Faraway

I’ve always taken great pride in being a New Yorker (New Yawka, thank you).  It’s a huge part of my identity.  When I went to college, I thought everyone at my small liberal arts college would think I was *so cool* that I was from the City.  Turns out, they were not.  Upstaters are not fond of New York City, especially when it seems only people from the City can claim the title of New Yorker.  They also do not like the City’s simplified version of New York geography, wherein you have Long Island, the City, Westchester, and then everything else is Upstate.  They like to tell you about Central New York and Western New York, although to be honest, I would just nod along politely and go back to calling it all upstate.

Point is, even when I found myself in a situation where it was uncool to be from NYC I was still hella proud of it.

Interestingly, in England I get much more the reaction I originally expected when I say I’m from New York.  I have used my accent to command the respect and attention of a class of students.  When people notice my accent (and they always notice my accent), they ask where I’m from, and when I say New York, I have gotten an actual gasp of awe.  Even MR has gone on record saying that he finds the NY accent kind of hot (really??).  I’ve branded myself as a New Yorker.

I think I can claim the title.  Both sides of my family settled in NYC when they got off the boat from Italy and Germany.  That makes me a fourth generation New Yorker on my mother’s side and third on my father’s.  I went to NYC public schools.  I taught in NYC public schools.  My cousin is a NYC police officer.  I used to have a super thick accent, along the lines of ‘dawg’ and ‘cawfee’ and most of my family still does, even when the NY accent is dying out.  I even grew up in Queens, which is one of the more ‘authentic’ boroughs inasmuch as nobody goes to Queens unless they’re from Queens.  Or going to the airport.

It doesn’t get more glam than Bell Blvd, people.

My family being in New York was an institution.  It would always be–until it wasn’t.  The transition started a long time ago: distant cousins moved to Florida; my grandparents sold their house in Brooklyn and moved to the Poconos.  My father’s parents followed suit, and my uncle went to Jersey.  But that was all fine, because my parents were in NYC and they weren’t leaving.

Only–rents got high.  My mom kept looking at apartments and realised she could never move because she could never afford a new place.  My dad got sick and my sister lived too far away to help as much as she wanted.  New Yorkers will know that a drive from Croton-on-Hudson in northern Westchester to Queens is too much of a trek to do on a regular basis.  So my parents compromised–they moved to Tarrytown.  At first I hated the idea of them leaving NYC, but as it happens, I find Tarrytown amazing.  Gorgeous views of the Hudson, amazing restaurants, still proper NY food with good pizza and bagels…MR and I visited my parents there and promptly fell in love.  We would move there in a heartbeat if we thought we could ever afford it.  But we can’t, so we settled for visiting.

Actual view of Tarrytown–it is actually that gorgeous.

 

Also delicious NY pizza here. And the bagel place next door rocks too. I am getting hungry.

Only then my sister moved to Massachusetts.  My dad’s no longer with us, so that left my mom alone in Westchester.  She shouldn’t be alone–she’s kind of isolated from everyone because she doesn’t really drive and everyone’s pretty far.  Not just my sister, but to get to her brothers in Staten Island and Brooklyn is easily a couple hours’ journey involving several modes of transportation, including a boat to get to Staten Island.  So obviously my mom needs to move to Massachusetts.  I 100% think she should do this.

But selfishly, I think that my ties to New York are getting severed.  My children will never be able to call themselves New Yorkers unless they choose to move there.  But even then, won’t they be transplants with their British accents?  And can I even call myself a New Yorker anymore?  I don’t live there.  When I go to the States I will be visiting family in Massachusetts, and I almost spit out the name.  Not because Massachusetts is a bad place (I actually quite like it, if I’m honest), but because it’s not NY.  And the bagels and pizza will suck.  So if I don’t live there and don’t have ties to the City, how can I claim it as ‘my’ city?  Do I have to start saying ‘I’m originally from New York’ instead of ‘I’m a New Yorker’?

When I left NY for England I thought I would probably come back.  But gentrification and skyrocketing rents mean that the financially comfortable life we lead in Coventry is well beyond our means in NYC, an injustice that stings.

This is definitely an existential crisis.  I want to go home, but I don’t know where home is.  Faraway is the City that raised me.  That’s part of me, but I don’t think I’m part of it anymore.  I live in Coventry.  I like England and I like Warwickshire, but if I’m brutally honest I still feel like an outsider.  I’m always the only American, and that gets a bit lonely, particularly when I have to explain/ represent some of the idiocy this country gets up to.

So where is home?  I don’t know.

 

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Source: Faraway

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Misstep, or past employment fails

When I left school, I was shockingly underprepared for the world of work.  I had done some work study and some temp jobs while in college, and I thought all jobs would be like that: show up on time and reliably, do a bit of good work but also mess around on the internet, and everyone would be cool.  I also thought it would be really easy to get a job, since I had fallen into one job after another from the moment I started working.  To top it all off, I had no idea what kind of jobs were out there.  I had a degree in English and French and couldn’t think of a single thing to do with it other than write or maybe teach, a possibility I was considering at the time, but didn’t have the money for.  It was a long road to get to teaching, the career I have today.  Even then, I had to start my career from scratch when I got to the UK.  So here is a brief catalogue of my missteps on that road:

Interview disasters

Nobody told me about interviews, and what to do, and how to behave.  I thought it was actually kind of fun–sit down, talk about myself, be honest, and they would hire me.  I candidly told more than one potential employer that in 5 years I saw myself as a novelist.  I also neglected to read up on companies before interviewing with them and didn’t take notes.  When I didn’t get second interviews I was utterly baffled.  Thinking back now, I shake my head at myself.  Sometimes I start to go into an embarrassment spiral, but I talk myself out of this one: really, how was I to know?  I spent four years at college sharpening my mind, not honing my business acumen.  I could write 20 page papers in French, but I had to be taught how.  Similarly, interviewing is a skill which must be taught, and nobody had taught me.  I was lucky that when I interviewed for teaching posts, my candid answers were exactly what principals wanted to hear.

Job fails

My first full time job out of college was when I was living in North Carolina.  It was for an education non-profit (as close as I could get to teaching without a master’s) and the people were noble minded and lovely.  And I totally took advantage of them by spending most of my day on the internet and doing a bit of work.  My boss had to give me a real dressing down, but she was so nice about it I didn’t really take in the lesson.  In retrospect, she probably should have fired me, she was just too nice.

My next job was when I was back in New York, and my friend got me the job.  I continued in my entitled ways, and they were a lot less understanding.  Although to be fair, I wasn’t nearly as bad because I had barely gotten my foot in the door before they fired me.  And I burst into tears, both in front of my boss and the HR lady, and then later on the subway.  I had never been fired before–I was 22 and was used to getting praise for my work.  But high flyer in the English and French departments of a small liberal arts college doesn’t translate to anything in NYC offices.  I have to say though, standing over me while I packed up my stuff and escorting me out of the building was a little much.  I mean, they were basically firing me because I was acting like a stupid kid.  What did they think I was possibly capable of carrying away?  It would have been humane to at least give me a minute to pack up my stuff and gather the shreds of my dignity.  The random people on the subway were much nicer.  As I sobbed uncontrollably, two people dropped a note in my lap, which read ‘Don’t cry.  Everything will be ok.  From two people who love you.’

I then embarked on a year of temping, which went great, but of course people expect very little of temps so I was a superstar.  They did interview me to go permanent at one place, but  weren’t keen when I told them I wanted to be a writer.  My next permanent job was for a linen company, and honestly one of my bigger missteps was not holding out for positions which were better suited to me.  Seriously–let this be a cautionary tale because there are so many mistakes.

The linen company had some really cool people working at it and I did get to talk to Connie Chung on the phone once, but my boss was awful, and we basically spent 9 months in passive aggressive warfare.  She clearly thought I was being an entitled kid but didn’t give me any real direction about what to do better or what her expectations were.  God forbid I sharpen her grammar when she gave me a handwritten letter to type up.  Eventually she fired me too.  In the end, I was so frustrated I didn’t cry.  I saw it as a mercy killing, especially because I had already applied to become a NYC Teaching Fellow.

Finally, success. Ish.

The Teaching Fellows accepted me, and I started on a proper career, one I loved from the very first day.  I made missteps aplenty my first year of teaching.  I didn’t quite know how to teach the level of the kids, so I wound up teaching kids in Harlem like they were college students.  I didn’t know how to put together a unit or assess their skills.  But I loved literature, and I loved them from the first time I met them.  I would not say I was universally beloved, and I still wouldn’t say that of my students, but I bonded with enough kids that I thought this job far exceeded anything I had done before.  So I learned how to assess them, and tailor my lessons to their needs.  I came home and cried because I couldn’t express the full range of my anger at school, and then the next day walked on air because the kid I had kind of wanted to kill had actually learned something.

Eventually I left teaching in the inner city to teach at Townsend Harris, my alma mater and a specialised high school for the humanities in NYC (read: only smart kids go there).  And I thought as I signed out the copies of The Odyssey and Things Fall Apart that my classmates had used, that that was it.  I had reached the last step in my career, and I would work at good ol’ THHS until I retired.  I was barely in my 30’s, so that felt a bit weird, but I was also very happy.  No more missteps.  I knew THHS as a student, which helped me know it better as a teacher.  I had confidence because I had security.

Until I didn’t, because I moved to the UK.

Beginning a career I’d been doing for 10 years

I didn’t think it would be very hard to switch from teaching in the US to teaching in the UK.  After all, I had worked in a really tough school and a really good school in NYC.  I had seen it all.  But that wasn’t quite true.  I was used to dealing with underprivileged kids who felt that the system was doing them wrong and privileged kids who bought wholeheartedly into the system.  I had never dealt with the kids in the middle.  I hadn’t ever had students who were apathetic.  And most importantly, I had never taught students younger than 14.  I quickly found you can’t treat those kids as adults.

My first UK job was a maternity cover/ general cover job.  I had less prep periods than I should have had because I was constantly on call to cover classes.  Nobody told me about the differences in systems, or what was expected.  I had a coworker, who I felt was always trying to catch me out on grammar.  She’d say things like ‘Oh…I can’t remember all the modal auxiliaries.  I can think of can, may, might, could, would, will… What are the others?’  But in the US, no one uses the term modal auxiliary. At least, no one that I knew of, and after majoring in English and French and taking two other language classes besides, I knew a fair bit of grammar.  Meanwhile I interviewed for a permanent job and there was an A level component.  I barely understood the difference between A level and GCSE, and mining through and understanding what exactly AQA meant by genderlect in their English Language spec was a bit beyond me, particularly because in America, English is English, and there’s no distinction between language and literature.  I still cringe a bit when I think of my interview lesson reviewing genderlect.  I definitely took more of a lit crit approach than I should have done, and didn’t mention any of the theorists I am now so familiar with.  Basically that grammar quiz teacher was sitting in the classroom internally rolling her eyes and me and thinking I didn’t know anything about my subject–humiliating, because I know that isn’t true.

If you’re going to move forward, you’re going to make missteps

Now I’m working at a 6th form college, which is another job I’ve come to love, especially since it consists of teaching only 16-18 year olds and teaching mostly English Language, which is essentially linguistics focused on English.  I want to be as confident as I was at THHS, but I don’t think that’s going to be possible again.  I’m not foolhardy enough to be that confident.  Moreover, switching systems continues to have its issues.  I’ve wrapped my head around the differences, but not everyone believes that.  I have students who fret that I’m not preparing them for their (all important) exams because I haven’t spelled out how *every single lesson* could be used to answer a question.  Meanwhile, Ofsted inspected us last year, and the inspector didn’t like that they had an ‘inexperienced’ teacher doing GCSE–even though that was my 10th year teaching.  It took me ages to figure out what administrators wanted in an observed lesson.  So while the learning curve is, as ever, extremely steep, I know there are still going to be moments where I go wrong, or where people think I’m going wrong.  Not quite the same thing, but with the same effects.  The key is taking it in stride–a lot easier said than done.

 

 

 

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Source: Misstep

Commemorating

So today is 9/11.

Or 11/09 as my British computer is telling me.

And it’s eleven years now.  To the day.  Today, for the record, is also a Tuesday.  In Birmingham it is bright and warm and sunny the same way it was in NYC that day, the same way it was in North Carolina, where I was eleven years ago.

I’m not a person who dwells on that day.  The world watched in horror, but I was afraid.  I was afraid I had lost my mother, that one of my best friends had lost her father.  So many people I know lived in fear that day, and I was halfway down the East Coast, in a state where I didn’t belong and wasn’t particularly wanted by the boyfriend I had come there to be with.  All the phone lines were jammed and no one had internet–certainly not high speed internet.  I have been a lot of places, even set myself adrift in countries where I barely spoke the language, but I never felt so far from home as I did that day.

The fear subsided–my friend was sitting in the lobby of an NYU building in shock while a kind stranger waited in line for her to use the pay phone, when her father passed by the window she was sitting near and rapped on the glass.  My mother was engulfed in the dust of the Towers, but she walked from the World Trade Center all the way up to the 59th Street bridge and into Queens.  Miraculously, a van was going to Flushing.  She said that when she got into Flushing, the heart of Northern Queens and closer to Long Island than Manhattan, everything was normal.  Businesses were open, buses were running, people moving about.  She, covered in white dust, was a ghost, haunting everyone with what had just happened.  Because things were never going to be the same again.

For my mother, it meant sarcoidosis, the disease everyone is thought to have on House.  For New York, it meant a stinking hole, gaping in the bedrock of downtown, where two mighty buildings stood.  I couldn’t conceive of them being gone.  I had left New York for North Carolina but a couple of weeks before, and right before I left, and errand brought me downtown.  I stood beneath the towers craning my neck and marveling at their sheer size.  A month later, I could not conceive that they had been reduced to dust.

In the weeks that followed, I immersed myself in the news.  I started a scrapbook.  I wept when I read the headline in Le Monde: “Nous sommes tous Americains.”  I could not tear myself away.

When it was over, though, I dusted myself off and didn’t want to look back.  There is a part of me that was almost angry when the nation grieved as if it had happened to them.  “You don’t know,” I wanted to say.  “This wasn’t in your backyard.”  I felt protective and defensive of my city.  The first time I went to England to visit my friend, I was at her wedding.  In 2006, when I said I was from New York, the question which immediately followed was what I had seen that day.  But when people espoused the conspiracy view that seemed to have some weight in those days, that George Bush had plotted 9/11 himself, I flared in anger.  He was stupid, he was hardheaded, and he was bad for America, but he wouldn’t do *this.*  A monster couldn’t do it.

So today people remember.  The documentaries come on tv, even here.  They change their facebook profile pictures to the American flag and rainbows, or vows of not forgetting.  There’s nothing wrong in this at all, in fact, it is very moving, but I bristle at it.  I bristle because I don’t want to be there anymore.  I want to move forward.  I don’t want my city defined by this.  All the things it has done and been and seen, all the 8 million souls that pulse through it day after day–they deserve more than to be defined by tragedy.  We New Yorkers are tough.  We are survivors.  We’ll always go on and we defy anyone to stop us.  Which means not living forever in the worst day, but building better ones.

Where I lived in Briarwood, I would take the Grand Central Parkway to get to Metropolitan Avenue where I would grocery shop.  The trip along the Grand Central offered an impressive view of the Manhattan skyline, something I never fail to appreciate.  One day last winter, though, I noticed something different.  Instead of the hole in the downtown skyline I was accustomed to, the Freedom Tower was rising at last above the buildings.  Everyone I knew commented on how one day, it was there, shining.  And it kept growing, stubbornly rising, and I liked that best of all because it showed resurrection, strength, resilience.

In the days after 9/11, my mother said what helped her get to work was the idea of the English after the Blitz.  Bombs would rain down on London, Coventry, Canterbury, but the next morning the people would dust themselves off and go to work and get on with their lives.  Now there are memories and reminders–there are but a few scant remains of the quaint medieval Coventry–much of it is modernistic now.  But life goes on, just the same.  And that, more than anything, is what I want for NYC.

Other things not to miss about New York

I told you there was more.  Starting with:

Winter

Summer is pretty bad, but I think winter in New York may be worse.  The humidity is still around, but it turns into a bone chilling damp that somehow gets inside your clothes.  The temperatures plummet, and in the depths of January the temperatures can reach near zero.  If you’ve not experienced near zero, it is the kind of cold that makes you want to crawl inside a tauntaun.

And it snows.  I used to love snow as a kid–couldn’t get enough of it.  But that’s because there was less of it.  When I was a kid, school closed for snow days only a handful of times, and that was only because I went to private school from K-8.  When I was in public high school there was exactly one snow closure, for the blizzard of ’96.  (Ok, that’s actually 1996, but the Blizzard of ’96 makes it sound more dramatic, like in the Laura Ingalls Wilder book The Long Winter when it snowed so much no trains could get through and they almost starved.)*

Since I’ve become a teacher, school seems to be closed for snow with much higher frequency.  Of course there was the famous time when the mayor closed schools in expectation of a storm that never came, but there have been plenty of other moments.  And then there are the days when school should have been closed but wasn’t, and getting to work was a death defying attempt.  New Yorkers get even more selfish and stupid in the snow, so in addition to the ice and general mother nature danger, the pedestrian or driver must slalom around poorly driven cars and general insanity.

New York snow is disgusting, too.  When it first falls, if you are lucky to be standing somewhere like Central Park, or Rockefeller Center with the Christmas tree, that is really magic–a silent city, a frosting of fluffy snow softening the hard edges of the buildings.  When New York is that quiet, it seems that there really could be peace on earth.  But that only lasts for half a minute.  Then sidewalks are shoveled, and drifts pile up on the sidewalks waiting  for someone to fall in.  Then some of the snow starts to melt, and because the drains are blocked by more snow, lakes of slush form at every crosswalk that only an Olympian could clear.  But dammit, I try, and inevitably get my legs splashed.  What snow remains gets mixed with ice and turns black.  Literally black with all the dirt, and you realize how seriously dirty NYC is.

The mayor

Ok, I’m not the most political person on earth.  I’m not without opinions, but they mostly come from the Daily Show and Bill Maher, and people are always bringing up examples from the news which mystify me.  But I loathe our current mayor.

He is smug and self satisfied, and he thinks he knows everything about anything ever invented, including education.  Somewhere along the way Bloomberg had a teacher that traumatized him and he has now made it a personal vendetta against all educators.  His dumbass ideas make my daily life more difficult, they keep me from doing the job I need and want to do, and they’re hurting the kids in our city, clever kids who need a lot of help, not a lot of tests.  Rah!

Chris Rock once said of Rudy Giuliani that he’s kind of like a pitbull–you really want him around protecting your house, but if no one’s attacking you, he might kill your kids.  This was very true.  Giuliani had his own brand of crazy (anyone remember when people would get a ticket for taking up more than one seat on the subway–even on an empty car?), but I can remember some things he did that made my life better, like the one fare MetroCard.  Bloomberg raised MetroCard fares.  That sucked too.

But you know, Giuliani was crazy too.  And Dinkins was just ridiculous.  I’ve decided–I’m not limiting this to our current mayor (although he is the worst of the lot to me), but all mayors.

Idiots/Inconsiderate People

New York gets a bad rap for being rude.  By and large, New Yorkers are actually good people.  I always say, stand on a street corner with a map (out of the path of traffic) and people will come up to you and helpfully offer directions.  They will even get into jocular arguments with other New Yorkers about which is the best way to go, and help you with your bags (please refrain from theft joke here).

But hey–it’s a city of 8 million people.  Some of them are mean and a lot of them are stupid.  Add to that the oblivious tourists and on a daily basis you can encounter enough people that when you get home you’re amazed you didn’t murder someone.

But, you say, there are stupid people where I live too!  I just yelled at some idiot that cut me off this morning.  To which I say–yes.  But imagine the sheer volume.  You’re surrounded by people on a claustrophobic subway car.  You cannot wait to explode off the train and breathe the free air where the Eloi live. You fear you are turning into a Morlock, but just as you resign yourself to surrendering your humanity because that kid has poked you for the twenty sixth time and the guy next to you is listening to his music so loudly that your own earphones don’t block it out.  But it’s your stop, and even if you don’t believe in God, this seems a miracle.  You claw your way to the doors, they slide open–and twenty people shove you further back into the car because they *need* to get on and don’t understand the idea that if you let some people off, there will be more room.  It is only through some Shark Week worthy thrashing that you find yourself on the platform as the train pulls away.

So you tumble onto the escalator.  Let us say this is Grand Central and there are enough escalators to make you think you’re braving the long dark of Moria, and you’re calming down enough to daydream of the $8 salad you’ll get for lunch.  Maybe you’ll even add the chicken for an extra $2, and live a little.  You’re nearing the top of the escalator…that tourist is staring at the downtown/uptown signs in iconic Helvetica…yes we know it’s a great font and the NYC subway is a pinnacle of graphic design…there are only three steps to fold up before you’re at the top, and the hundred people behind you.  MOVE YOU IDIOT THIS THING WILL SPILL ME INTO YOU.  But they don’t move, and when you inevitably stumble into them and begin a human traffic jam that ripples down the escalator they have the nerve to give you a dirty look.  And you just *wish* you had a Balrog’s whip of fire.

You pop into Starbucks to calm yourself, and you set your eyes on the last blueberry scone and just as you step up to the counter and open your mouth, some jackass steps in front of you, not only stealing your turn, but stealing your scone.  This is what NY is sometimes.  And endless stream of dumbassery.

Gentrification

I loathe gentrification on so many levels, my previous example of Times Square notwithstanding.  It is killing New York, and forcing all the natives out of the city.

One of my all time favorite books, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, opens with a description of Williamsburg, of the Jewish and Irish and Italian immigrants mingling together in the early days of the 20th century.  The opening passages mention the Tree of Heaven, the titular tree, and say that you might come to a nice neighborhood, very refined, but the tree is there.  And then the brownstones are hacked up into flats and mattresses push out of the windows and the neighborhood goes from refined to ghetto.  The tree flourishes because it likes poor people.

Now people are coming and hacking the tree down.  People will pay thousands today for what was a slum a hundred years ago, even twenty years ago.  My uncle used to tell us stories of his rough and tumble neighborhood–Park Slope.

What disgusts me is that people are willing to pay $2000 a month for a one bedroom tenement in the East Village, simply because it’s the East Village.  I would say let them be stupid, but what that means is there are no affordable apartments for people who grew up in New York and see it as a home and not a movie set.  The fiance talks about coming back, but then I wonder–where will we live?  Even the smallest houses on the fringes of sketchy neighborhoods are $500k.  And if a solidly middle class person can’t afford the City, then we must be creating one hell of a class war, on the scale of the French Revolution.  Except roaches could wind up being the foot soldiers here.

Sometimes I worry about the fiance.  He’s all about living in NYC, and planning to come back.  But he’s only been here as a tourist.  And he hates London, which to my eyes has a very similar style to NY.  He’s very cavalier about the winter and summer, for example.  I don’t think he knows that he won’t find any tauntauns to crawl into on those cold days.  It’s very hard to get a permit for them.  Thanks, Mayor Bloomberg.  First you take my soda, then you take my tauntaun.

*You know, when I think about it, those Little House books were pretty brutal. I should have guessed something would be up when in the first book Laura and Mary play with a pig’s stomach as a balloon on slaughtering day.  Echoes of Lord of the Flies much?

Things not to miss about New York – Summer

Don’t get me wrong–this is not a post about bashing New York.  I actually hate it when people bash New York.  Of all the places I’ve traveled to and lived, New York was, is, and always will be home.  But I’m about to leave this home, I need some measure of comfort to remind myself that it’s not all moonlight and roses.  Ok, none of it is moonlight and roses, but a good deal about New York is really cool.    However, you can’t really love something unless you recognize its imperfections.  So in order to assuage myself about leaving, a list of things I will not miss about the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of.”

Originally this was supposed to be a list, but I got onto such a tangent about the heat and beaches that I will have to separate my posts.  Nobody complains with quite the same finesse as a New Yorker.

The past three days have seen temperatures near a hundred degrees.  At 70, New York is delightful.  At 80, a pleasant, summery warm.  But at 90 degrees, New York turns into a sticky, smelly mess.  It’s like a kid with melted popsicle all over his face–if the popsicle were BO flavored and made with sewage and garbage.  On top of that, for some meteorological reason that I do not know (best guess–proximity to the ocean), weather here is almost always humid.  I’ve actually been to Las Vegas and experienced the dry desert heat people always say makes them able to live in places like Phoenix, and what they say is actually true.  That oven like heat is far more bearable than the pea soup of New York in summer.

Ok, so bad enough that summer gets pretty crappy, but a New Yorker’s options for beating the heat are few, and of poor quality.  Inside, most people have unit air conditioners. Buildings are older, and wiring for central air doesn’t really make sense for three months of the year.  So most people have window units in their apartments and houses–you can see them sticking out as you walk down any street in the boroughs, hear their hum.  Inside, of course, the gentle hum is magnified 200 times so that it sounds like you’re sitting in a jet engine, with only a small radius of cool.

So you say–f this, I’m getting in some water.  Good luck finding some.  Pools are only for the very rich, or those with nice backyards, or people who are willing to give over their entire backyard to a pool.  If you’re really rich, you can go to a hotel pool, which seem really swanky but cost probably a few thousand dollars for a summer membership.  The other option is the public pool, but that’s really like being squeezed onto a subway car in tepid water, except there is a slightly greater chance of being the casualty of a cannonball.  I’m not really rich, nor really a masochist, so my option is the beach.

Let me be honest–NY beaches pretty much suck.  You have to walk across a mile of sand to get to the water, and not only is it really difficult to walk across mounds of dry sand (garnering new respect for camels), this sand is also scorching hot, so that by the time you reach the water, the soles of your feet are seared a nice medium rare, complete with grill lines.  But of course, finding a place to set up your towel and chair is virtually impossible because every one of the eight million inhabitants of the great city of New York has decided to go to the beach.  Several loud boomboxes compete with each other, and children scream at a pitch far louder and shriller than seagulls.  But you can’t go back without dunking your feet in the water at least.  You came so far!  So you squeeze your towel in between two others much like wedging yourself into a seat in the subway* and go down to the water.  There are fabled beaches all over the world with glittering water in variegated shades of azure, turquoise, ultramarine, and cerulean lapping gently at bright white sand.   The New York beaches boast miles of dun colored lava sand, as I described, and gorgeous gray, opaque water which crashes onto the sand with such force it’s surprising more of Long Island hasn’t been pulverized into sand.  When I was in Nice they would shut down all the beaches for waves half the size of those at Jones beach.  And should you actually decide you have the superhuman strength to swim these tempestuous waters, you get the delight of experiencing water so cold Jack’s quick death in Titanic makes a lot of sense.  And then an unidentifiable clump of what might be seaweed or human hair brushes against your leg.

The fiance complains how tourist ridden Tenerife and the Costa Brava are.  I don’t get it and I do.  To me the Canary Islands and Spain are exotic destinations.  But when I told him I would be thrilled with a honeymoon in the Mediterranean he scoffed that that was a weekend trip.  I struggle to see the world this way, but yet I understand.  If someone suggested a honeymoon on the Florida beaches as someplace exotic and far flung, I would scoff at them.  I just have trouble aligning Mallorca with Tampa.  However, at all of the above the beaches are better than New York.

England doesn’t do summer with half as much punishment.  Arguably, they barely do summer at all.  The next ten days show temperatures in the mid-sixties with plenty of rain–i.e. April.  I might miss the 80 degree days of basking in pleasant warmth, but after a heat wave, I can honestly say goodbye to New York summers with a smile on my face.  Which might melt off if I step outside.

*Ok, I know I used this simile twice, but it was too apt in both cases to change.