New York City: city of immigrants, flashing lights, the dysfunctional MTA and residents who dream to reach heights as high as the high rises that paint the night sky. I was born in NYC; Roosevelt Hospital to be exact. Schooled in the public school system till 12 years old. Left behind open pompas, corner bodegas, and primos and primas who lived two blocks north, south, east and west, so we could have a better life in Lawrence, MA.
At 20 years old, Mami shipped us back. I was resistant, kicking and screeching like an impetuous Dominican toddler who refuses to drink the Dominican concoction of onions and honey para el catarro. Alas, after 2 years in the small city of Lawrence, 4 years in the suburb preparatory of Andover and 4 years in the fun college town of Amherst, I was back.
I’ve been living in New York City full time for 11 years, and have been schooled once again – this time by the School of Hard Knocks, not P.S. 189. So here are 5 things I’ve learned after relocating to NYC:
- Up, Up, and Away: Like Supergirl, you will develop super sonic eyesight and the uncanny ability to sense danger. What is that crawling on your ceiling? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s a freaking waterbug! Aaaah! Whether outside on concrete floors at 3am or inside your porcelain white bathtub, you will learn to recognize their tentacles: 10, 20 or 30 feet away!
- Don’t Hate Me Because I Won’t Talk To You: The bitch face will become your perfected face. You will growl with your eyes; snarl with your pout; and shank a man with just one strut. You better not let your guard down; cracking a smile because of a clever piropo (catcall) will be his opening. As he follows you down the block, hollering “Hey ma! Let me talk to you, ma,” you will wonder why he keeps referring to you as the woman who opened her pepa™ and pushed out his big head. And that, my friend, will teach you to never break your bitch face again!
- Spare Me The Change: Ignoring Super Star Beggars will become a skill you can add on your resume. The riff raff, which will be your references, include the boys that sells candy bars on the train to “raise money for their basketball team” and the break dancers that almost break their necks when spinning on their heads. The toughest to avoid, however, is the Black elderly man who sings “Ay Que Oya.” He sings in multiple languages and, when you least expect it, will melt your heart when he sings “Lean Back” by Fat Joe and actually attempts to lean all the way back. This will get you. You may give him a dollar just so he doesn’t break his neck and back. But you must resist! Ignoring panhandlers is the New York way.
- Be One With The Rats and Pigeons: Rats and pigeons may be outnumbering humans sooner than later, which is why we musn’t anger them. New York City pigeons are tough. They act like they own the sidewalk. And, like abuelitas hit perpetrators over the head with their purses, pigeons will hover over our heads if we give them any lip. As for rats, well, just make sure to speed up the pace whenever walking past a pile of garbage. They will be waiting for you in every neighborhood! So start learning to run in stilettos!
- Stock Up On Gold Bonds Powder: Winter is rough in NYC, but summers, well, they’re just suffocating! It is so humid here you’d think we were in Miami (minus the pretty beach). It is so sticky and stuffy that when you step outside it’s hard to breathe. The train stations? Good luck not passing out. The elevators to go underground to the train stations? You might as well not shower; you’ll sweat so much. And the stench of armpits may just kill you!
Now, it may seem that there is nothing positive and lovely about NYC, but there is. I’m just too blinded by the California sun. Oh NYC. What will I ever do without you?
Actually, I think I’ll be okay.