Stuff That Makes Ex-New Yorkers Miss NYC

Stuff That Makes Ex-New Yorkers Miss NYC
New York City is the city that never sleeps, and it’s full of magic and mayhem and memories. After doing a stint in the city, you’ll feel like some kind of champion who fought in a strange, sooty yet somehow glamorous dream war and survived. But you also may find yourself feeling nostalgic at unexpected things.

Public breakups
There is something so New York about watching people break up in public. The sobbing; the screaming; the throwing of cell phones; the tearing of hair; all done right in the middle of a busy street on a weekday (what are these people doing breaking up at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday? Don’t they have places to be?) I recently saw a very dignified, tear-free public breakup in Silverlake, the hippest neighborhood in Los Angeles, and I felt two things: a.) sympathy for the folks involved and b.) a wistful longing for my former home, NYC, where the private becomes public very quickly.

Total strangers commenting on all aspects of your life
Speaking of public breakups, have you ever seen a public breakup that prompts strangers to stop in their tracks, converse among themselves EVEN WHEN THEY DON’T KNOW EACH OTHER, and offer opinions and advice? I have. Multiple times. New Yorkers will see two people arguing in public, pause, fold their arms, listen carefully, and say things like, “You know, he’s got a good point” and “Girl, you don’t have to take that shit from no man!” People offer unsolicited parenting advice, hair and makeup tips, dog training hints, and everything else under the sun. Is it horribly obnoxious? YES. And it is so beautifully loving and giving, even when it is profane.

That subway smell
Something about the stale, poorly-circulated air of the subway makes me feel at home every single time I’m in New York. I’m basically inhaling the exhalations of millions of daily travelers, mixed with exhaust and food smells and SOME fresh oxygen. It’s disgusting. But it’s home.

In most places in America, walking is something one only does at great length on a treadmill, or in one’s sleep. This lack of exercise is one reason we suffer from lifestyle-related diseases, along with our terrible Standard American Diet. New Yorkers walk everywhere — in the snow, in the rain, in the sleet, in the hail, in the disgusting swamp ass heat of August. They eat fried street foods, sure, but they walk it off (while watching public breakups, giving unsolicited advice to strangers, and inhaling that subway stench.)

New York City newspapers
New York is a city that still loves its newspapers. Yes, they’re declining along with the papers in other big cities, but New Yorkers will read the paper while walking from the newsstand to the subway, while on the subway, and while walking from the subway to work. It is wonderful and sometimes they walk into other people and things, AND THEN THEY BLAME THE OTHER PEOPLE AND THINGS, because hello, this is newspaper time.

What are your favorite things about NYC? Share in the comments, you scampity scamps! I will be meditating on the beauty of a dirty water dog slathered in mustard, sauerkraut, and the soot from a nearby construction project.

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  • boobookitteh

    One time I was waiting for a train at 59th street and this homeless(?) Guy was shampooing his head. He rinsed over the track with a Vitamin Water bottle and when he was done rinsing he was completely bald. There was also the guy on the 1 train who preached at us that lesbians were going to fry in hell “like chicken. But not Kentucky fried Chicken , like regular chicken.”So basically I miss the free subway theater

    • sarabenincasa


  • Respiteini

    Favorite thing about New York City: Getting the hell out of there every evening at 6 to go back to Jersey where I belong.

  • ConcernedCitizen

    I remember becoming utterly confused when people started using bluetooth headsets… all through the time I lived in NYC you knew who was crazy because they would just mutter uncontrollably, or scream at you as you walked by (one old polish woman on the UWS would go nuts everytime a woman in a short skirt walked by). Bluetooth made it look like everyone was F’ing crazy…

  • Crying alone in public is normal here. It is respectfully acknowledged then graciously ignored. A few tears dropped on the subway or on a walk home is far more satisfying than messy fit in private.

  • LeighB

    I miss the small restaurant in my neighborhood I could walk into and get a great meal. All my friends had their own restaurant where we would eat. Little tiny villages all over Manhattan.

  • memzilla

    Excepting Michelle Obama, no one does better stinkeye than a Noo Yawkuh.

  • goonemeritus

    Paying people to kick my ass at chess in Washington SquarePark. Access to any cheese the world has to offer at Cheese of AllNations. The world’s best buskers. Looking across the river at NJ with pity in my heart for those poor bastards

  • PatG

    My NYC experience encompassed 1983 – 1998. You forgot the “bumpiss” component under “That subway smell”. A few things missed by yrs truly:- Clothes shed with grand abandon in the summer. – A time when yuppies felt under threat rather than courted and catered to.- Squishy asphalt at intersections on beastly hot days.- West Village slaughterhouse ‘hood in August. Nothing like it. Made the subway smell seem downright sanitary by comparison. – That “anything can happen” feeling; was that backfire, fireworks or gunshots? Is that clown a street performer or a serial killer?- Random strangers trying to sell you drugs: “You bought some ‘shrooms from me last week, right?”.- Band and gig posters pasted up just any damn place.- Weird, possibly hostile or maybe just artsy and meaningless graffiti everywhere; see “Ism-ism” and Missing FoundationEnjoy the sooty dog!

  • marindenver

    I lived in New York for 2 years in the early 70s when I was 20 something. Grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, got a job with TWA as a Hostess and took off for the big city. It was awesome except you could not get anything close to decent Mexican food there (may be different now) but after the 2nd year the need for open spaces became too strong and my SO (later hubbie) and I moved to Colorado. I went back again when my daughter was about 12 and her ballet school set up a trip to stay for a few days and see one of the ballet companies there. It was totally a Paul Simon “Still Crazy After All These Years” experience and I try to go back about once a year now. Have a dear friend from my poor neglected (by me) blog Rumproast, Mrs. Polly there and we have a ball. Totally need to head East again soon.

  • btwbfdimho

    Dear Sara, “the city that never sleep” is BS. At 10:30pm the kitchens are closed in NYC. Buenos Aires never sleeps, instead. Truly,.

  • JoBuNYC

    Widespread mutual acknowledgement of the unwritten rules of human coexistenceWatching unwitting passengers get thrown on the uptown F between 14th and 23rd StreetsThe impromptu roller rink and stack of nightclub speakers set up by who? in the middle of Central Park every summer weekendYelling at drivers when they honk and not being viewed as the assholeHudson River ParkTough gaysPossibility

  • Lynn Vannucci

    The top note of bread baking in the bakery across the courtyard, the middle note of bacon sizzling at The Bagel, the base note of urine… Greenwich Village, Fourth and Jones in the Seventies…

  • Caepan

    On a very warm late August evening about 15 years ago, after working a freelance job in NYC, I went for a walk with a colleague from the Hotel Pennsylvania (where we were staying) to Times Square. We ate some pizza, watched the tourists, and then went around the corner to do whip-its we had bought that night from a store on W 42nd St.Let’s just say that we were in a New York state of mind.

  • fgbndslndr

    Both of my kids moved to New York from a very small town on the West Coast of Canada. I never expected to like the city that stole my children, but I fell in love with it, too. Around here you never see a guy walking through Union Square in goggles, a poncho and scuba flippers. I love the food, the parks, the museums, the architecture, the sense of history. I could do without the smell of urine-soaked concrete and the street poop. When I commented to The Kid that people who didn’t pick up after their dogs were disgusting, he observed that there was no guarantee at all that it was dog poop.

  • Wordserf

    Dirty water dogs with brown mustard, neighborhood pizza shops, egg creams from a neighborhood luncheonette, and having just about everything you need within walking distance.