December 28th, 2017

Further reflections on living in New York—and that couple in the 300 square foot apartment

[NOTE: Here’s the original post.]

Commenter “skeptic” writes:

Neo, I think you are on to something here even if you may not realize it. The dweeb couple in the video also raised my, and many of your commenters’) hackles even though they clearly do not bother you. This is just an example of the urban vs. smaller city+rural divide that so profoundly affects our politics. You are clearly a big city gal so you seem immune or a lot less sensitive to it than most of your readers.

Why do leftists congregate in big cities? Regardless of the reason, they do…

…The current meme by the Democrats is the limits on state and local tax deductions in the new tax bill will lead to a large migration by Leftists from cities to the hinterlands thus eliminating the Republicans’ advantage. But seeing how this couple puts up with living in their shoebox convinces me that they will not move back to Oklahoma not matter what they pay in taxes.

I grew up in New York, but it was a section of the city far enough away from Manhattan that it was relatively suburban. And of course this was many many decades ago, when Manhattan itself was less hectic and crowded and expensive. But it was already hectic and crowded and expensive enough for me. I loved it, though, because of the theater, dance, restaurants, stores, and bustling streets full of dynamic people.

Yes, some of those people were crazy and/or dangerous, even then. But fewer of them. And it seemed a small price to pay for all the rest of the benefits. The city was also relatively affordable; one could imagine living there on a non-astronomical salary and not living in a shoebox, although it was always more expensive than elsewhere and you had to make do with being somewhat cramped. Now, of course, it’s gotten far worse.

But despite all of this I never felt that I was going to live there when I grew up. I’m not sure why, because a lot of my friends and family stayed there and never really doubted that they would. I felt—in a way I couldn’t and still can’t quite describe—that I really didn’t belong there and that it was not my real home.

Of course, I don’t think I ever found a real home. But that’s another story.

I left New York at seventeen to go away to college and I never lived in New York again, although I stayed there for as long as a couple of months when I was in my 20s. I still visit often, and I usually enjoy my visits or at least portions of them. But I rarely regret my decision to move away when young; New York still doesn’t feel like a good fit for me. The main thing I do regret about not living there is that had I stayed and bought property aeons ago, I could sell it now for a pretty penny and move just about anywhere on earth. Instead, I’m quite limited as to where I can live.

But I still ♥ New York, although you might say I have a lover’s quarrel with it.

And that’s why I feel I deeply understand why a couple like the one in the video will put up with living in such cramped quarters to be able to sample the offerings of the city, which are myriad.

However, I take issue with “skeptic’s” comment at the end: “they will not move back to Oklahoma no matter what they pay in taxes.” Actually, there’s a good chance they might. They might never strike it rich enough to move out of that teeny tiny place, for example, and they might get tired of that—especially if they have children.

People come to New York for the experience and/or a job, but they often move away after a few years— sometimes back to where they came from, sometimes to some other place. They’re tired of the city or disappointed or they want something else or they’ve extracted what they wanted.

There’s a song from the 1970 Stephen Sondheim musical “Company” that captures this phenomenon. The show is one I like very much, but it’s not produced all that often outside the city, perhaps because it’s so New Yorky. Another reason may be that some of the songs are quite difficult to sing, including the following one called “Another Hundred People.” I’ve posted the original version, because I think it’s the best rendition of all the ones I listened to on YouTube. The words are here; note the lines, “and every day/some go away”:

24 Responses to “Further reflections on living in New York—and that couple in the 300 square foot apartment”

  1. vanderleun Says:

    They still repulse. It’s the uncanny valley.

  2. vanderleun Says:

    Color me cranky. I’m going out for a cheeseburger.

  3. M J R Says:

    Commenter “skeptic” writes: “But seeing how this couple puts up with living in their shoebox convinces me that they will not move back to Oklahoma not matter what they pay in taxes.”

    neo writes, “However, I take issue with ‘skeptic’s’ comment at the end: ‘they will not move back to Oklahoma no matter what they pay in taxes.'”

    I think I can square this particular circle.

    A couple who are originally from Oklahoma, will very possibly move back to Oklahoma.

    A couple who are dyed-in-the-wool Noo Yawkuhs will most often (but not absolutely always) remain Noo Yawkuhs, no matter how bad Noo Yawk gets. That is because being a Noo Yawkuh is such an integral part of their identity / self-image.

    I claim this based on considerable personal experience with many Noo Yawkuhs.

    Ohh, they may move to Connecticut or some other suburb of Noo Yawk, but they’re still in Noo Yawk. And that even applies to, for example, Miami and some other Florida cities, which are are so full of Noo Yawkuhs that they are practically more like Noo Yawk boroughs than Noo Yawk suburbs.

    (Aside: That’s how Bernie Sanders ended up in rock-ribbed Vermont. Ya think he moved up there for its New England strong-‘n’-silent hardiness, or did he move up there because there were lots of Noo Yawkuhs already there, planting and spreading their culture (including their congenital leftism)?)

  4. George Says:

    I haven’t heard Another Hundred People in many a year and curiously the thing that grabbed my attention this time was the use of the word “of” in “off of”. May have been an intentional application of pretty common New York style speech, but without that extra musical note and word the song would not be quite as good. From another ex-NooYorkuh.

  5. chuck Says:

    > one could imagine living there on a non-astronomical salary and not living in a shoebox

    I knew a couple of young women back in the 60’s who rented a shotgun apartment in the Lower East Side for, IIRC, $12/month. Of course, there were three locks on the door, the building entryway smelled of urine, and addicts roamed the neighborhood, stealing everything not welded down.

  6. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    Cities excel in variety and stimulation. Nature’s healing solitude is the price they extract.

    “There is more sophistication and less sense in New York than anywhere else on the globe.” Don Herold

    “Like a man who has been dying for many days, a man in your city is numb to the stench.”
    ― Chief Seattle

    “Cities force growth and make people talkative and entertaining, but they also make them artificial.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

    “The city is not a concrete jungle, it is a human zoo.” Desmond Morris

    “There are a number of things wrong with Washington. One of them is that everyone is too far from home.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

  7. Richard Aubrey Says:

    I’ve been in New York and several other large cities briefly.
    I am always told of all the things they offer. Museums come up. I’d like to know the proportion of tourists who go to the museums. Are the locals there every other weekend?
    Theater; I’ve been to top-end performances. Still, the most moving performances in my experience have been high school productions. There are some seriously talented kids out there.
    Shopping? I try not to, and signaling by buying the enormously expensive stuff is…strange.
    Years ago, our office had a presentation by some guy from a firm in Chicago. The presenter messed up a couple of words getting started and his buddy said they’re not really ready to work until they’ve spent an hour on the train. That hurrying, bustling dynamism you see is lots of people trying to get someplace in an arrangement maximized for inconvenience. I don’t think I’ve had to park more than twenty yards from any business or commercial or entertainment enterprise I was visiting in maybe twenty-five years. And before that, it was a couple of blocks from the parking garage.
    As retirees, my wife and I drive to our vacations–retirees take vacations, too–because we have the time. I’m always far more relaxed and interested when we’re poking around some little town than I am when visiting the big cities.
    I met somebody in Florida once who claimed to know somebody born in Florida.

  8. Oldflyer Says:

    GB, both my wife and I are Florida natives. Actually, nearly everyone we grew up with was a Florida native; and many never left. So, the Florida native is not a figment of imagination. Well, why are we in California for the rest of our lives? Grandchildren.

    But, back to the thought I had originally. Life styles are usually compromises. Some people put up with the tiny apartments, the expense, and the crowds of the city; others go to the suburbs for living space and put up with soul shriveling commutes–as in SoCal.

    When I was working, I at times commuted for over an hour in various locales–occasionally in excess of 40 miles–so my girls could have their horses. Compromises.

    But, what I don’t understand is why in the 21st century, city dwellers consider themselves more sophisticated, more cultured. I see the same shows at a fraction of the cost. Not when they are on Broadway, of course. I can reach the Getty in 1.5 hours (traffic permitting). I have the same world view available through the free internet; can reach the library in ten minutes; or get any book I want in a day or so from Amazon. And I can work in my yard; walk in the hills; or just isolate myself if I am a little tired of people. Even folks in flyover country can usually afford to travel to places that interest them. Not really sure how sophistication is defined these days.

  9. Cornflour Says:

    I confess to not reading Neo’s original post, but I liked this one, so I went back and looked at the first batch of comments.

    I would never say that this pair is charming, but I can guarantee you that almost every major American university is packed to the gills with young people who are far worse, so I don’t get the nasty comments — seems overboard to me.

    Just for the record, at roughly the same age as these YouTubers, a girlfriend and I lived in a small apartment in the East Village. That was in the mid-1970s, and I think we paid $275/month rent. That was back when the neighborhood was cheap, dirty, and a little bit dangerous. We had fun, never planned to stay forever, and I learned some things that college can’t teach you.

    Now I feel a little like an overindulgent uncle, but I still say we shouldn’t be so hard on these kids from Oklahoma. So what if they’re a little foolish. I don’t happen to like their apartment, but they did a good job organizing the space, and that’s the point of the video.

  10. y81 Says:

    Hmm, I’ve spent my life (apart from ten years of boarding school, college, and law school) in New York. Whenever I go anywhere else, what I mostly notice is:
    1. How fat everyone is.
    2. The complete lack of culture–no decent libraries or bookstores, no exciting museums, etc. (Cambridge and Boston are the only slight exception.)
    3. No restaurants that are “vaut le voyage.”
    4. How slowly everyone talks (and thinks).
    5. No church sermons with intellectual content.
    6. A million other things.
    All of which makes it worth putting up with the misguided, incoherent politics of our goofy neighbors.

  11. Matthew Says:

    The phrase “a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there” describes New York.

    There a disconnect between New York and parts of the Easr Coast that has nothing to with politics. My mother encountered not one but two New Yorkers who thought Colorado was near Vermont. They feel superior. Read y81’s obnoxious post.

    This isn’t all New Yorkers, but it is a lot. It isn’t who they vote for. It’s an attitude.

  12. Mike K Says:

    I can barely stand to spend a day in New York. I testified in a MedMal case 25 years ago as an expert witness. It was interesting, The courthouse was the one in “Bonfire of the Vanities>” The lawyer I was the expert for did mostly criminal defense and was a bit like Richard Dreyfuss in “Nuts,” a very good movie. His office had a window A/C unit that was surrounded by a welded cage to keep his clients (and others) from stealing it. I came up with a better theory of his case than his previous expert and we won a big judgement. He wanted me to come back and he would buy me a dinner. Never happened.

    New York is not the center of good ideas.

  13. Oldflyer Says:

    Well, good for you Y81. You definitely fit my stereotypical image of a New York elitist; e.g., boarding school, college, law school, New York. A bit of advice. Stay in New York. You will be happier; and people that you might encounter if you ventured out will definitely appreciate if you do. Or are you just teasing the hoi polloi?

    Reminds me of a couple of points. First, some years ago sitting with a New Jersey based flight crew, mostly New Yorkers, at dinner on an overnight in my hometown of Jacksonville, Fl, and listening to them disparage my town, and everything not NY. After enough of that, I simply asked what it was about coming from New York that made them superior; as if their bodily discharges had no odor? I don’t recall the answer.

    Also, reminds me a bit of the recent post by some “intellectual” (I forget his name) who extolled the leisurely life of the sophisticate in Europe compared to the miserable conditions endured by the working class in the United States. Ah, well. We muddle along as best we can.

  14. Gary D. G. Says:

    How can you tell a New Yorker?

    The obvious answer: “You can’t tell him/her anything” gets a grade D.

    The correct answer is:
    He boasts about never having visited the Statue of Liberty despite having been born there.

  15. Frog Says:

    Mike K: a window A/C unit in a lawyer’s office. Wow. Great. There have been reported cases of pulmonary cryptococcosis from inhaling the pigeon-carried fecal dust via such units, because the birds rest on them. A bad infection, for those of you who are unacquainted with this nasty little fungus.

    There are good things to do in NYC, as long as I don’t have to live there to do them. Like viewing art to be auctioned at Sotheby’s- I once flew up just to see a magnificent George Bellows, utterly beyond my reach. But the plane fare wasn’t. Up in the morning, home in the afternoon.

    New York is better rented than bought. Even a costly hotel room (‘rented’) is cheap compared to an annual residential cost, even of a rented 300 sq. ft.shoebox.

    You can keep it and its Cuomos and De Blasios. The cigarette tax on a pack in NYC is $4.72…they’ve got to keep the lower classes smoking and dying in order to keep
    the revenues flowing. They pretend the higher tax will lower the rate of nicotine addiction. Ask any addict of any drug: they’ll do anything to meet the price.

  16. Philip Says:

    Neo, I wonder if you have the makings of a series with this and the antecedent post – life in NYC and some spin-offs therefrom.

    I listened to Rachmaninoff at work the other day. It reminded me of New York, or at least the image of it that I carry around with me sometimes. I believe he lived there. A piano being played without accompaniment in an apartment overlooking the city…

    On my last vacation, I spent a couple of days with my old stomping grounds in Chicago. I think it would be interesting to live there and compare that experience to Manhattan. After that, I propose retiring to Des Moines, or maybe Leclaire.

  17. Gringo Says:

    Hmm, I’ve spent my life … in New York. Whenever I go anywhere else, what I mostly notice is:
    2. The complete lack of culture–no decent libraries or bookstores, no exciting museums, etc. (Cambridge and Boston are the only slight exception.)

    Regarding libraries, New York City does have a disproportionate number of top quality libraries, as 7 of the 100 largest libraries in the US are located in New York City. But that also means that 93 of the 100 largest libraries are outside New York. When you state there are “no decent libraries..Cambridge and Boston are the only slight exception,” your fact-free boasting reminds me of the old Texas phrase about someone being all hat and no cattle.

    I would add that the Internet has made information available to people living in the sticks that they could not previously access, so the urban/rural divide re information and libraries isn’t what it used to be.

    Bookstores. Back in the day, my NYC visits always included visits to the used bookstores such as Strand Bookstore in lower Manhattan. Convenient to have so many nearby- but many or most have gone out of business, I am told.

    My cousin has lived in the Lower East Side for over 4 decades, so has some familiarity with the city. 🙂 Several years ago she visited me in Texas. While we were driving around, we passed by a Half Price Books store. Just for the heck of it, I asked her if she wanted to go in. Her reply was that as so many bookstores in Manhattan had closed, she did want to visit Half Price Books. She bought several books, including a History by Josephus.

    Based on my experience with native New Yorkers during my freshman year at college, I had concluded that New Yorkers who disparaged the rest of the country tended to be migrants from flyover country, a.k.a. the sticks. y81 suggests that I may be mistaken.

  18. Tom Murin Says:

    I was in the Navy. You don’t “need” nearly as much living space as you think.

    Otherwise, I work in NYC, but only have to go into the office once per week (2 hr 20 min commute each way). I’m in the downtown/Wall St. area. It is wonderful in many ways. The city is an exciting and vibrant place. That said, the smells, sights, and sounds can be a bit much at times. You just deal with it. I’m usually leaving in a few hours anyway. The folks that live there (in Manhattan – my father in law, for example) are incredibly liberal (and rich). The New York Times is like the bible to them. They are generally very intelligent, but the lack of common sense about things like economics – is incredible. We have some interesting debates during holiday parties. I may be the only gun owner they know. They truly do not understand most of the rest of the US.

  19. Gringo Says:

    the thing that grabbed my attention this time was the use of the word “of” in “off of”. May have been an intentional application of pretty common New York style speech

    I don’t know where it came from, but it is definitely familiar to me. Here the Kingston Trio uses “off of that train” in M.T.A.

    Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendall Square station
    And he changed for Jamaica Plain
    When he got there the conductor told him, “One more nickel”
    Charlie couldn’t get off of that train!

    Get offa the lawn!

  20. Gringo Says:

    Not to mention the Rolling Stones’ Get off of my Cloud.

  21. y81 Says:

    Regarding the Rolling Stones, I remember noticing when I was young that the album cover for “Hot Rocks” (the Stones’ greatest hits compilation) named the song as “Get Off My Cloud.” Which may be more grammatical, but not nearly so much like a Stones song.

  22. FOAF Says:

    I’m classic “great place to visit but wouldn’t want to live there” with respect to NYC. I have visited there many times (though not recently) and loved the restaurants and nightlife but would not want to deal with the traffic, congestion etc. every day.

    As for the song I think it’s “Get Offa My Cloud”. I’m a big Stones fan and while GOOMC, or GOMC, is not my favorite song (though high on the list) it is my favorite song title ever. More attitude in those few words than the entire output of punk rock. It often comes to mind when I have to deal with government bureaucrats – their attitude, not mine.

  23. Bilwick Says:

    I was born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, and grew to adulthood in Manhattan. For reasons too complex to go into (chiefly, I was conned) I moved to Georgia and wound up marooned in Atlanta. The main thing I miss about living in Manhattan (besides the abundance of culturally literate people all around) is the convenience of getting around. Convenience may seem a trivial consideration; but one thing the ease and speed of getting around Manhattan does is facilitating the achievement of goals. I could get up in the morning; jog for a half hour; shower. dress, etc. and be off to the office; work overtime and still get out early enough to go to the gym and/or attend a class on the way home. Then, once home, time to practice yoga and meditation and still be in bed at a decent hour.

    Another émigré from the Greater New York area was talking on the phone with one of his buddies who was back in New Jersey. I overheard part of the conversation, and apparently the friend back home asked my colleague how he liked Atlanta. “It’s great,” my colleague answered, “if you like spending half your life in your car.”

  24. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Cities like Chicago have two problems.

    Spiritual princes that rule over them: it’s like having a more evil boss that is the boss of the boss you do have.

    Life energies are depleted due to negative interference.

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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