First Impressions of New York City

It's been nearly three weeks (wow!) since my arrival, and I'm slowly beginning to put together the pieces of what makes New York, erm, New York.

I could state the obvious here: most places are crowded, cockroaches exist but recede in the light, cabs are not an economic form of regular transportation, and just about everything you can imagine is more expensive.

But I wanted to think outside the box a little. So, without further adieu, here are the top five random things I've noticed as a newcomer to NYC:

(1) When you walk down Madison Avenue, you are almost guaranteed to see most beautiful man and/or woman you have ever seen. Five. Times. Over.

This could be like a special charm for single people. Ye will take yeself to the crosspoint of Madison and five-and-fifty... Ye will turn on yer heels to face the building of the sky, and when ye turn back forward, by the light of the midday sun, ye will see a most beautiful being emerge from the door-with-four-faces. But beware! These creatures are of this earth. They sport expensive shoes and carry designer pens in their leather satchels....

Then again, maybe everyone just looks better in a suit.

(2) The best time to go to Trader Joe's (the one on 73rd, at least) is on Friday at 1:30pm.

For those of you responsible people with day jobs, I, your thoughtfully unemployed friend, have solved the burning mystery: When are you guaranteed to satisfy your pumpkin-product craving of choice without a 20-40 minute checkout delay?

The answer is, conveniently enough, right after your workday lunch break. This of course is when everyone else has returned from their workday lunch break as well, and the stores have settled to host a much smaller dose of NY citizens -- the self-employed, the curmudgeonly old folk, and the still-figuring-out-the-job-thing-ers, like myself.

You're welcome for not really solving your problem at all.

(3) The majority of people here are helpful, encouraging, and pleasant conversationalists (at heart.)

Like most people from the west coast, I was living under the blanket assumption that our citizens possessed the best personality in all of America. What's not to love about a laid-back, easy-going hippie/hipster who keeps to himself? Tolerating some mild passive aggression every once in a while isn't the worst thing in the world, right?

But the more time I spend here, the more certain I am that we west coasters -- Seattleites in particular -- could really stand to learn a thing or two from our east coast brethren. NY locals may bypass the courtesy of excusing themselves when they bump into you (they're going places, man!) They may hustle you along when you spend too much time pondering exactly what bagel schmear you'd like (is there really a wrong choice here??) They will most likely set you straight when you ask something completely preposterous ("Is there a cheap place to get brunch around here?") But if you ask for help -- or hell, even if you're just standing around looking like you need it -- sooner or later someone will offer it.

In my first week here, one man gave me a lead on a permanent apartment, two employees offered their names for reference on job applications, and three Upper East Siders gave me unsolicited advice on where to find breakfast. These were all strangers who had no vested interest in whether or not I got to where I was going. They were just good people. And a surprising amount of them exist here if you stop and look around.

(4) The more time you spend in midtown, the more you feel entitled to the life of a well-paid lawyer.

I've decided that until I've worked out a budget and gotten my first paycheck, I'm staying as far away from the shopping smorgasbord that is 5th Avenue, Soho, and the like as is humanly possibly.

Though admittedly I've always been a window shopping enthusiast, it's rare I'll actually step inside a store with the intention of buying something -- unless of course I actually need it. When the stuff of dreams leaves the window, however, and enters the world of reality in someone else's bag, you suddenly begin to foster dangerous ideas: I could buy that too.

And usually, no you can't. Not if you want to afford rent next month. Not if want to steer clear of Credit Card Debtors Anonymous. But the perfumed people of Madison Avenue have already peppered you with their siren song "You Too Deserve A Life of Luxury" and sunk their perfectly manicured claws into your small-town heart. Suddenly you're fascinated with what kind of shoes everyone is wearing and which firm they work for. You're daydreaming about starting off your mornings in uptown bakeries while your boyfriend (read: sugar daddy) does time in his fancy suit on Wall Street.

Then, out of nowhere, you're struck with a pang of hunger, and you remember you have a stomach that needs to eat. And just like Chanel shoes, boxed risotto does not grown on trees.

(5) It's not a concrete prison.

One of my utmost fears about leaving Washington state was where I'd get my nature fix. The largest city I'd spent significant amount of time in before New York was London, which sprawls even further than Seattle and whose green space accounts for nearly half the city. I'm not exactly a "great outdoors" kind of gal, but could I really settle for Central Park?

As any new city dweller should, I started exploring. On the way to the library I ran into Bryant Park and its beautiful ring of London planes, which are nearly as tall as the building itself. In a book I discovered a map of miniature gardens dotted throughout the city. A dear friend took me to the base of the George Washington bridge, from which we spent an entire afternoon walking the length of the river -- and didn't even get to midtown.

Best of all, I've started to view the concrete passages and the towering buildings, the metro tunnels and brick corridors as beautiful in their own right. It isn't leafy, but it offers plenty of space to explore. Sort of like spelunking... with more lights.

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