Considering life without a ubiquitous cup of coffee

DSCN0161Image by iqwirty via Flickr

My wife and I have been in New York City for a long time. I have lived and worked in three boroughs over about 12 years; for her, about 20 years. That’s a long time – enough time to settle in. Hopefully enough time to decide whether you like a place. Certainly enough time to sort out your reasons for living and come to some conclusions, I would think.

We both moved here and stayed for different reasons. For me, it was happenstance – I had never been a city person, but it was an easy place to move to. Many of my friends had already moved here, and I knew that work would be plentiful. At the time, I did not realize the financial and hold-back-the-frenzy-of-busy-unimportant-stuff battle that folks in New York City put up with daily. Most folks don’t talk about how the City beats them down, since getting beaten down by the City is generally understood to only affect homeless folk or aging business owners who are getting priced out of the neighborhoods they grew up in.

Not young folk like me! We were meant to thrive on City Life. There have always been acceptable exit strategies, of course, but the only reason to ever move to a suburb would be to raise children. Other potential exit strategies might include moving to the West Coast (you got a job with a great tech or media company), or possibly you might leave the City if you went insane (though most of those folks would rather just wither and become homeless instead).

Nobody, I mean, nobody in their right mind would consider moving to a suburb just to get a better lifestyle, since the suburbs were designed to suck the soul out of you.

That’s why all of my friends and co-workers would sit around making jokes about Long Island accents. Truth is, the extent of any meaningful debate about moving to a suburb was discussion of those terrible Long Island accents. Truth also is, I grew up on Long Island for 25 years, and I honestly do not recall ever hearing anyone speak in one of these awful Long Island accents until I started hearing my friends imitate them. Still, the only folks speaking in that awful way are TV characters and my friends and co-workers. I call that a little weird, and hardly a reason not to move to the suburb. But it is fun to hear the goofing around, and some folks do the fake accents really well!

Full disclosure: There is a lot in my life that I don’t notice.

If I don’t notice it, then who cares? I consider myself to be more tuned into my relevant surroundings than many folks, so honestly, if I didn’t notice it, then very likely it is not important. But even so, there has been a stigma against suburbs ever since I became a New Yorker, and somehow I never thought seriously about moving away. Until recently.

Things change. Opportunities perhaps expected of the City have never materialized. Married life (three months of it!) is settling in. And we are beginning to question whether this Great City has much to offer that we actually consider important. So far, all we come up with are:

  • We love our friends and could not bear to leave them.
  • We like having work opportunities readily available.

Forget about theater and museums. Folks stopped going to those a long time ago, and I would barely even say these are things tourists appreciate about New York City nowadays. Instead, the typical City Resources that seem to keep folks in-town are:

  • Bakeries which are dedicated to gourmet cupcakes
  • The ability to buy eggs within walking distance at midnight (even though no one ever does that)
  • Having a plethora of (expensive) food choices constantly available. For some reason, no one can seem to bring themselves to eat the same ethnicity of cuisine two nights in a row.
  • QWAN. In the case of the City, it would be that feeling of having-it-all and always-on-the-go, neither of which, of course, is a Good Thing.

But none of what I mentioned above means very much to my wife or to me. (You might fairly ask why they popped into my mind, if they don’t mean much to me. All I can say is, they are examples of a category of things I am trying to define ad-hoc, and I see them as representative enough of the things that may have once attached you to the City that the point can be understood by having seen these listed.) But where does this leave us? Well, seriously questioning whether we should stay.

And I have to say, what I might miss most if we leave is the way that in the City, it seems socially acceptable to carry (all day) a paper cup filled with lukewarm coffee. I can only hope that the suburbs have advanced far enough to not scoff at my warm milky sweet coffee.

Note: Today is the day of the New York City marathon. Some might think it feels great to live just blocks away from such an important event, but all I can think about is whether the driving route I need to take to return my ZipCar is likely to need to cross the race course. Well, I should probably go – my 10-minute ride could take quite a long time if I need to turn down the wrong street..

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Why run?

There are a few reasons to run, but the most important one is:

You will feel, after running, different from how you feel at any other time in your life.

You may feel great, good, better, worse, or injured. But you will, with 99.9% certainty, feel something that you haven’t felt before. The particular effects will depend on your level of fitness, generally. If you haven’t tried running, you will need to go for a run in order to feel what I mean.

It is not the same as a tough bike ride. It is not the same as the feeling you get when you wrap-up an important project at work. It is physical, and it insists on being heard (felt). If you are stressed before your run, you will have a hard time remembering that stressed feeling after the run. It is transforming.

Some other reasons to run include:

  • You want to be able to eat whatever you want, whenever you want (running causes food to evaporate before it hits your tummy – this is something I know from my old biking days).
  • You want to add a little discipline to your life. There’s nothing like setting a concrete goal for getting you to stick with a routine. And, since most goal-oriented routines lead to some type of betterment, this is generally a good thing. (For the record, I once said to my now-wife, “You don’t train for a 5K. You just do a 5K.” Here I am four years later training for a 5K.)
  • You want to commune with nature.
  • You want an extremely portable hobby that you can take with you on every vacation (and use it to see large swaths of a foreign city before your significant other even wakes up, which is handy if you want to act like you know all the best places to go sight-seeing).
  • You’ve set yourself an arbitrary goal of running a 5K in four weeks (well, mine is on August 27th – the Al Goldstein Speed Series 5K), and you don’t want to be embarrassed in front of your friends, who all seem to be accomplished marathon runners.

Finally, Zen Habits, in the article that actually inspired me to take up running recently (How to Go From Sedentary to Running in Five Steps) lists a reason:

You’ll eat better.

True – you will. While I’ve gone on and on about how you can eat whatever you want since it all just evaporates anyway, this guy says you will be inspired to eat better, simply because you will realize that trashy food does not provide good fuel for running. Trouble is, I did a running workout this morning, and I’ve been starving all day – and all we have is trashy food in the house.

I’ve picked and chosen from among the reasons above when deciding recently to take-up running and train for a 5K. In the end, who cares? I’ll be in great shape (with hopefully no injuries) and well on my way to getting back to a non-sedentary lifestyle.


The image of a twisted runner’s legs was released into the public domain by Fg2, and published on Wikimedia Commons. The image of a jumpber was released into the public domain by Wavertree, and published on Wikimedia Commons.

Quantum City

I don’t remember much about quantum physics, but I remember at one point we learned about something called the two-slit experiment. Basically, in this experiment you can show that a single particle can be in two different places at the same time. It doesn’t make any sense. As far as I know, nobody knows why it happens. And, to me, this was the first proof I ever had of the existence of God.

Something like this happens (or at least tries to happen) in the minds of New Yorkers every day. They try to be in two places at once. The most obvious way to see this is to notice the amount of over-commitment that occurs. Folks routinely commit to doing something when they are are already doing something else. They typically refer to it as multi-tasking, but it is really more like zero-tasking. They are trying for their mind to be in two places at once, and it just doesn’t work. But it’s okay – I can mostly shrug it off and just go on with my day, knowing that the multi-taskers will continue to do nothing while believing they’ve done something twice (or whatever it works out to).

But the more subtle form that quantum mechanics shows in everyday life in the City is when an individual walking on the street tries to both walk and stop at the same time. The stopping is typically in order to pause for a moment to figure out whether the walking is going in the right direction. A lot of times, the walker will stare at me (probably because I am staring at them) while they are pausing, and then that usually prompts them to continue on walking – as if I had caught them doing something wrong by stopping. Sometimes the stopping is due to the walker wanting to look in the window of a store (but without stopping to do so!). And sometimes it is really very simply that the walker honestly and truly wants to be walking in two different directions at the same time.

Some of you may think I am presuming to know the mind of a stop-walker. But really, this is all very easy to see once you start paying attention to it. All around me every day, folks are both walking and stopping (both figuratively and literally), and the City moves at a snail’s pace as a result.

It is a very sad time to live in New York City.

Our Wedding – my vows and talk

Background and history

When we first met, I remember being amazed that you were a singer-songwriter. And your songs were actually really good! I had never met someone like that before. You had a website and a CD, and I was really impressed. I was even more impressed that for you, it just seemed completely natural – you were just doing what you loved to do.

Then it turned out that you knew all about bird-walking, and you liked to do things like walk barefoot in the streets of Brooklyn, and you didn’t mind when the fiddler crab from my aquarium ran up your finger. You had all sorts of interesting interests, and quirky quirks. And again, they just seemed natural to you. You seemed to think it was funny that I was impressed that you let a fiddler crab walk up your finger.

And then there was the day that I told my good friend Jill that I thought you were probably even goofier than I am – among my closest friends, that is a high compliment.

So you were a lot of fun, and you liked me, and we were fun together.

But more important than that, you were a good partner. You accepted me, my ideas, my quirks. You were always kind. And even when we had difficult times, you very quickly showed me again how much you care about me.

So we moved on with our lives. We ate, we slept, we saw friends and family together, we each have our separate hobbies, we take walks in Prospect Park. And we will do that until we are old and grey

And that is a good thing, in my book.

Vows

  • I promise that I will never judge you for bringing such an annoying cat into my life.
  • I promise that we will get better every day, and that 30 years from now, we will look back on our life and smile together.
  • I promise to always keep the shades down at night, and to stop snoring when you say “Shannon, could you roll over?”.
  • I promise to take care of myself, so that we can take care of each other together.
  • I promise to always remember your birthday, and our anniversary.
  • I promise to be yours, and to take you as mine.

Why blog?

I recently came across a series of blog postings by a Google/Amazon employee named Steve Yegge. Interesting topics – for me at least – but I did notice that one that I have starred to read is on “Why Blog?”. Just thought I would give my quick answer before going ahead and reading his..

My most obvious reason to blog right now is: to find your voice. This idea comes to me from an old fiction professor of mine named Vince Passaro. The more I write, the more I will figure out what I want to write about. And, in his words, if I get to page 50 and haven’t found my ending, then I “must be writing a novel”.