There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
Are Washingtonians jealous of New Yorkers and all that is the Big Apple? It’s hilarious how much this city’s obsessed with N.Y.C., when New Yorkers don’t even turn their heads when they hear about D.C., not even over news coming from Capitol Hill and the White House. I need all my digits and then some to count all the N.Y.C. stories I hear or read in a day here: Garth Brooks’ concert in Central Park, Giuliani’s getting a divorce, and let’s not even go there on the big spread Washington City Paper gave the subject in the 8/1 issue (“New York Fetish”).
OK, here’s my stake in it: In July 1992, I left D.C. for New York, thinking it was for good. NYU was in my horizons, and I was spellbound by that city. Frankly, driving down the FDR just after sundown, or walking across the Brooklyn Bridge around the same time, or even ice skating in Central Park at night, are just some of the most mesmerizing experiences. What hath man wrought in this city of huge skyscrapers that are as much a personality as the hustler panhandlers straphanging on the IRT, the Wild Man of 96th Street, little Sky-Lyn Pesante singing in Grand Central, the nannies of Washington Square Park, the West Indian Day parade, the Puerto Rican Day Parade, the Dominican, the Irish, and every other ethnic and orientation group you can think of, the East Indian cabbies who can tell you all the Jewish holidays, the priceless teenagers who know how to make hip fashion without spending large wads of dough, all the Asian trinket peddlers trying to make a buck. How many candy-container cellular phones does a body need?
What I loved about N.Y.C. the most was that it wasn’t D.C. Leaving the nation’s capital as an extremely self-conscious teenager whose mother refused to allow her to succumb to the hair-dressing, fake nails, stylish sneaker-wearing, gold collecting, poor-grammar ways of her peers, I was rather refreshed to be right smack dab in the middle of a city where nobody gave a hoot what I looked like, and loved and hated me anyway. It’s a city where an old white fart didn’t care about PC and thought nothing of calling me “colored,” where a mocha-colored, dreadlocked Adonis forgot tired lines and simply called me “Nubian goddess.” And for the strong, opportunities abounded. I got an early start on my career that wouldn’t have been afforded to me in D.C. I grew stronger as a person, and I was living in a city where I could enjoy some original poetry at the Nuyorican Cafe, catch some jazz at Basils, enjoy a magic show in Washington Square Park, beg some producer to be an extra in a movie or commercial shoot, and go to class all within blocks of each otherand I never lived in a dorm.
But…the apartment my mother wanted me to live in near school was a virtual 2-by-4 and cost $1,500 a month. Then when I was dying to live in a Park Slope brownstone, I missed by 30 blocks and wound up on Latin Kings turf (although they claim they’ve gone from gang to good guys and gals). I got an apartment where the mice didn’t want to pay rent, but they insisted on staying. Let’s not even mention Con Edison, who found it reasonable to bill me more than $100 a month for my 650-square foot apartment, which didn’t even have an air conditioner and whose sole occupant was at home less than eight hours a day. I think I was supplying the entire neighborhood with power. Days after I first moved to New York, someone standing less than 15 feet away from me was gunned down on the A Train. Weeks later, a girl sitting right across from me was robbed of her bamboo-style earrings (she must have been to D.C. before).
So, shortly after I graduated I moved to Jersey. I was going to be a true-to-life suburbanite who stomped on the city when I wanted my fun but would go home to my quiet, clean neighborhood just a few miles west of the Hudson. But I’m backunder the impression that living in that region period was just too expensive for me. I’m not coming back to D.C. proper (that’ll be the day), but already I’m finding a difference. My rent is $100 cheaper. There are no utilities, and I’ve got a washer and dryer in my apartment. I’ve got off-street parking and trees galore. Did you know that dishwashers are considered luxuries in New York? Sure, life and people here can be somewhat stale and boring. They aren’t as sophisticated nor as dimensional as New Yorkers and life in the city. Traffic here stinks, but the trains have cushioned seats and there’s little threat that someone will scrawl graffiti on them.
And I’ve got to hand it to you, Washingtonians, you reap the benefits of your labor. With all the mice I killed, my Brooklyn landlord rewarded me with a rent increase every year. I’m now like everybody else I knew before I moved to N.Y., who think that it’s fun to visit N.Y.C. but not to live there. Our social scientists are right: Big cities are for the very rich and the very poor, and that’s not fair. Don’t believe for one second these people you see on Must See TV, who are living in these huge Village apartments with meager jobs. It ain’t happening. Visit one for real, and you’ll find four sofas, multiple air mattresses, and labeled foodall signs of 14 people sharing a studio to claim an Upper West Side abode.
But alas, I miss that city for all its aches and pains. I’ve only been back in these parts a few weeks now, and it may be homesickness. But I long to be entertained on the train. I want to see the terrible exploited foreign national stick pins in his tongue and the albino pythons at Coney Island. I want to see the Yankees kick ass in the Bronx again. I want to act like I’m cultured (although penniless) walking out of an off-off Broadway show. I want to attend an empowerment seminar hosted by the new Black Panthers, or go to a Haitian woke’ party in Flatbush, or buy some real roti in Jamaica. But I also want value for my dollar. I’m hopelessly middle-class, and in that respect D.C. beats N.Y. hands down. But let me hit the lottery, inherit millions, or finally write that blockbuster, movie-rights-retained Great American Novel, and I’d be back in a flash.
via the Internet