As I spent my 2nd October/autumn trip in New York, I thought about capitalism, commerce, success and failure. It occurred to me that New York has some very unique qualities that are a result of many unique circumstances.
Circumstances = (1) Located near or as host to hundreds of high-quality institutions of higher learning. Columbia, NYU, Pratt, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, FIT, Parsons and even most of the SUNY schools are highly regarded and tend to produce people who rarely are satisfied with the status quo. (2) Unique mix of neighborhoods, social groups, niche markets and people with all sorts of goals and motives. Makes for interesting local politics. (3) Density, along with high demand, make everything expensive. And space is at a premium. (4) Something more nebulous, is simply the feeling that visitors get when coming to New York. It is a magical place (at least for me it is), where you can absorb as much culture and history as you want, browse an amazingly varied selection of products, and still purchase farm-fresh produce at one of the many Saturday-Sunday outdoor markets.
Qualities as a result of characteristics = (1) people don’t patronize crappy places. Restaurants don’t last too long unless they’re good, otherwise there is bound to be something similar and better, and people will quickly make the switch. This applies to products/stores too. The only people walking into the new Hollister store in SoHo are tourists who don’t know any better, and that is the truth. (2) Life is harder, more stressful and people deal with way more stimuli than they need in New York, so at the end of the day, they’re going to spend their money on something that goes above and beyond, that induces pleasure within them. And, they can pay for it, which in turn means that venues can afford to consider all the details. Good ole’ Olive Garden just won’t cut it. (3) Competition is fierce, in all contexts, so people have to seek out the best quality, the best cut, the best fabric, or similarly…the best fried chicken. Like I said, the products that are produced thoughtlessly won’t last long in the shark-tank that is New York.
What makes New York great is that most things are boiled down to their very best…no nonsense, no bullshit. I had at least 8 amazing meals in New York, not all of which were particularly expensive. Similarly, the selection at Bloomingdale’s wasn’t only Hugo Boss and Theory, but rather a much wider range of new, relatively unknown designers. So fresh, so fun and new.
I feel like, in Florida, people just don’t care enough to be discerning. They eat out at the Cheesecake Factory and Maggiano’s (talking about the Florida new-rich now), drive whatever premium brand car they can get their hands on (Mercedes, Lexus, Audi, BMW, Infiniti) and shop at big-box malls in the suburbs where they spend thousands of dollars on Gucci bags and Tory Burch flats. And they love it! It is mindless, fervent consumerism at its ugliest.
It’s all just so…boring! And mundane, and reflects an exhaustingly oblivious attitude to what actually matters in the world. (I’m ranting at this point). I had a brief epiphany moment while I was in Brooklyn, eating at a barbeque place called Fette Sau (name is cool, 1 point). It was a converted garage, where you stand in line and then order your meat by the pound, depending on how many people are in your party. You can have as much or as little as you want, and it all comes on a huge metal tray that you take to your table to share from with your party (2 points). Not only was that somewhat novel, but the interior decor was fun (drawings of different cuts and types of meat), but they had a whiskey bar which offered ‘whiskey flights’ (tasting samples of 3 or 4 whiskeys paired with meat or dessert) and everything was ‘do-it-yourself’ to some extent, which cuts down on the price (points!!!). For my friend and I, with 1 lb total of brisket and pulled pork, a side of broccoli and a key lime tart to share at the end, it was $15 per person. For New York, that isn’t bad.
Compare that to Tampa’s ‘hot’ barbeque place, Smoke, that has boring menu items and mister-fans to keep patrons cool outside, their trump card. Plus, the service is mediocre and it’s still expensive! I’ve only been there twice and wasn’t all that impressed either time. A place like Smoke would never survive for very long in New York. The same goes for many places I patronized in New York (that they were great) and their Tampa counterpart just isn’t nearly as good.
Maybe I’m reading into this situation too much, but in my opinion, things like lighting, decor, menu, and the process of eating a meal just aren’t thought through in a manner that produces new, fresh ideas in areas where people can be and are convinced to eatÂ and shop at places that are mediocre at best, and they don’t protest. Maybe they’ve just never known anything different.
In any case, I may be on a post-trip high still, which explains my love for the city and surrounding areas of New York, but I do honestly think that the quality of life, if you consider visual, aesthetic and sensory details important, is much better in New York. I feel like I need to end up there.
Thanks for reading 🙂
Photo: a panna cotta dessert at Bozu, a Japanese restaurant in Williamsburg that was delicious and very…detail-oriented. See those finely sliced strawberries?