How to relax in NYC, Part Two

You didn’t move to New York City to relax. Even today, when the natural New York summer temperature is neck-and-neck with Chennai in June, and 8 million A/Cs vent their hot air directly down your neck as you trot across the melting asphalt of Eighth Avenue into the welcoming arms of Penn Station for a short 2 hour wait for your train, you’re still energized. Or would be, if you would stop being so stubborn and remove your jacket and tie.
The point is: if relaxation needs to be a permanent part of your lifestyle, you’re in the wrong city, pal.

You will, however, need a hobby if you don’t want your head to explode. Almost everyone in New York has hobby (drinking counts).

First, Some ground rules.

Everyone likes cupcakes.

Rule One – Don’t turn try to turn your hobby into a job. That’s the best way to kill your fun and also go broke. The only exception to this rule seems to be people who open storefronts that only sell cupcakes.

Rule Two – Give it a try for a three months. You may think you’d love swing dancing, but then you fall on your ass and you hate it. Keep going for a while, in case it was just a blip. If you really hate it, quit, because that’s not the point of a hobby.

Rule Three – Keep it Family Friendly I recommend avoiding hobbies that are illegal, sleazy, or just plain nuts. You don’t have to, though. This is New York.

Here are the best hobbies for a New Yorker.

Affordable / Outdoors

Fun on the water.

Fun on the waterfront. This is a seasonal activity, but you can usually take a free lesson at one of the kayaking clubs. Get your hat, sunblock, and non-skid shoes and give it a whirl. Later, you can graduate to jet skis that cut across the bow of an eight-story cruise ship with 2 inches to spare.

Urban foraging at its most lucrative.

Urban foraging. This means different things to different people. For some, it means finding ripe mulberries in Riverside Park. For others, it’s just dumpster diving, pure and simple.  I swear I saw someone with a truffle dog in Inwood once. There are also people who supplement their income by harvesting gold dust on 47th street.  I myself have been known to harvest a perfectly good desk that was left on West End avenue once.

Urban caving:  Probably not for the claustrophobic, but at least you won’t get sunburned.

Affordable / Indoors

Handicrafts and DIY. You can go as simple as two sticks and some yarn, or as artistic and complicated as making your own furniture (no, not from an Ikea box. From a tree.)  Pottery. Weaving. Drawing and Painting. Glassblowing.  Casting thousands of pounds of bronze into a timeless classic – that last one might take more equipment than I thought. Better start with jewelry making.

Easier and safer than glass blowing, unless you poke yourself or a neighbor in the eye.

Dancing  Learn some new moves and bring or find a partner. You can try summer swing at Lincoln Center, or just go to a club. Pick a style: ballroom, hip-hop, Broadway, that Irish thing where they’re straight as a board from the waist up but a blur of activity from the knees down. There are dance styles from all over the world, and you can check them out on Dance Parade day to find one that suits your style.

Learn something new  Who’s an expert on tornados? You are! Pick a music genre and learn all about it: jazz, opera, classic rock, Old School, songs popular in brothels during the Civil War – the field is wide open. Art, history, baseball, philosophies that border on paranoia – it’s all good fun.  Learn chess from those guys in the park.  Get to know wine – that’ll keep you busy for years. Anything to get you to stop talking about tornados.

Who’s the expert? This guy. And you!

Book club. I joined one of these once, and it was really fun. First month – I read the book and came prepared. I could have aced the final. Second month, I read the first chapter, skimmed the middle, read the last page and then checked out a review. No worries! By the third month, I got with the program. The program went like this: our hostess (who knew her wines) poured out a lovely refreshing Sauvignon Gris for all. Then she opened with “so…..who read the book?” A few hands. Five minutes later, we got onto the real purpose of the book club: “I hear 7A sneaks bags of empty scotch bottles out to the curb after midnight so the super doesn’t know it’s all from her.” “No, but did you hear about Dan’s wife and that woman in 6b? And the doorman?” It was quite a story, and much better than whatever tepid bestseller we had chosen to read.

I bet she gossips about the neighbors, too.

Crazy Expensive

Miniature yachts.  For the amount of time and money some of these people put into their model boats, they could own a real boat. You’ve only seen these things in Stuart Little – but don’t tell that to the geek in a sailor hat holding his remote control at the edge of the model boat pond in Central Park. He takes this crap WAY too seriously. I’m not sure what these guys think of model train fans, but I wouldn’t want to be sandwiched between them at a dinner party.

Here’s the only character who can have some real fun on a miniature yacht.

Poker. You can lose thousands of dollars in 30 seconds flat, and then just keep losing. There’s a saying in poker: look around the table; if you can’t see the sucker, you’re it.

Climbing Everest. Like life itself, this activity is inherently dangerous and expensive. Unlike life, it’s also pointless and open only to people who I’m sure are lovely when you get to know them, but always come across as total douches during an interview.

Anything having to do with horses. Horses cost a ton. If you walk behind them, they try to kick you. They don’t do well in an urban setting, so unless you can take your helicopter to your Kentucky horse farm, I suggest seeking an alternative activity in New York: tropical fish are nice. If you want something larger, check out huge dogs – not just big dogs, but the kind of dog that can stare you in the face standing flat on the ground. Maybe a small horse wouldn’t be so different, after all.

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