April is the cruelest month
Breeding tourists out of large buses with reclining seats
Mixing them with pollen.
Hey, listen. I know that both tourists and pollen are a sign of Spring, and Spring is good. In 2018, New York City will experience spring starting at noon on Friday and ending Saturday morning, at which point summer will usher in 80 degree temperatures and both
the pollen and tourists will be in full bloom. It’s a mixed blessing. On one hand, these are sign of a healthy economy. Bees flock to the flowers, and millions of tourists flock here, to spend their hard-earned simoleons in New York City. Teeming hoards always attract yet more teeming hoards, and masses of tourists validate what New Yorkers already know: we live in the best city in the world, one that millions want to experience. Quick disclaimer – when I say “best city in the world”, I know that Hong Kong, Paris, Singapore – insert your favorite here – are also in the same category. So get off my case.
On the other hand, both tourists and pollen bring a daily level of stress and annoyance during peak season. Inexplicably, peak tourist season never coincides with the best weather OR the cultural calendar. I guess that’s why the local Robber Barons get out of town as fast as they can, once they spot the first belt-pouch on Fifth Avenue.
So here’s to all you tourists out there. You want to see New York City? Here are some quick tips that will help….me. They won’t necessarily help you, but they might keep you out of trouble.
Before you begin, please watch this brief instructional video. Heed its subtle warning.
You’re not at the Mall
Perhaps your natural impulse is to saunter obliviously down the street in clusters, pausing to do selfies, forming an impenetrable sidewalk dam. I actually spent a day with some ottatowners who told me, “we kept hearing voices saying ‘excuse me, excuse me’ all the time we were walking around on Broadway. What was that?” That was a stream of irritated New Yorkers letting you know that you are committing the worst sin possible: you are impeding the flow of pedestrian traffic. And you don’t even know it.
This Ain’t Disney
Unlike a Disney Cast Member, the average New Yorker is not here so you’ll have a memorable, fun vacation. Memorable, maybe. But fun? Quite the contrary.
If you’re blocking the train door, we will not be nice about it. If you’re lost, tough noogies. If you can’t tell uptown from downtown, that’s not my problem. I got problems. That’s not one of them. If you think you can just start videoing me as a charming backdrop to your big New York adventure, you may get your phone ripped from your fingers, which is a different kind of adventure.
Think of it this way. At the zoo, the lions are in big enclosures and you’re on the other side of a deep moat with a high wall, eating your Cracker Jacks and pointing with glee. On the Serengeti, there’s nothing to stop you from waltzing right up to the head lion and poking a stick up his nose. You COULD do it, but should you? That’s a personal decision you’ll need to make on your own. Guess which scenario is most like New York City?
Don’t ask me about 9/11
It was a long time ago to you, but it feels like yesterday to me. No, I’m not going to talk about it with you. How would you react if a complete stranger started quizzing you about an intensely traumatic personal experience? “Your Mom died when you were 12? Wow! What was that like? Must have been awful!”
Don’t cross the street
You’re the middle tourist in a big sidewalk dam on the corner. Suddenly, someone starts to cross the street. Mindlessly, you follow the herd.
Well, don’t. You’re in way, way over your head. It takes the average newly-minted New Yorker a full YEAR to figure out the technique and timing of crossing the street in New York City. You have to know the lights, the difference between an Avenue, a Street, and a Wide Street. You have to learn which taxis will stop before hitting you and which won’t, and when it’s safe to step in front of a speeding police car. It took me many long years to achieve my black belt in jay walking. You? You’re better off standing meekly on the curb and eyeing the “walk/stay” sign until you can safely put a toe on the asphalt. Even then, I recommend you look alive and watch out for bicycles. “But I had the light!” is not the epitaph you want your loved ones to read on your tombstone.
Go to a museum
I’m always amazed when I ask people what they saw in New York, and they say “the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, and Times Square.” Really? The Met? Museum of the Moving Image? The Whitney? Carnegie Mansion? The Museum of Sex? No? Humans have been creating art for thousands of years – it didn’t just start when your little pinkies got embedded in Playdoh circa 1998. Go see what other people throughout the world and across the ages have been up to. I guarantee your home town does not have an authentic Egyptian temple built in sandstone 2000 years ago, complete with real graffiti carved in 1832, and a reflecting pond with stands of living papyrus reeds. Even if your home town is Las Vegas.
Try some new flavors, fer crisakes!
You’re in New York City. The best, craziest, most varied city in the world. Are you really going to have dinner at Olive Garden every night? Try a food cart! Try Ethiopian (oooo, no silverware!) Try a fermented egg in Chinatown! If you must stick with meat and potatoes, at least go to Coney Island and eat a Nathan’s hotdog, or get a corned beef at Eisenbergs (“raising New York’s cholesterol since 1929”). If you’re still pining for Olive Garden, try this substitute once you’ve returned home.
DIY Olive Garden Feast
3 frozen trays of Swanson’s Manicotti in Sweet-n-Sour Sauce One package L’il Debbie Flaccid Breadsticks One tub margarine One box Costco Pinot “George-E-Oh” Large Onion – get the huge kind with no flavor 4 packets of ketchup Box of Nilla Wafers (box removed) Medium Sofa Cushion Venti Blonde Caramel-Mocha Hazelnut Frappuccino 1 cup sugar 1 cup mayonnaise substitute of your choice Rainbow sprinkles Alexa
Ask Alexa to play Andrea Bocelli and Yanni, and to lower the lighting until visibility becomes difficult but not impossible. Open tub of margarine and let it breathe. Heat breadsticks for EXACTLY 12 seconds in microwave, then slather margarine over.
Meanwhile, prepare manicotti according to instructions. When steaming hot, place on large Thanksgiving serving platter (this will serve as a dinner plate for one). Deep fry whole onion (peeling is optional), open wine. Drink wine, and serve manicotti with onion, reserving ketchup as dip.
To make the tiramisu: Smack Nilla Wafers smartly against countertop a few times, then sit on results for several minutes, using cushion as a buffer. Pour into elegant crystal dessert bowl, removing tough outer cover of the sofa cushion. Stir in Frappuccino and sugar, top with mayonnaise substitute. Garnish with rainbow sprinkles (use chocolate sprinkles for a more sophisticated presentation).
…and last but not least:
You’re in my city. I don’t go to YOUR town and tell you how many bulls you need to run a proper rodeo or say you should be using chocolate sprinkles instead of rainbow sprinkles, or ask if it’s still legal to marry your cousin, or if you have any restaurants that aren’t in a gas station. Don’t come to my town and demand a “subway schedule”, complain about the crowds and smells, ask if I’m going to mug you, shriek when you see a rat, ask where you can park in Chinatown (you can’t), or tell me everyone here is so “exotic”.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m always happy to help. I’ll be glad to give you directions for how to get to the Museum of Sex, to tell you that Zabar’s is closed for the night, and to let you know you can’t get to Brooklyn from the uptown platform. I’ll point helpfully to the East Side and give you the wide-street block count to get there. I’ll use your phone to take your picture (but not in the subway). I’ll alert you to the fact that a city-wide blackout has just begun, and you need to find a safe place to sleep and some spare water, and no, I’m not joking. I’ll call 911 if your husband collapses from heat prostration while waiting for a Central Park carriage ride, and I’ll even go to the hospital with you.
But you’ll have to ask nice, or you may be getting a New York experience you hadn’t counted on.