The Limits of Living in a Limelight

I live in a limited world.

My world, in many ways is very central to everyone’s world. That means everyone knows about my world. But I’ve got to work pretty hard to know about everyone else’s world. I live in the New York City area – my town is in the movies and TV all the time, and very often covered in the news. Everybody knows a little something about New York, even if it’s just superficial Rockefeller Centrism or Statue of Libertism.

I know I’m presenting a somewhat “grudgeful” point of view by saying that – a grass is always green elsewhere sort of mentality. But there is a something in there that I want to get said, that I think doesn’t get noticed or said quite enough. Let’s stick with the assumption that I am right, and that my Prominent Urban Existence has given me a very limited world view.

… my Prominent Urban Existence has given me a very limited world view.


That out of the way.. I first realized how limited my own view of things was nearly 20 years ago, when a good friend introduced me to a book called Women’s Reality: An Emerging Female System. I never got around to actually reading the book, but my friend and I had long conversations about it. I don’t know if what I learned from those conversations had anything to do with the intended teachings of the book, but in any event – the book was the catalyst for what I did learn, and I’ve carried those thoughts with me for two decades so far. Festering. 😉

The take-away, in my view, was that women live in a reality that is superior to a man’s, in that they live in their own reality, plus they also learn to live in the stereotypical “man’s world”. They know both worlds.

You may or may not agree with that “take-away”, which occurred to me when I was only 20 years old, before I had seen much of the World or of its various workings, and before many of the things of the early 1990’s world had morphed into what we have today. Maybe today it sounds sexist, or limiting in some contrarian sort of way.

But I think we can all probably agree that I haven’t got a clue about what it is like to grow-up as a woman, in the New York area or anywhere else. And I’m a sensitive guy, so you’d think I’d have a clue or something, right? Who knows – maybe I do but I don’t realize it.

People from Kansas know both worlds!

Likewise, a guy or gal from [FILL IN YOUR FAVORITE NON-NEW YORK STATE HERE].. let’s say.. Kansas – well, they will know what it is like to live in Kansas, and they also have a pretty decent idea about what it is like to live in New York. Or, more certainly, they know more about New York than I do about whatever town or city they came from in Kansas.

So I’m the limited one. Except we have good pizza and they don’t. 🙂

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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