3 Things I Love about NYC

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Brooklyn Bridge, by Elora Williams

I’m in NYC! I came partly to visit and partly to finish up a podcast episode that I’ve been working on, and will be here for a couple weeks. I have been looking forward to this trip for months, and was so excited the night before my departure that I couldn’t sleep. Then that morning, as I was getting ready to go to the airport, I was too excited to eat! That is some crazy level of enthusiasm. I can’t remember the last time I was that excited, but it was such a good feeling to have again.

So what is it that I love so much about this city? First of all I think the fact that it is a city. I’ve never met one that I didn’t like, and so I think I’m just a city kind of gal. Pittsburgh, DC, London – give me plenty of people bustling and hustling and my eyes will open wide to take in the energy of it all. Aside from that, here are a few things I really appreciate about New York and have missed since being at home:

  1. The parks. Central Park is obviously the New York park, and it is a truly wonderful place. I’ve been there 3 or 4 times already this trip, and still haven’t had enough. But there are other great parks here too, like Fort Tryon and Inwood Hill. I used to live right next to them and went on many a morning run and evening walk through their paths. I’m staying in Washington Heights and have happily been able to pick up this routine again. It might seem strange that the first thing I talk about is parks after all the characteristically urban points of city living, but I do love being able to escape to green spaces and marvel at the natural glories of the earth.
  2. The bakeries. Um hello! I cannot get enough. I love cooking and food in general, but even before I was responsible for feeding myself baking was my thing. I haven’t met a loaf or pastry at Amy’s Bread that I haven’t liked, Levain has spectacular, ginormous cookies that I’ve described in detail to all my friends, and Empire Cake makes the best dairy free hot chocolate. In addition to hitting these places I’m heading to Chinatown to carry on my new affair with steamed buns and puzzle over the delightful texture of particularly spongy cakes.
  3. Walking. New York is way more pedestrian friendly than Nassau. You could walk all of Manhattan in an almost completely linear fashion if you wanted, cross bridges to the other boroughs and walk through those just the same (though I know less about the Bronx and Queens). It’s so easy to just get up and go, whether or not you want to use public trans – which is so far ahead of what we’re dealing with in The Bahamas I’ll get upset if I think anymore about it. I spent a semester in Ghana my sophomore year in college, and that was something I loved about being there too. People walked everywhere. I walked everywhere. I have flat feet, so they end up being pretty sore after a while, and sometimes for days afterward, but that just means I ought to get better shoes. 😉 Also! You end up real close to people and pass more slowly than you would in car, allowing me frequent “YAS GIRL! Strut your stuff!” and “swoon that is such a well dressed man” moments that are thrilling little bonuses throughout my day.

There are so many other great things about this city, it would be fun to sit down with you and gab about them all. Have you been to New York? What are your favourite things about it?

On Riding the Subway

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Riding the subway is like playing a game of chance, I never know what I’m going to get. Some trips are totally calm, uninterrupted; others are so bad I have to switch cars. People watching is often entertaining, and I have been hugely surprised, in the short time that I’ve lived here, to recognise three different people  on their commutes. What are the odds? I’m not someone that has a particular spot on the platform, nor do I get on the trains at the same time each day. Somehow though, the fates have lined up and faces that were  foreign on a previous day become familiar on the next.

One thing that is a huge peeve of mine is when people don’t adjust their legs to accommodate newcomers to their bench. It’s happened to me with both men and women, but is a more regular occurrence with men. People have discussed this elsewhere on the internet, but I have also found it to be true: they sit with their legs spread, and cannot for the life of them close them when they have a seat mate. It is so disgustingly rude and entitled, and obviously not necessary. If some men can sit with their legs closed then it must be possible for other men to do the same.

Another thing I’ve noticed with male subway riders is their tendency to make noise. The subway is supposed to be a place where you keep your personal activity just that – personal. If you’re having a conversation, watching a movie, listening to music, that’s all fine, just don’t oblige your neighbours to be involved. Well, I have been the audience for many a rap freestyle, opera singing practice and general sing-along for my fellow male riders. I’ve also had the opportunity to go to a number of free (!) mini-concerts, as men have shared their music with all of us by playing it through the speakers of their phone or stereo. There are signs all over the cars informing passengers to wear headphones and speak quietly, but these are flagrantly ignored.

Why is it that these men think it’s ok to infringe on other passengers’ personal space and activity, to disregard the rules and pretend as though their actions are not in fact disrespectful? Power. Here comes that word again. The subway presents an opportunity for them to dominate a space and make their strength and presence known. Particularly for men who are part of minority groups, who have limited abilities to demonstrate their masculinity in the expected ways of the world: wealth, career, social prestige. The subway car or platform is a place where they can assert themselves and people are forced to pay attention because of the ways they are made to feel uncomfortable. This brings me to something else I’ve noticed – no one ever confronts them.

Perhaps with seating one individual might ask the man next to them to close his legs. For myself, I do the passive aggressive thing and wiggle around until I have room, take advantage of the shifting that happens during stops and starts. However, when it comes to men performing or enjoying a performance, they’re left alone. In weighing the possible outcomes of confronting them against the benefit of keeping the peace, it seems like the odds are ever in the men’s favour. I mean, as much as they invade our spaces and intrude in our lives, they clearly feel they have a right to what they’re doing, and/or they don’t think that it’s a big deal. How then, in the space of a subway ride, could you convince them otherwise? Could you peacefully convince them otherwise? I don’t know, but it certainly makes me angry – and feel impotent – about the fact that the best answer seems to be to try and ignore them, which is what everyone does. The status quo is maintained, but we all more or less peacefully ride the subway one more day.