I kinda have this love-hate thing going on with New York. On the one hand, I’ve got a lot of friends in the city: some left over from my time at NYU, some acquired through my boyfriend, who grew up there. Then too, it’s an energetic place, which I like. There’s lots of stuff to do, see, and buy. And, well, of course, there are salt bagels….
On the other hand, the quality of life in New York is pretty harsh. Finding an apartment that’s both comfortable and affordable is essentially impossible–unless you’re the sort who enjoys sleeping upside-down in a closet. (When I lived in the city, I spent as much time away from my place as possible; hanging out there too much made me all emo/suicidal and crap.) The winters are miserable, and radiators were clearly invented by some asshole who’d never heard the words “sinus infection.”
That said, being back in the city for a week was kinda nifty. (Then again, these days, being anyplace where I can get fresh cheesecake at 3:00am is nifty.) This being my first visit to New York since “The Incident,” I saw the city in a different, less smoggy light, and frankly, I noticed several things New York does way better than New Orleans–things that we could, you know, basically steal and transplant here in the subtropics. I mean, just because we’re rebuilding doesn’t mean we have to reinvent the wheel….
Street food: When I was a poverty-level grad student (is there any other kind?), I lived on food from steet vendors. A quick stroll around Washington Square, and I could score a cup of crazy Mongolian soup, some cucumber salad, a man-sized gyro, soft-serv ice cream, and the requisite Diet Coke (which, of course, cancelled out all the calories I’d just consumed), and still have enough change to catch the F train back to my squalid apartment above a 24-bodega in nowheresville. In contrast, a quick stroll around Jackson Square will get me a Lucky Dog and…well, a Lucky Dog. And you know, some people, that’s all they need, but me, I’ve never been a hot dog kinda guy. I mean, I’m not asking for cafe brulot here, but New Orleans is a food town: is it completely irrational to expect some curbside jambalaya? Maybe a po-boy? Where are the ladies with the callas? And would it kill Angelo Brocato’s to sell some spumoni (once they’re up and running again)? Beer and hot dogs may cut it in the heartland, but here in the groin of America, we need more, more, more.
Customer service: I’m not saying that New Orleans can’t do customer service; in the right environment–say, at the Windsor Court or Belladona Day Spa–we can out-pamper the best of ‘em. But how many times have you been in line at the K&B (or RiteAid or CVS or whatever they’re calling themselves these days) and had to endure a five-minute conversation between the cashier and her friend Betty–who’s restocking the Good ‘n Plentys three aisles over–without even being acknowledged? Sure, the cashiers in New York chat amongst themselves, but they’ve evolved to the point that they can work a register while they’re flapping their gums.
Gymnatoriums: Getting a gym membership in New York is a lot like getting your driver’s license anywhere else, ’cause honey, you’re not gonna go very far without it. In fact, as far as basic life needs go, the gym contract outranks power, phone, cable, and internet, and is only marginally edged out by a rent-controlled lease…. In New Orleans, though, not so much. Except for patches of Uptown and Metairie, gyms are a novelty akin to oxygen bars and speed dating. Don’t get me wrong: I’m totally down with the easy-living, good-eating, go-cup-carrying lifestyle that we cultivate here, but honestly, who doesn’t look at mock-turtlenecked Junior Rodriguez on CNN and wince? They’re called treadmills, people, and they’re not just for gerbils anymore.