Sullivan's reasons for getting frustrated with New York City are pretty legit; pretty common, too. He cites the difficulty of ever-so-simple things, or things that should be relatively seamless and without extensive effort, like "getting online or using your phone," like dealing with Time Warner, like dropped calls, like the fact that delivery of couches and televisions might be unreliable. And if it doesn't go well, you're stuck another day home waiting for the right thing, because you have to be there to sign for it, we'd add. Those things are not so easy here. Laundry, for instance. Dish-washing. Central air. And it's expensive! Sometimes it seems as though the city hates you. As he writes:
Scalding hot water comes out of the cold faucet - randomly. And the space we live in is one fifth the size of our place in DC. Just to walk a few blocks requires barging your way through a melee of noise and rudeness and madness. And a glance at your bank account shows a giant sucking sound as the city effectively robs you of all your pennies at every juncture. When you're there for a few days or a week, it can be bracing. But living with this as a daily fact of life? How does anyone manage it?
Whenever we talk about New York, lots of people have opinions, and generally they fall into fairly passionate camps of pro- and anti-. It's hard to be grey about New York, because it's such an active choice to live here—you can't just roll along easy-peasy, you've got to pay, you've got to work (work to live, but also work to, say, cross a street or tote home a bag of groceries), your entire being thrums with the decision you have made to make this your home, permanent or not, and the intensity inherent in that choice. Relaxation becomes a state for when you're at home, in bed, when the lights are off and your eyes are closed, or in another town, on vacation. Living here is the opposite of relaxation for most if not all of us. Sometimes, the weird manifestation of that is that you're afraid to leave, for fear of missing something, for fear of losing that pace and momentum that you manage to keep up because you have to. (That's probably an indicator that you should, in fact, get out of town for a bit. I tried it recently for the first time in more than a year. It was O.K.!)
Some people who haven't ever been to New York hate it for what it stands for, or because they see it as a vague threat to their way of life. Some people just wouldn't want to live here. Others wouldn't live anywhere else. But at base, it's a city, just a city, just a place in which people reside and live out their lives, paying their income tax, tucking their kids in at night, but also, in, in the best case scenarios, whatever way in which they choose. Beyond that, of course, it's a city like no other; a city that's faced unprecedented challenges; a city that survives despite the odds, in some ways. But no other city is like any other, exactly, now, is it? And people get nationalistic about their cities—take the recent conversation about how hip or not hip (and perhaps never to be hip) poor old Washington D.C. is. We are loyal. New Yorkers are not different, even as there's infighting among New Yorkers about what being a New Yorker is.