New York Claustrophobia
Posted on August 15, 2015
“So I went to New York City to be born again.”
“Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.”
First off, check out this video from Cedar & Soil. I work with George who made this and I am constantly being amazed at the level of creative art that my coworkers produce when they aren’t sitting behind a desk.
If you are claustrophobic, this City might not be for you. Or, if you are anything like me, you might just have to come to terms with the fact that you might, at any moment and without warning, break out in a panic attack. Because everything in the City is a tight or closed space. Even if your living space is roomy, good luck with the subway, folks.
For whatever reason, my claustrophobic feelings in the City reminds me of a documentary I watched about Hunter S. Thompson going to Hollywood with a British film crew. Once in Hollywood, he disappeared from the crew and was later found smoking in some corner away from the crowd and then again behind a car.
He was clearly annoyed when the camera crew found him and mumbled, “Oh, god.” They then asked him what he thought of the place. “It’s a place you get out of as fast as possible,” he responded. They then asked him why he was hiding and he goes on about crowds… after a while they interrupt him to ask about the names on the sidewalk and his response eerily reminds me of myself. He is obviously angry and states it’s just a dirty sidewalk, and he could care less. How about some popcorn, they asked trying to soothe him. “No, I hate popcorn.” It all reminds me of myself and trying to have a good time with my girlfriend out and about in the City. But instead of having a good time like a normal person, I turn into whiny-ass version of Mr Hyde and ruin the whole ordeal.
“Do you want to get coffee,” she might say once she sees the transformation taking place.
“What? Coffee? No, I hate coffee!” I might snarl, even though that’s a bizarre lie to tell. I love coffee, but my brain becomes so panicked that I have no control over it anymore…
Anyway, where was I? Subways? Yeah, subways.
With 21 lines and an average of 7.6 million riders a day you are bound to be packed like sardines going to or from work, or hell, even for leisurely outings to the cinema or dinner. And when you exit the car you might smell of three or four different perfumes or cologne. That’s just the sum of things here.
Though, if you can afford a roomy living space here, you can probably afford not to ride the subway or to light that Porsche your dad gave you on your 16th birthday on fire for that matter. Before moving to NYC I lived in a studio in Kent, Ohio. (Yes, that one where the kids were shot on May 4, 1970 by the National Guard.) My room was in an old hotel and measured roughly 16×12 feet. So when I saw my current apartment, it seemed to me to be a rather large 2 bedroom. That was still my thought until I put all of my and my girlfriend’s stuff in there and when I saw what our cost in rent could get us elsewhere in the USA, namely a 4 bedroom house with front and backyard and basement in Portland, Oregon, and we would still have some change left over. Or when I saw that when 2 years’ rent here could buy us a house in Dresden. Granted, the house looked like a wet mutt left out on the streets too long that any vet, even one without a heart, would put to sleep.
But we have it pretty good here we found out. After our place and two of our neighbors’ places got broken into, we decided to look around for a new apartment. We mainly checked out Brooklyn since it would have been better for both of our commutes to work and generally has good neighborhoods with solid reputations. What we found there were simply smaller apartments for roughly the same price. The realtor kept saying we would never in a million years find anything bigger for the same price. He turned suddenly deaf when we called bullshit and said our current place was at least 1.5 times bigger.
He was right in a way. When you move to the City, you need to expect to toss at least half of your income at rent and that what you are renting might make your college dorm room look kind of luxurious. And that’s exactly what happens here… You could very well wake up one morning and find yourself 40 years old, sleeping in bunk beds, having two or three roommates, rules about what a sock hanging from the doorknob means, and a calendar stating which days are yours to sit on the futon or who has to do the dishes.There are horror stories about apartments here. One of them being that it will be the one thing you spend most of your money on and the one place you spend the least amount of time. My cousin, a lawyer, said, “fuck the City” and moved to New Jersey where he paid $900 a month for a 3 bedroom apartment and then said, “fuck that too!” and moved to Delaware. But before he did, he gave my girlfriend and me some advice. “Watch out for apartments that require gym memberships,” he said.
“Why’s that?” we inquired.
“They won’t have showers or toilets!”
And that is a possibility. The notion that you can buy up any old building around here and turn it into a money making business simply by blocking off some space and calling them apartments is a lucrative one. And some of these buildings are older than Methuselah. A colleague of mine once lived in what used to be a boarding house for travelling businessmen. Each floor had 12 rooms and one WC for everyone on that floor. Every other floor had a shower that was shared by 24 people. He remembered it fondly, he said over beers one night after work, since it was a bunch of 18-25 years all living together in a make-shift community. He smiled and said I wouldn’t believe what went on in those showers. But that quickly changed when one Vietnam vet moved in and the word spread like a virus that rent was only $600 a month and the place quickly became housing for low-income elderly.That’s all fun and a must-have experience when you are young. But, as I have gotten older, there are certain things I want in an apartment. Most notably, a kitchen table and a bathtub that I could get into without knocking my front teeth out with my knees. And maybe I’d also like to have some space between me and my neighbors where I didn’t hear every time they got up to go to the bathroom or every time their phone vibrated. Maybe I would like to live somewhere where I didn’t have to hear or see them at all! Being a hermit has always kind of appealed to me.
Then again, I have came to, at the very least, terms with tight spaces and crowds of people. And there is something comforting about coming home to our tiny apartment and just sitting on the couch, one of the few pieces of furniture we have, with my girlfriend. And maybe it has all to do with that it is our place and no one else’s. Our own private getaway, big enough just for us.
That’s enough out of me for today, folks.