Here’s my account of New York City, no better or worse than anyone else’s, but I hope you find it helpful. There’s a great variance in temperature, having all four seasons– snowy winters, hot summers, falls full of orange and read leaves, springs full of flowers. There’s no difference from any moderate climate. If you go to the outskirts, you get a peek at the wild life that once occupied the land. In the Bronx Botanical Gardens, you can spot blue jays and cardinals. My girlfriend, who lives in Staten Island, sends me pictures of peacocks, turkeys, and deer. When I was younger and lived in the North Bronx, I’d see the occasional blue jay– but the urban landscape is sadly comprised of a few animals– few of which are well-liked: Rats, cats, dogs, and raccoons. You can also spot Skunks in Baychester. Pigeons and robins are everywhere. I don’t know anything about their current vibrancy as species, but they appear to be resilient and scrappy. I remember observing the birds, as a kid, always impressed by how the cold weather didn’t appear to affect them, how quick and alert they were for food.
You can find people of different kinds here, but you can also go your entire life without associating with people outside of your ethnic group. The city therefore grants people the opportunity to be cosmopolitan, but a person can also remain as backward as anywhere. The internet has democratized things a bit. It was once the case that people were more dependent on this monstrous concrete and brick hulk, focusing their efforts on it, building it, and putting their love into it. Now we don’t focus as much on physical places like New York City. We’re more and more on the internet.
People have continued to live in New York City, in spite of the ebb and flow of its relevance. Something about it is cozy. The word associated most with the locals is “bodega”, the name given to a corner store typically owned by a Dominican or Puerto Rican in most of the Bronx, Northern parts of Manhattan, several places in Brooklyn and Queens I would guess. There are also may Yemeni-owned corner stores, which are pretty good too. I’ve had lots of good sandwiches from those places, usually after having stumbled home drunk from a bar in my late twenties. There are many bars, far too many for me to name. You can find good craft beer places, the types of places I would visit that would normally carry obscurely-named porters and stouts of high alcohol content. But, if I were ever in a tough spot, I would settle for a place that served Belgian Beers like Chimay and Delerium Tremens. On my nights out in the city, I experienced the full range of who people could be. I, who was once sheltered, was at once assaulted with life’s beautiful and darker elements. I saw people at their worst and I saw myself at my worst. Now I’m at a point in which I’ve forgiven others and have also forgiven myself. I don’t drink so much anymore. My greatest pleasure is derived from a cup of coffee, which never has to be fancy. It can be a simple cup of coffee and I would be happy.
I wasn’t allowed to drink coffee as a child, but I think my grand mother made me try some when I was seven and I hated it. Then an Indian lady at Dunkin Donuts shoved a cup of coffee in my hand in my twenties and told me to drink. So I drank. I was hooked on regular coffee ever since. I can already picture the coffee snobs turning their heads in disgust. I drink mine with cream and three sugars. I hope that, no matter where my readers are in the world, they have a place they can sit and drink coffee and chat. I hope the chats are pleasant ones and that they carry meaning without them simply being an exchange of pleasantries. Meaning and pleasure are not opposed, but the empty exchanges on the weather on the outside without us at least addressing our weather in the inside of ourselves will do nothing but increase our dread as we labor through life. Coffee can be had in a number of ways. I like mine in a very simple and straight forward way. The corner stores all have coffee. The few diners that still exist here all serve coffee. None of it tastes as good as coffee I once had in Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo, but, whatever the coffee, it generally does the trick and helps me cope with life. Living in an urban climate, full of grays, with people dressed in black, constantly laboring for the bare minimum– you’re well set up for drudgery. Coffee is right there with you throughout your annoying morning commute on the subway, which has a bunch of guys yelling “Showtime”, flailing about, and sometimes kicking people. There are sometimes homeless people who sleep on the subway trains. They’re normally left alone– but be mindful if you notice that all train cars are full and a single train car is empty.
I think the important thing to note in the time of COVID is that you can get good take out in New York City– take out from all over the world. Sure, you can make your own, but that would take away precious time I can spend typing, eating, Netflixing reality television, wondering how many versions of a British bake off show can be created, watching every single version of British bake off shows. What is a place, really? Frank Sinatra made a song about this place so I guess that’s cool?