I am writing a series of posts about NY for people who are coming into town for BlogHer this August. My friend Jett suggested the idea and I ran with it. Today we’re going to talk about some general purpose things, and later in the week we will cover three things that many visitors have issues with: Walking around, riding the train and taking a cab. On Friday we will end with a post answering any questions you leave in comments during the week. But that’s later.
Today let’s just discuss some basic NY stuff. First of all, welcome! I do hope you enjoy your time in NY and come back. We need your tourist-y money. We love it. We really, truly, do. Also, you are probably a wonderful person and your mere presence will enhance the city for all of us. But, just in case you aren’t, your money will do.
Let me dispel some rumors and preconceived notions for those of you who have never been to NY before:
Please note we aren’t jerks. We aren’t rude, mean and nasty. Not by default. In general we end up being rude, mean, and nasty to tourists who approach us in a rude, mean, or nasty manner to begin with. If you are lost or confused, feel free to ask for directions. “Excuse me,” or “Pardon me,” both work as a way to stop someone. Then you can ask them your question, in a nice and polite manner. Many people in NY will go out of their way to give you helpful directions. Not only have I done this more times than I can count but I see it all the time. All the time.
On the other hand… when someone randomly touches me when I go by, grabs some part of my body or simply goes “Hey!” in my face and then demands answers about where a certain location is I will cheerfully and happily give them bad directions. You know why? Because fuck you, that’s why. Seriously, I have been stopped by people who have demanded “Where’s Carmine street? Hurry up!” and that’s going to get your silly ass sent to Queens, motherfucker. Also if you get an answer along the lines of “I don’t know,” accept it. We really don’t know every little restaurant in the world. Bitching us out for trying doesn’t help. It might also get you “Oh, wait, you said Trinity? Oh right!” and then you’re back out to Queens, aren’t you? Yes. Yes, you are.
NY’ers are very polite by nature. when you live in a town as small as this with 8 million other people you really only have two options: Be polite or kill a whole lot of people. While I don’t deny the existence of the occasional member of group two, most of us are in group one. So that’s that.
You may also wish to do some tourist-y stuff while in town. I highly recommend it if you have the time and inclination! Keep in mind though that many tourist things in NY are very crowded. Plan ahead. Also keep your agenda set, but flexible. Just because the Empire State Building has a four hour wait (it happens) doesn’t mean your day is shot. You can go sit in Herald Square, get great Korean food, go to Jim Hanley’s Universe (best comic shop in town) or any of a hundred other things in the area. Don’t let one event spoil a trip. Just realize we have a lot of tourists and a lot of natives and a lot of people in between those groups. Many of those people will be at big tourist locations at any given time, so be patient. Also since it is summer, bring a water bottle with you. Don’t buy bottled water. NY has some of the tastiest tap water on the planet. I mean it. It is down right good to drink. So bring a water bottle and fill it and carry it with you.
Understanding that we have a lot of people is key to not being taken as some kind of jerk while in NY. You may have to wait in line to get some pizza, or a movie ticket, or into that jazz club – but it is hardly ever that long a wait. Being annoyed by it just makes it seem to take longer.
While you’re in NY I also do beg of you – don’t eat at a chain restaurant. I don’t care if you love Appleby’s or Olive Garden, you’re in NY now and we have a million amazing non-chain places that will make the same kind of food you love. Ask someone, ask the hotel desk, ask the internet – everyone has suggestions. Many of them are fantastic. Explore and try new things. You’ll be glad you did and so will the owners and workers at that eatery.
Tipping is important in NY as well. Tip your server, your bartender and anyone else who provides you with service. They depend on it and are generally working their asses off for you. Reward them. You have nothing to lose by it and you will seem like a good chap.
If you need things like shampoo or condoms while here (I hear BlogHer gets crunked) we have more places than you can ever hope to fall into. Duane Reade and Rite-Aid all exist to serve these purposes. There is also the wonder of the corner deli. A good NY deli is a magical land filled with everything one could possibly want at 3am. Most of them are, in fact, open at 3am for this very reason. Candy, newspapers, drinks of all types, snack food, hot food, small household supplies… that’s just the start of the list available at any corner deli. Not all of them are on the exact corner, of course. But yes, most of them are open 24hrs a day.
Oh, and hey, last call in bars is 4am. Feel free to take advantage of that. Remember you will not be driving home – that’s why we have sidewalks and cabs and trains. They will get you home safe. Enjoy yourself a bit.
Most bars in NY sell beer for 6 bucks a pop. Is that more money than you are used to? Perhaps. Don’t get your beer and be shocked and demand of the bartender “Six dollars for a fucking beer?!” because that bartender didn’t set the price. They just want to give you a beer. When in doubt – ask first. Nothing lost and no one will think you’re stupid.
But yes food and drink in NY can be more expensive than other places. Our cost of living is high and we know it and are no happier than you about it. That doesn’t mean we want to hear your outrage about the prices. Keep it to yourself. Yes, we know it is “this fucking much” for various items. We pay it all the time and wish it were cheaper. But when you bitch about it, it comes off as if you are attacking NY.
Ever have a sibling or good friend? you know how you are allowed to give them shit but if a stranger does then you get mad and want to take a poke at them? This is that. Not saying you have to talk up how great NY is, either. Just understand that we don’t want to hear how shitty things are from you. Nothing personal.
When meeting a native don’t ask them if they’ve been mugged, how they can possibly afford to pay for things in town, why they don’t move somewhere “better” or other questions that all boil down to “I hate NY, justify its existence to me.” We know what you’re really saying and will be very tempted to set you on fire. I mean, tell you off.
No, I mean “set you on fire.”
Some final notes:
* Yes, when there are no tourists around we do all dance and sing and have dance fights like West Side Story, we just won’t ever admit it to you.
* We also all have denim vests with gang symbols, like in The Warriors, but again we won’t admit it or show them to you.
* The lights on the Empire State building do change colors sometimes. Here’s a current schedule.
* The Circle Line is a good deal for the simple joy of riding a boat around Manhattan. Informative and pleasant, I have enjoyed the cruise myself a few times. The full cruise runs about 3hrs [Gilligan joke to be inserted here] and will cost you $35, thought here are shorter and cheaper runs as well.
* Most importantly: Don’t start none and there won’t be none.
Enjoy your trip! Tomorrow come on back and I’ll talk some about walking. Yes, walking needs to be discussed. For seriously.
Also, please leave questions for NY, whatever they are, in comments! Come Friday I will do a special, final post that is just your questions and their answers.
Other posts in the A Brief NY Field Guide series: Walking | Subways | Cabs | The rest
You can also find information , theoretically, about things to do in New York City at UpTake, a site that speciifcally asked me to link to them, and sorta-bribed me to do so. They might even be useful! Who knows!