I’m finally out in New York for the month of February. I feel like I’ve been talking about going for the better half of 2022 and it finally happened. The last time I was here was more than 10 years ago, back when I was a little kid. I’ve been here for four days now and I want to give my first impressions.
I love going to bakeries. There’s a certain kind of store that Joann says is my kind of store, places like Backhaus and Farmstead. The thing about New York is that there’s one of these places on every other block around where I live. And then there’s like all the other boroughs that I haven’t explored yet. I’ve read endless articles about “Best Bakeries in New York” and every list is a bit different. Maybe I haven’t looked around San Francisco enough but I feel like the density of good food here is just so much higher.
Today’s bakery was Mel the Baker.
He bit into the crispy carmel shell of the chocolate croissant. It crumbled in his mouth and gave way to the gooey chocolate innards that oozed out, coating his tongue. A totally new experience than the al dente chocolate he was used to.
CLANG. The knife bounced against the turtle like shell of the country loaf. He would have to work a little harder to expose the soft fleshy sourdough hidden beneath.
Besides bakeries, there’s also tons of good restaurants here. There’s good cheap eats, there’s good fancy eats, and everything in between. One fun part of traveling is finding good local food. Well, there certainly is no shortage of that in New York. I’ve gotten endless lists of Google Maps pins to the best restaurants in New York. I thought I might cook here but it almost feels like a waste of calories not to try a new restaurant for every meal. I know it’s expensive but my excuse is that I’m traveling.
There’s not too many big chain grocery stores near where I live in China Town. There are a fair amount of Chinese grocery stores near me. I saw this Chinese grocery store in a Bon Appetit video a few months back and I joked to myself about going to find it. Jokes on me, I live right next to it.
I’m not so used to shopping at Chinese grocery stores. The produce section, dry goods, and frozen foods sections I’m okay but the meat isn’t prepackaged. I’ve never bought meat from a butcher before. I’m a bit intimidated because I don’t really know the different parts of cows and pigs. Well, there’s always the Trader Joe’s that’s a few blocks away.
My Hinge profile says that one of my life goals is to “live in a walkable city with good public transit”. New York ticks that checkbox. Come to think of it, I should probably take that off my profile since it’s a bit redundant given my current location. But yeah, everything is about a 20 minute subway ride away, plus maybe a short walk.
Look at those measly bars from the Monday and Tuesday before I came to New York. Since arriving, I’ve been walking more than 5 miles a day. Granted, I’m trying to make the most of my time here so I go out every day. But still, I think the last time I regularly walked this much was back in college.
On my first day, I took two wrong trains. Also, sometimes there’s no reception on the subway so there was another moment when I almost got lost again because I didn’t know which stop to get off on. Andy’s pro-tip was to get Google maps loaded beforehand. I’m learning the lines slowly but for now, Google maps is my version of Jack Sparrow’s compass. I look like him too, pointing my phone in different directions, trying to figure out which way to walk.
The average person dresses much better. There’s a more diverse crowd which leads to more diverse styles. On the two extremes, you’ve got the artist that keep up with fashion trends versus the finance bros wearing tailored suits and wool coats. It’s subtle but it’s noticeable that everyone dresses a little bit better. Compare that to San Francisco, where everyone works in tech so they’re either wearing gorp, techwear (like Tech Lead style techwear, not actual techwear), lounge wear (because they never leave their house), or the r/malefashionadvice uniform because it’s their first time figuring out how to dress. Okay, I’m ragging on tech bros, but it do be like that.
There’s always something to do. You can find tickets to a show any day of the week. I’ve been to a comedy club so far, and I’m planning on doing jazz clubs and maybe a show on Broadway as well. I went out drinking with Max, Hans, and their friends on a Thursday and the bar was packed.
The most surprising thing is that places are actually open late. You can grab a bite to eat past 9pm, amazing! Back home in the Bay, everything closes at 9pm.
The homeless people seem nicer in New York. I have yet to see someone smoking heroine in public. I have yet to see shit that looked obviously human (there’s a fair amount of dog shit though). I have yet to see a tent village. Well, I have seen a dude who was probably jerking off at the library, but I have yet to be yelled at or harassed by a homeless dude.
Some dude got in my train car today and announced “Hello everyone, I’m homeless, does anyone have $3 to spare so I can ride the train again later?” And no one gave him money, and he didn’t get upset.
To be fair, it’s only been 4 days, compared to 20 years in the Bay Area but at least so far, the homeless people seem way more chill.
I personally think it’s because New Yorkers aren’t willing to take shit from crazy people. There’s a sense of “this is my home and I’ll take care of it” compared to the rotating cast of tech transplants in San Francisco who could care less about a city they only expect to spend a few years in.
I’ve been ragging a lot on San Francisco and it’s tech bros in this post. It’s the easiest thing for me to compare New York against. But to be fair, those tech bros are me and my friends and despite all of San Francisco’s follies, I couldn’t see myself leaving the Bay long term. New York City is a dream of a city, but that’s it, it’s just a city.
My focus in life has slowly pivoted away from the city and towards the crag. There’s not much outdoor climbing out here, and it’s hard to justify owning a car, with such good public transport, just to use it to drive out to the crag. The cold doesn’t bother me too much but it’s definitely discouraged me from going out. Compare that to the consistent 60F weather in the Bay, the endless hiking, and collection of outdoor crags. Case in point, I’m flying back to San Francisco during President’s Day weekend just to go climb in Bishop.
I can’t have my cake and eat it too. I can’t have good public transit and realistically own a car. I can’t experience endless alcoholic night life if I want to push my physical limits on the rock. I can’t spend a day out in nature if it’s below freezing.
Oh the things we do for the things we love.