As the seven year anniversary of my move to New York approaches, I find myself reflecting on how much the city, and I in it, has changed. It is said that life is a series of seven year cycles -- what we like to eat, our career paths, and who we are as people are supposed to change significantly every seven years or so. Even marriages and romantic relationships are challenged at the seven year mark (although I would argue that these days that happens a lot sooner.) When I moved to the city in the summer of Ď96 I was an idealistic 23-year old from the Midwest who awakened every day in awe that I was living in the big city. Today, living in New York is something I take for granted, although in the manner of a curmudgeonly old-timer I am constantly comparing todayís city to the New York of my past.
This Saturday at the Yankees/ Rangers game I had one such opportunity. Stevieís friends from Virginia were visiting for the weekend and purchased $20 seats for the game. When I first moved to New York my roommates and I would show up on game day, splurge 6 bucks on bleacher seats, and party like rockstars for 9 innings, or as long as we remained conscious. Iíd heard that the bleacher seats had become alcohol-free during the Guiliani administration, so I hoped to recreate the bleacher section experience in a higher-priced section with superior views of the game. I was wrong. Today, $20 earns you admission to the cheap-family section, where single moms with outer borough accents placated their ADD sons with Crunch N Munch and soda. As I watched the birthday announcements and pre-recorded ďfamily funĒ segments on the enormous computerized screen, I missed the bleacher days where we drank bottomless cups of beer, smoked pot, and insulted the visiting teamís outfielders. I purchased a beer but drinking in the midst of nine year olds ruined the experience for me. I apologized to the out-of-towners, explaining that baseball games were far more captivating before Yankees Stadium became Disney World in the Bronx.
This month two city policies were passed that also gave me reason to complain. The subway fare was raised to $2 and smoking was banned in bars and restaurants. Again, I find myself extolling the olden days, when a subway ride was a buck and a half and you could do whatever you wanted to your lungs in the bars. Last week I went to a show at Don Hillís and watched as a fire marshall policed the bar twice to ensure no cigarettes were dangling for the lips of its pack-a-day patrons. When Fishbone took the stage a moshpit formed, and I found myself swept into the body-jarring chaos, partly because I felt like was getting away with something illegal.
The New York I live in today is cleaner and safer than it was when I arrived. Even my neighborhood, the East Village, once home to squatters and drug users, is a place I am proud to show my parents. When the Gap moved into Astor Place I remember how appalled we all were, thinking that it would never stay long. That was about six years ago, and itĎs still there, now joined by a Kmart and an Ann Taylor. Thompkins Square Park is a place for birthday parties, not to score heroin. This is good, but it makes me wonder -- where is the seedy underbelly of New York today? Itís not in the bars, itís not on the sidewalks, itís not in Thompkins Square Park. The subways are graffiti-free; there arenít even as many rats roaming the sidewalks anymore. Where did they all go?
My friend, a native Manhattanite, recently told a tale of how he collected crack vials as an adolescent. In his lifetime in New York, he's seen a lot more change than I have in a mere seven years. Still, we all have our crack vials of memories that we miss when they're gone. When I moved to New York, Summerstage was free, Times Square was a place to buy sex, and paying 8 quarters for a game of pool was unconscionable. As New York has cleaned up its act, city-dwellers have paid a price. Only time will tell whether or not we're getting a good deal. In the meantime, newcomers to the city may have to endure tales of smoky bars and drunken baseball games from the lips of people like me. Don't dismiss us too quickly -- if we bitch enough, maybe someday this city will be delightfully sullied again.
Posted by GxxP at 10:40 AM
I don't know anything about cars.
I mean...I drive one, so I know how to do that. I can put gas in it, though I've proven that I lack skill at that as well. Carba-what-a-rator? Transmission who? I'm absolutely clueless, and I knew that it was only a matter of time before this cluelessness was put on display for all to see. Hence my little incident last week.
At about 9:30 PM last Wednesday evening, I pulled into my parking spot at home. I turned off my car and started to head off, dreaming of a nice calm night of couch surfing and relaxation. I was stopped in my tracks however when I saw that both the brake lights AND the parking lights on my car were still on. Confused, I began turning levers, pushing knobs, and generally fiddling with anything that I thought might be the source behind the unwanted illumination. I turned the car back on, and then off again, a process that I repeated several times to no avail. I got out the car manual, and found nothing in the "trouble-shooting" section that pointed me in the right direction. I began to to fear that they would never go off, and I would either just have to let my battery die a slow death, or I would have to sleep in my car, periodically turning it on so I could preserve the life of my battery. While I was madly fiddling with all the levers and knobs in the car, my friend Jeff called me. I thought, "Perfect! A boy! He will definitely know what to do!" Unfortunately he immediately informed me that he knew nothing about cars, suggested the possibility that I might have blown a fuse, and told me that he had to run because he had to get back to "The Bachelor." Thanks Jeff.
Next I called my parents, the previous owners of the car, in hopes that one of them had experienced a similar conundrum at some point during their ownership. I figured that perhaps they might have a quick remedy readily available. When my father answered the phone he became immediately frustrated with me, and ordered, "Look at the manual and figure it out yourself. You're a big girl." My mother sensed my panic, got on the phone, and told me to drive to a gas station and find a nice blue-collar boy to help me out.
So I did just that, and I had to go to four gas stations before I could find anyone who would give me even the slightest bit of assistance. Granted, it was late, and the service areas of most of these gas stations were closed, but aren't people who work at a garage at least supposed to know SOMETHING about cars...and if they don't...shouldn't they at least PRETEND that they know something about cars? I mean really, poke your head in the car, fiddle with a few buttons, do anything!! Lord knows I wouldn't know the difference. Instead, when asked for help, four brawny men, some with dirty greasy hands, pleaded ignorance when asked if they knew anything about cars. Finally I found a nice guy at a Shell station who agreed to help fix my car. Mind you, I use the term "fix my car" loosely, as all he did was poke his head in the window, look around for about two seconds, and flip a random switch under the steering wheel. Then he laughed at me. My humor gone at that point, I thanked him nastily, and pulled away with the sound of his mocking laughter ringing loudly in my ears.
I'll leave the obvious issue of unchivalrous men aside for the time being, and move on to a more important one: Why in the hell did Subaru install a small switch on the underside of the steering wheel that permanantly illuminates the parking and break lights on the car? Why is this a practical feature? I can't think of a single instance in which I would ever have the need to turn those lights on permanantly. Maybe it was just some jokester over in the engineering department at Subaru who wanted to bring a little humor into the lives of his auto mechanic friends. I suppose I'll never know.
Posted by Jen at 03:26 PM