I moved to New York on December 1st, 2011. I flew here from LA with three suitcases. A subleased condo awaited me in the Upper Eastside. I’d eventually move to Astoria for another sublease and have since settled into a hole-in-the-wall in Bushwick. In just three months, I lived in three different burroughs. Yet, I’m still not a New Yorker. Or so ‘they’ tell me.
To be a New Yorker means very little to those outside of the 8.5 million that reside here. However, the term comes with a sense of pride. It’s good to be a New Yorker. It represents a confidence, a toughness and a way to identify with those who’ve dealt with the ‘greatest’ city in the world.
Moving here and paying the high rent, I thought that’d make me a New Yorker. Though, I’m told it doesn’t. I’ve explored this theory over the past few months and no one has clearly defined how to gain this coveted title. Do I have to be mugged into the gang?
I even have an array of New York moments. I tackled a tiny Asian woman who walked out into traffic on 3rd Ave. She was coming off an 18 hour shift at the hospital and had her headphones in. She was listening to Michael Bolton, which is very Un-New Yorker. I helped her up and we shared a slice. I never got her name.
I even saw Spike Lee in Chelsea carrying his beautiful girlfriend’s bags. Seeing the ultimate New York director grimacing, taught me no matter how famous/rich you get, you’re always at the beckon call of a stunning woman.
I’ve seen a fight on a sidewalk in Chinatown, which was enjoyable. I even drank tequila in Chinatown. That was less enjoyable.
On another inebriated evening I sang a Sam Cooke song on the platform waiting for the G-Train to show up at the Clinton-Washington stop.
Once, I saw a homeless man in a wheelchair rolling through NoLita. He had his penis out and was urinating on the sidewalk. People just walked by disgusted, but never told the cops or freaked out. Sidenote: the man had a surprisingly large penis. God took his legs, but blessed him with a huge dong.
I’ve never once confused Houston with Houston. Although, I admit my pronunciation of Astoria throws people off. I’m originally from Oregon, where we say Ass-toria. Here, it’s A-storya. Sorry, I stand corrected.
I’m not registered to vote here yet. However, I lived in Tennessee for nearly three years and never registered there. I stayed registered in Miami Beach (where I previously lived). My vote counts more in a swing state. Well, when they count the votes correctly.
Someone suggested that I’m a New Yorker when I fall asleep on the train and know which stop to get off at based off the rhythm of the train stops. To me that’s easy. I’m a comedian and make my rounds late at night. I mastered that skill in my first week. I told them this and they retracted, “Yeah, you’re still not a New Yorker.”
I’ve been to Occupy Wall Street, both in the Financial District and in Union Square. I only go to Midtown when a friend is visiting or for business. I’ve been sprayed by a cab on a rainy day and argued over a fare. I’ve laid in Central Park, shoeless. I’ve dated women from every ethnic background.
I’ve even been stuck on a train when someone was decapitated on the tracks and witnessed a veteran New Yorker yell, “Okay, get them off the track I’m late for a meeting!!!!” Talk about ambition.
I’ve been beat up, beat down and have loved every moment of this city. So what is it that makes a person a New Yorker? I think I know.
Over the past few months I’ve had opportunities to go elsewhere for jobs that’d pay more than I currently make. I’d have more space in a home and yard if I wished. I’d be closer to friends and family. I’d even be a voice of a community and adored by thousands of people on the radio. Yet, I didn’t go. The reasons for why I stayed vary, but ultimately it has to do with being infatuated with this city.
I want to live and breath New York’s dirty air. I want to eat New York’s food. I want to enjoy New York’s art. I want to bed New York’s women. And I’m willing to give up money and space to do so.
That’s when you’re a New Yorker. When given the opportunity to enjoy more, you stay to enjoy whats in front of you. Or so I think.