One of the hard things about relocating geographically is the total lack of context you have for anything, anyone, traditions, landmarks, necessities, or luxuries.
The first time I traveled to Europe in 8th grade, we had multiple-session prep courses about what to expect, the nature of culture-shock, the lowdown on the buildings we'd be visiting and why, the political climate of the different countries we'd be visiting, and a detailed packing check list.
When I lived in Morocco, there were some hefty orientation classes we sat through upon arrival, and then a series of culture and daily-life seminars we took throughout our summer there. I also had a built-in tour guide in the form of a bubbly host sister.
In moving to NYC, I regrettably did not prepare in the same manner.
I mean, I've seen basically every episode of Friends, Sex & the City, Seinfeld, and Law & Order:SVU, so what else is there to know, right?
To be honest, I did actually start a list of literature and film selections I deemed worthy of absorbing to aid in my New York Education, but did I get around to any of them? No.
I still have yet to see a Woody Allen film.
So I am sort of stumbling along and learning like the grand majority of the other inhabitants of this city did when they first got here in their early 20s, looking for a job and a new sort of challenge with a wisp of adventure.
Part of what I am learning is that things that are "popular" really are popular, meaning, many of the great traditions and quirks of this city are upheld by the population at large, and usually for good reason.
Like, for example, women don't wear Hunter boots (or Sorrells, Sperry's, etc) simply because they're trendy: women wear wellies because they HAVE to. There is so much walking, and when the streets get wet and gross, encasing your foot in a waterproof stomping hoof is pretty much the only answer.
Rainboots are available at every shoe store, in every imaginable color and height and style. Being from Portland, I know that it rains a hell of a lot, but I also know that not every woman owns a pair of rainboots. We have the luxury of driving most everywhere, or own plenty of other weather-wise shoes, and I have never been able to find a really nice selection of boots at local retailers.
Same thing with the great notion of "owning a house in the Hamptons." Hearing of such a thing in Oregon, it sounded like a far off thing that famous people did with an excess of money and a lack of responsibility.
Then after spending a mere week of humidity laden oppression in the city, where the air is trapped between all the buildings and blows up hotly at you from subway grates (and even worse underground, where the thick stagnance of air rests heavily on your skin, and sweats itself out of your pores) I realized people started going to weekend homes out of necessity. Spending a full summer in this city is going to be painful, so I should probably work on securing a space for myself come next June. I'm sure the Trumps have a spare room for me someplace.
Another example is Central Park.
I honestly did NOT understand what all the fuss was about the park when I got here a few short weeks ago. Great... it's green. And pretty. Yep... not as pretty as all kinds of land right outside city limits, though, so, what's the deal?
And then on Saturday afternoon, the weather was so crisp, so gorgeously fall bright, all I wanted to do was be outside, and all of a sudden, the park was the only place I wanted to be. It was the only green space that reflected the sunlight just the right way, and there was all kinds of music playing and food being sold and people playing volleyball and picnicking on the lawn. It is the collective front yard of the city, and I realized I needed it, too.
I also met this guy,
whom I had seen on the subway last week. You know you're making yourself at home when you have a catalogued list of the local bums.
He tried to sell me a two-dollar bill in the park. I declined, but told him I'd seen him around, and I liked his fabulous hat.
"Well thank you, you know darling, things just come together when you got nothing but time on your hands to get high and sew. They just come together."
Another thing I have come to understand is why mod, sleek furniture got popular: I am pretty sure it has to do with the fact that a lot of us here in the city live in ridiculous walk-ups and the idea of getting a fancy bedframe or sofa up 4 flights (nineteen steps each) of stairs is laughable.
Most people my age here just sit at the tables left by the last tenants, and make do with the shelving units that have sat in the apartment for years, and eat out of the bowls left in the cupboards. This might not be a terribly green city, but there is certainly a culture of recycling, reusing, and repurposing.
Take for instance my little studio:
Honestly one of the bigger kitchens I've seen in the city. Furnished with an odd assortment of the lessee's old plastic plates, chipped mug collection, and one bread knife I've been using to slice everything from zucchini to cheese.
Our living room looks like a Goodwill donation center. I think the lessee is coming to claim his "art" this week, but I am going to insist we keep the amazing leather chair (in which I am currently sitting).
I sleep up there!
This is my huge bedroom. And a super classy air mattress, which I am basically sure 50% of the city also sleeps on. (Not this one, specifically, but, whenever I tell someone I just moved here their first follow-up question is, "Oh, do you need an air mattress? Because I have one." City of transplants and nomads, I tell you).
The job progression is, at this moment, at a standstill due to the deluge of rain and my unwillingness to go scout out a Kinkos to scan and email all my paperwork... it's just so cozy in here!
Alright...alright... I'm going.