[To read Part 1 or Part 2 of this interview. ]
Quest: What is the line of demarcation, in years, where a person can officially say he/she's a New Yorker?
Chris: Well, this is a tough question. I moved to New York right after college and lived here for about a year and a half, left and then came back. So I've been here about 3 and a half years now, total. I'm feeling more and more like one everyday.
I am really bothered by native New Yorkers who say, "If you didn't grow up here you can never be a true New Yorker."
And I say in response, "Excuse me." All right, to a certain extent, yeah. I'll never know what it's like to have gone to high school here or something. But how does that make me less of a New Yorker than you. You're still going through the same experiences that I'm going through on a daily basis. I've put up with it for the 3.5 years. And if you're my age and you went to college and are coming back you've probably been through it for 3.5 years, too! So, I think the whole concept is kind of ridiculous. When you first move to the city and you know nothing about it--that's one thing. I've taken the time and I've definitely passed that learning curve.
Quest: Which is how long?
Chris: I hesitate to put a number on it. (pause) You work to get to know the city. I'm one of those people who will explore the outer regions of Brooklyn and Queens. I will gladly go to the Bronx. I've been to Staten Island. I bet there are many New Yorkers who have never been to Staten Island. I can guarantee you that! Although there are also New Yorkers who truly believe that Staten Island is not a part of New York. I concur because I've been there.
How about this? The day you become a true New Yorker is the day that you're willing to openly berate someone for doing something that frustrates you in public.
Quest: Get out! You've done that?
Chris: Oh, absolutely! I have verbalized my frustration at people before. Actually, it was on the 1st Ave subway station one morning. This girl had a large backpack she was wearing. And she was standing on the platform--the platform was really crowded waiting for the L-train.
This commuter says to her, "It's too crowded for you to be wearing that thing in here!"
She says in response, "If you don't like it, you take a cab!"
He says, "Well, you're the one who has a big bag. You should go and take a cab!"
So I say to the guy, "Why don't you f*ckin' stop judging people and go take a cab"
The girl turns to me and says, "Thank you."
There are days when the frustration level reaches a peak and I can't deal with it anymore. So, I'm going to say something.
On a crowded subway, you know you're not going to get beaten up for voicing your opinion because there are fifty other people around you.
Quest: You seem to have strong sentiments towards the city. Was that always apparent? Were you always a city boy?
Chris: When I was a little kid and even up to the age of twenty, I always said, "I'll never live in New York city. I hate New York city. I hate big cities, in general. You can't even get me to live in downtown Boston."
And now look at a me! I'm living in Manhattan of all places--everything I feared about New York has come to life. It was just an irrational fear. I think it was fear of the unknown. And then I was immediately in love with the city.
Not even the day I moved here, but the day I came here to start looking at apartments. I remember asking myself, "Why did I ever think twice?" And just think, if I hadn't come to that realization, I could be in Boise, Idaho, right now. So I'm grateful for that.
Quest: I'm sure many of your readers are grateful, too! (pause) But what about New York city makes people stay? There's definitely a camaraderie I think is apparent that most tourists miss out on.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. The thing about New York that the denizens get to experience is the community aspect of it all. People look after each other here. Just a month into my moving into the city, was the blackout in August 2003. Things in New York were kinda crazy. Everyone was kinda freaking out a little bit.
I helped this girl who was completely lost. She was in a tizzy when she approached me and lists off her predicament: "The subways aren't running. I can't catch a cab. I don't know how I'm going to get home."
So I said, "Walk with me. You're walking in the right direction."
I got to my apartment, went upstairs got her a map, gave it her, and highlighted the route for her to get home.
The second act of kindness during the blackout I witnessed was where this guy had a fainted on the Queensboro bridge. (I walked over the Queensboro to get back to Brooklyn, which seems counter productive but I was living in Greenpoint then. It wasn't that far out of the way.)
So this guy passed out on the bridge. And everyone was freaking out. It's literally in the middle of the bridge. There was no way we could carry him all the way across the bridge. There were cars on the bridge, but they weren't moving because they were just enveloped with pedestrians, who were also walking across the bridge. So twenty people flagged down a Fed-Ex truck, cleared the way, put the guy on the truck, ran down the bridge alongside the truck, moving people aside to get the truck across the bridge. New Yorkers actually looking out for others in times of crisis? It happens.
Quest: So what's the connection to Vermont?
Chris: This is a funny story. Here's the theme: I'm an idiot.
Quest: ...as it says in your title of your blog.
Chris: Except it's not just the title of my blog. Here's what happened: When I was living in New York. It was a really hot summer, the second summer I lived here. I was like, "I can't stand the heat. I can't stand the crowds. I can't stand this city anymore. I have to get out!!!"
Quest: You had a breakdown.
Chris: I just had a complete breakdown. I'm just like, "I cannot deal with this anymore. I hate slow pedestrians. I hate how stuffy the subway is. Bad example, but I was like, "I hate waiting 25 mins for the G train." (That was my own damned fault for deciding to live in Greenpoint.)
So I was like, "That's it--I'm moving!" I took a job at an ad agency in Burlington, Vermont and moved up there. I lived up there for two winters. Skiied the heck out of those winters--had probably the greatest summer of my life. You remember the Seinfeld episode, The Summer of George? The summer I lived up there was The Summer of Chris. I was on a boat every weekend, out on the lake or hiking, kayaking. I was swimming in swimming holes...
And then I realized: "I am sooo bored up here."
Think about it. There 40,000 people living in Burlington, VT.
And then there are 40,000 people living in a 10 block radius of this pizza place. There are 40,000 people in Burlington and it's the largest city in the state!!!
I realized that I have to come back to the city.
[ Part 4 of this interview can be found here
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007
[To read Part 1 or Part 2 of this interview. ]