awesome as Paris’, but it’s fantastic. That said, one thing that annoyed the hell out of me? What is it with having to enter on a particular side of the street in order to go in a particular direction on the line? Shouldn’t all entrances allow you to take the train in either direction? Isn’t that the sane thing to do? Oh, and another thing? That whole 16 minute delay on one’s MetroCard working when you’ve just used it to go into the wrong side of the station and then need to go back out of the station and enter on the other, correct, side? That’s fucking annoying, too. I’m sure it makes all sorts of sense to those that are used to it, but that doesn’t make the station layout any saner. (Oh, and Grand Central Station? Now that is a station. So beautiful!)

The complete collection of pics is here. There’s a great big set with everything, and I’m separating out smaller sets from it.

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