Am I still a New Yorker?

The sound of gushing water interrupted my workflow this evening.

It came on suddenly, from behind one of the walls in the kitchen.

I ran over to see that puddles had already formed on the ground. It was coming through the ceiling and down the walls inside a cabinet we use to stow drinking glasses. The shelves also puddled and the glasses were filling up and overflowing to the lower shelves, ultimately to pool at my feet. The water was warm to the touch.

That’s exactly when I remember! My upstairs neighbor is pregnant. “Mazel Tov,” I shout to the ceiling. The young lady’s water has finally broken, her fluids cascading to the lower floors, for all to share in her joyful event.


So I rush upstairs to wish her congratulations, just as her husband comes to the door.

“I know. We’re calling a plumber,” he says.

“OK, but wouldn’t you prefer a midwife or a maternity ward?”

“What are you talking about? The hot water pipe under our sink burst.”

“OHhhhh,” I said. “I thought maybe your wife’s water broke and that’s what was spilling into my kitchen, and I was going to say congratulations, and ask when she could clean it up.”

“My son was born a month ago,” this guys says, and then slams his door in my face. Can you believe that? For a joke, I go call the emergency operator to say my neighbor was going into labor again, second time in a month. But they weren’t buying my story about how it was a conjoined twin, but it was just coming a little later than his brother. Just like Jacob and Esau.

I can’t help thinking, after tonight’s social activity, that Auckland has turned me into a pussy. If this had happened in New York City, and my neighbor’s wife broke her water, and it flooded into my kitchen, and this shit was going on FOR A MONTH after the first conjoined twin was born, it would have been a lot more disagreeable, and thus a more hilarious outcome than having a door slammed in my face. We would have screamed at each other. Then the husband would have slammed the door in my face, and the plumber would have come an hour later to plunge the rest of the baby out of the clogged womb.

It feels bad when a good part of who you are begins to fade. Maybe not as bad as when a guy turns 60 or so and his penis starts to telescope back up into his pelvic delta like a scared turtle. But close.

New York city was my home, man. It was the Petri-dish in which my cells flourished, as if I were one huge aggregation of E Coli, bred in a research laboratory. But only as a side project for one of the technicians.

It’s been four-and-a-half years since my wife held me at gunpoint, hijacked a plane, and flew us to Auckland. And three and a half years since I was seized with Stockholm Syndrome. I guess this is how long it takes to start noticing when a part of you has died.

A couple weeks back, I had a chance to gauge my remaining New Yorkiness by a scientifically sound list I found on Buzzfeed.

It was a list of 35 things New Yorkers do, and I wanted to see if I still did them.

In the first place, when I lived in New York, I actively gave little to no fuck about Internet memes. So, one strike against me, and I haven’t gotten to the list. Seriously, I only yesterday learned about (circa 1999) from my friend and former colleague, Super Generic Girl, who emigrated here years before me, from a small peasant village on the Iberian peninsula.

The saddest realization an exiled New Yorker finds immediately are all the things they once enjoyed doing, but can’t now because they live at the last Rest Area before the Americas (for Australians that need to use the john, or to buy some crisps). Complaining about the cable provider (#1) is simply a cliche. I miss complaining about a lot of things, but that was never my biggest complaint. I mean as far as cable was concerned, I had more trouble explaining certain Pay-per-View purchases I made at my girlfriends’ apartments. It’s more about things like looking up at night to check what color the Empire State Building (#28) and trying to figure out what the display commemorates, as it changes from day to day. And riding over a bridge on the subway or in a cab, look at the skyline, and remember why you live here in the first place (#35) makes me cry. I know, it’s like the opening of Manhattan: saccharine, overly sentimental-ised, but fucking true.

Panorama of New York at Flushing Meadow. One of my favorite places in the city.

Panorama of New York at Flushing Meadow. One of my favorite places in the city.

There are a bunch of other things I can’t do because Auckland is so different from New York. I really can’t eat at “food trucks” (#10) because there’s, like, really just one, and that’s only there because the owner was a restraunteur who’d run out of petrol and said, “she’ll be right,” and set up shop right where he stopped. I also can not eat bagels as drunk food (#22) because I would not stick whatever passes for a bagel in New Zealand in my worst enemy’s mouth. Or in their bums. It would be a disaster. There might even be a diplomatic incident.


Alley in the Bronx near my childhood home, which was in a different alley.

There are a lot of things on that list I never did, or stopped doing before we moved here in 2009. For example, use to complain incessantly about brunch, but still go to brunch ($4), but I stopped that a long time ago. Mostly because people didn’t usually invite me to brunch a second time.

Weather related complaints such as the lack of central AC in your apartment building (#26), irrationally angry tweeting every time it rains (#9) and always wishing it were another season (#12 and #13) don’t carry over, but do have distant cousins here. The folk-joke about Auckland’s temperamental, Ocean-powered climate is “Four Seasons in a Day” to which I sometimes add, “And all of them are winter”. So fuck you. I’ve got my own problems.

Videon's cute sense of humor. It's almost too cute.

Videon’s cute sense of humor. It’s almost too cute. This is a video rental place that makes me less homesick, especially for Photoplay in Greenpoint.

Which brings me, at last, to those things that I still do, those quintessential “New York” qualities that four years of New Zealand haven’t managed to leech out of me just yet.

The most obvious is cursing a lot (#7). As you might have gathered from reading thus far, I fucking curse more than fucking ever. I shit you not. Back in New York, Jacquie said everyone in New Zealand curses like a sailor who just found out that his favorite prostitute of seven years in one particular port has been a transvestite all along. That’s what I’m fucking talking about. I took Jacquie’s advice in my professional dealings, and I’ve had some pretty fucking colorful conversations with my contacts in the New Zealand IT business sector when I was editor for Reseller News. Which, now that I think of it, may explain why I’m currently unemployed.

I frankly can not see how a New Yorker can manage life in New Zealand without cursing a lot. Have you tried their bagels? Don’t even fucking bother.


  1. In response to your rant on not being a New Yorker I must disagree and illuminate all the good things about not being a New Yorker. Although San Diego is not Auckland and Borrego Springs is not Rotarua I think we can relate.
    I’m happy to no longer be a New Yorker. My temperament and health have improved since I left the city. I’m not as angry and so the world is a safer place.
    When I go out I don’t have to elbow my way to the bars. I have a car instead of a man bag. True I can’t drink to excess and pass out on a subway to end up in New Lots, but Ill take the trade off. Since I don’t have to take the subway I don’t have to listen to the L train sermon, I don’t have to read the card from the deaf guy asking for money, I don’t have to clear the way for the crazed homeless guy with shit down the back of his trousers whose dick is sticking out-at least I think it was his dick, the front of his zipper. I don’t have to put up with weekly parades for the economically impoverished people from the island(s) of….where ever. Yes, you can include the Irish and StPattys day in there. I don’t have to listen to hip hop blaring out of speakers, in fact I’m not forced to deal with inexcusable rudeness at anytime without having the option of getting up and leaving. Bad air? Don’t really have to deal with it. A cold so bone numbing you’d think there were frost giants walking down fifth avenue is nonexistent here. And although nowhere is as diverse as New York I feel as though out here someone turn the dial down on multiculturalism to a much more acceptable degree. Beyond the borders of New York it no longer takes me two hours to go three miles on weekends. Capitalism is not a plague of germs that covers every open space: the backs of men, the sides of cars, bus windows, and the sides of buildings. It doesn’t motivate every gesture like a religion, more often than not people beyond the Hudson do something for you just to be nice. They do it because its Christian. And I hate Christianity so if I can recognize them I can recognize that there is something good in not being a New Yorker. Take stock good friend and thank your lovely wife for breaking you out, and away from the cult of NYC. For that’s what it is, that’s what they do, just like the Marine Corps they try to convince you that to “be hard” , “be tough” , “stick it out like a real New Yorker” is the only way. It’s all a capitalist brand of sweetened Kool-Aid. For more on this mental help buy my book “Breaking NYC” for only 19.95! Send away now to Albany New York….

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