A couple from the most glamorous state (California) pay a deposit for an apartment via money order (can’t cancel) and has to wait two months to move in. The boiler smokes up, then there’s no hit water, the other tenants move out, and everyone’s screwed. Welcome to New York, folks, it’s a city of con men.
There are some nicer stories, where people don’t get conned, and for several reasons. First, they have no money to get stolen, and secondly, they don’t expect to step off the plane onto a gold sidewalk. A “hip” woman visits Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 1992, a safe place, but very dreary and bleak. By 1998, however, it’s all “arty” types in tight jeans. During that time, she self-medicates her depression by swimming at the Metropolitan pool, and discovers that 10am is “women only.” The women are all local Hasids, badly dressed, pale, unattractive, but they’re happy to be there. They frolic in the pool, not giving a damn about their looks, knowing their husbands will have to put up with them no matter what, no pressure to dress sexy for the men. Now she’s not depressed anymore. She no longer feels like an outsider.
Perhaps New York isn’t much different from LA, in that there’s pressure to look a certain way. In California it’s the beach bodies and health clubs, but here in NY, maybe it’s having to dress in style? Have the best hairdo? Have the best looking kids? There’s a story in this book about a white woman who adopts an Ethiopian baby, and gets nasty comments form both races. So much for the post-racial America of the Obama era. There’s the couple on a film site tour, looking for the house from the Royal Tannenbaums, and they find it, even though the movie takes place in the Bronx. An Ecuadorian teacher finds New York ways beneath him.
Just as E.B. White discovered in the 1940’s, New Yorkers are rarely homegrown; they’re almost always transplants, and know for what we perceive as rudeness. It’s also a city with character, and as each of these people discover, it has its unexpected joys. But if you come here expecting only wonderful things, you’ll end up depressed. Not every neighborhood has a pool, where a depressed Brooklyn woman can marvel at the fat Hasidic women. Some people spend all day at the library, where they’ll see a lot of homeless people. Now that would make for a great story.