Friday, September 30, 2011


When I get out of the train in NYC, on those occasions when some university business demands it, I feel very much like Bisou when she first goes outside on each of her dozen-odd trips to the magical land of "outside," especially now that the leaves have started to fall, which makes the ground that much more interesting. It's sensory overload, but in a good way. Mostly. It's amazing how quickly even someone who probably still seems so very New York, who at any rate still looks Ashkenazi and hasn't yet started buying clothes at Talbots, can find the city huge and dense and odd. I totally had the suburbanite's reaction to the break-dancers on the R, a mix of surprised and entertained, neither of which I would have been a month ago. And the crowds - how does one navigate crowds? Unfortunately a friend of mine visiting NY now from Paris caught me in this state, and I was too overwhelmed by the mix of errands and OMG-NY to be such great company. Alas. I may just have to go back to Paris at some point. How horrible.

I at any rate now have two pounds of ground coffee from Oren's; some Essie from Ricky's; some cash from the bank I use that does not have a branch here, a symbolic gesture because it's not as if I ever shop anywhere here; a bottle of non-Princeton-priced wine that will partly make its way into French onion soup; and a couple cheap but pointless items (Barilla bucatini, disappointing olives) from Eataly, which is both worse and more expensive than I'd remembered. I mean, what kind of Italian gourmet megastore only has pre-bottled (as vs. fresh-ish) pesto? This is something the Italian grocery I can bike to can manage. And all these tiny pieces of cheese for upwards of $10. And all these fancy city-folk eating meals at some restaurant where you have to stand. Pfft.

The problem with treating NY like one giant megastore (not redundant when one considers the amount of practical items and condiments I'd like to be purchasing) is that on these trips, I need to get whatever I've bought back by bike. In the dark. I had visions of tacos, of Thai food, of six or seven mid-sized bags from the Fairway. What's tinted moisturizer like? Should I get a second pair of the "skinny" cargoes from Uniqlo that I wear every day consecutively until they become too, uh, Bisou'd? When what I did buy was, it turns out, pushing the limit of what I can get back comfortably. There will be no stocking-up. I will learn to live with weekly shuttle trips to the supermarket and the knowledge that if I really wanted to, I could bike to a store that makes its own mozzarella. It could happen.

Other than those of us who live in Euphemistic NJ but go to grad school in the city, my sense from the train is that the only people who make the ENJ-NYC trip are, not shockingly, gay men. College students, grad students, professors, no doubt all of these, but all of a sudden the preppy subsides, the women disappear, and - if the clothing that alerts even my own notoriously weak gaydar is to be trusted - one is in a kind of mini-Chelsea, which is, after all, next to or near Penn Station, depending which real estate broker one asks. I think the Dinky can fit the exact number of gay men likely, statistically, to live in this town, and that these are the only people with any pressing need to get out of ENJ come the weekend. On the one hand, proximity to NY has to be a plus, but on the other, one gets the sense that this place is so small that even single straight people run out of options two weeks in. But make a note of this, NY-based gay male readers: for a mere $33 (or half that, if you decide to stay), you can meet a nice-looking Ivy dude who's been facing limited options for at the very least the past seven days.

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