New York, the Rotten Apple
New York City is immortalised in pop culture as the place where anything can happen and dreams come true.
Frank Sinatra reckons if you can make it there you’ll make it anywhere. The Sex & the City gals have made us believe there’s an endless pool of dreamy bachelors waiting to show us their skyscraper. Fame promises that any over acting, annoying teenager in a leotard can crack the big time. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York proves that NYC is just a giant playground. Even Ugly Betty and 30 Rock show us that book smarts and quick wit can get you just as far as big bucks and good looks.
But after living and studying in the Big Apple last year, I discovered the city is less like Gossip Girl and more akin to Sylvania Waters with rats. And cockroaches.
Before I left Australia, I was just as excited and expectant as any other foreigner making the pilgrimage to popular culture’s holy land. I’ll admit I even had tears of joy welling up in my eyes as I landed at JFK airport.
But after doing all the obligatory touristy things like seeing the Statue of Liberty, visiting Times Square, and getting involved in a break dance battle in the Bronx, the city quickly turned into a dystopia.
The initial awe of seeing Manhattan’s majestic towering buildings wears off once you realise you won’t be able to see the sky again until you get to New Jersey. And then you’re in New Jersey.
And New York is reckless and irresponsible in its use of the term ‘park.’ Apart from the admittedly impressive Central Park, apparently any small section of concrete with a tree planted nearby is enough to warrant park status. The closest thing you’ll get to a slippery dip is a drunken homeless guy holding his pants open asking if you want to go for a ride.
Similarly, the city is sadly unaware of what actually constitutes a beach. Here’s a valuable lesson for everyone, if the ratio of syringes to sand exceeds three to one, then stop fooling yourselves and call it an outdoor injecting room (I’m looking at you Coney Island).
New York is constantly lauded as being at the centre of the fashion world, but I was largely disappointed by its offerings. I expected to see people adorning Lady Gaga-esque creations on every street corner, but it’s just an endless parade of hipsters wearing what looks like last season’s collection from Supré.
Even in the so-called trendy areas like SoHo, the East Village, and Lower East Side, the fashion is about as cutting edge as Daryl Somers.
As for the subway, while it may be the most convenient mode of transportation, it’s essentially a glorified urinal, and there’s a genuine risk of contracting some sort of obscure airborne disease just by breathing in that stale underground air.
And the best show you’ll see on Broadway is an Italian tourist haggling with a street vendor for the lowest price on a ‘genuine’ Louise Vutton or Colvin Klien handbag.
The entertainment is even better on TV, with the Americans’ unique brand of advertisements. While we’re lucky if we get the occasional ad for thrush medication on our small screens, the Yanks broadcast every single genitalia/contraceptive drug ever invented. Sure we’ve all seen a good pun filled condom ad, but how many have you seen for diaphragms, the pill, and even contraceptive injections?
Not only does American TV have all that, but the vision of groups of women happily sipping tea while murdering their ovum is accompanied by a cheery voiceover warning “side effects may include infertility and suicidal thoughts.” Both guaranteed ways of warding off any unwanted pregnancy.
There’s one thing I can’t fault New York on though, and that’s sport. New Yorkers are some of the most parochial and dedicated sports fans I’ve ever encountered regardless of whether their team’s on top (Yankees, Jets), on the bottom (Mets, Knicks), or merely obscure (Islanders, Liberty).
Needless to say, it’s not enough to rescue the bustling metropolis from its overrated tag. Much like a phone sex line, it promises so much and yet delivers so little. So while the Big Apple may be sold to us as the land where all your wildest dreams will come to fruition, beyond the façade lies a decaying, rotten core.
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