Tuesday, August 20, 2013

NY State of Mind

When I was 17 years old, my father offered me a cushy job at his office. The company was Brownell Electro, a distributor of electrical wiring and motors, located on 15th Street and 10th Avenue. This was before the area got gentrified. And it had that old NY grittiness one would associate with an industrial neighborhood just north of the meat packing district.

After a year of flipping burgers and assembling tacos fresh from the 450 degree frying oil at Jack in the Box, any job that involved a desk, a chair and an adding machine seemed like a gift from heaven.

It wasn't.

Because no 17-year old, particularly one who had just discovered weed, wants to spend his summer getting up at 6 AM.

Or hopping on a Shortline bus for a miserable 1 hour commute with a bunch of cigarette-smoking, coffee-drinking suburban middle managers.

Or staring at mountains of paperwork for 8 hours a day while being barraged by a parade of angry Puerto Rican co-workers who could turn an argument about a three-ring binder into a five-alarm fire.

Add to that, the Port Authority building, where it was just as easy to get heroin as it was to get a ticket to Hoboken.

Entire neighborhoods that smelt like urine.

And the unbearable humidity that wreaked havoc on my sweaty body and often required on-the-fly-wardrobe changes.

I saw what New York City did to people and decided it wasn't going to do it to me.

So I moved to California.

It was a long time ago and I've never regretted the decision.

But things are changing.

In the past five years, I've witnessed a mass exodus going the other way. Friends and advertising colleagues giving up the palm trees, the beach cruisers and the In and Out burgers of Southern California for a slice of pizza and regular death-defying cab rides on the Belt Parkway.

These are not hardened, thick-skin expatriates like myself. These are mellow, sensitive, zen-loving Californians prone to sickening optimism and phrases like, "Duuuuude" or "that's super awesome."

And yet, there they are, not surviving the Big Apple, but thriving there. And now, thanks to the phenomena of Facebook, I get to witness it all: the Pomme Frite at Raouls,  the diaper-wearing banjo player on the #7 line, the peppery pastrami at Katz's Deli, the celebrity courtside sightings at Madison Square Garden.

Maybe it's this pervasive June Gloom that has all but robbed us of a summer, but it's making me jealous and homesick.

Of course, the Internet giveth and the Internet taketh away.

Any thoughts of pulling up stakes and heading back to Gotham are quickly squashed with one visit to Zillow.com. And the realization that a modest, two bedroom condo sprawling all of 800 square feet can be had for only $2.1 million.

Yeah, fuhgedaboutit.

No comments: