the best is yet to come

The L-Pocalypse and other (good and bad) impressions of being back in New York

One could always say, 'at least it's not the G Train'?
At least it wasn’t the G train?


Uber has been such a lifesaver. On the grand scale of things, I really don’t think much has changed since I’ve left the States (Kombucha is still a thing. Everybody, calm down; there’s no need to panic). But the one thing that I would say has actually been a shift is Uber everywhere.

Last week, I took my first Uber. I also threw up on the I-278, off the side of that Uber (partly because I have a weak stomach and partly from a three-day-long case of jet-lag). When the L-train ceased all function the past weekend and the only means of getting into Manhattan became the G (NO. NO. NO.) or the MTA Bus (Don’t even try it), Uber had $2.75 car pools along the L, meaning my 45-minute commute into the city via the Williamsburg bridge and half a mile of traffic on Delancey only cost as much as a Subway ride. Not bad for a company supposedly run by a bunch of beer-slinging bros.

Calculating Tip. 

I still feel (more than) mildly incompetent, because my inner tip calculator is totally screwed up. Once, I wielded the uncanny ability to perfectly divide things into 18% chunks (stemming from my first job as a Sushi waitress) but a year in China has completely destroyed that part of my brain.

Trash cans and paper napkins. Everywhere.
Coming back, it’s always the little things that get you. Seeing large, spacious, neatly-labeled trash cans on the streets has been blowing my mind. Seriously. Trash cans, that’s what did me in. I’ve noticed there’s a Chinese habit of sometimes throwing trash on the street (one that I’ve definitely picked up during my time in Shanghai) but here, you aren’t allowed to do that. And you don’t need to. Because there are trash cans everywhere (have I emphasized that enough? There’s at least three in my line of sight now). I am, however, still so blown away by the overabundance of said trash receptacles that I’m perpetually forgetting to recycle.


Earlier this morning, I caused a scene in the Strand bookstore (18 miles of books! And one staircase covered in sticky beer-tea juice!) when my (paper) Whole Foods bag tore and the Kombucha bottle inside exploded. Before leaving for China, roughly 80% of my diet consisted of Kombucha and Greek Yogurt. None of those things can be found in China, so it’s been a hard year. My time in Shanghai has been full of well-documented intestinal agony, already remedied my American probiotics. In the last year though, Synergy (Organic & Raw, according to their label) has begun adding ‘Contains Alcohol’ labels to their beverages. That still doesn’t explain why every bottle of Kombucha I’ve had on this trip has rabidly and violently exploded its contents all over the floor upon being opened.

Subway rats and the mild smell of pee

New York is sort of a dirty city, but it’s a different kind of grime than the one of Shanghai. For one, I’m no longer covered in a fine layer of dust. Yes, the subway reeks of vaguely-cologned BO and the L-Train tends to have a shellfish-y tinge after 5pm. Despite everything, I keep on having to (literally) remind myself to breathe, because this air is cleaner than anything I’ve been breathing in the past year (what a sad statement, right?)
Before this trip, I had never been to Williamsburg. My last Uber ride, I started talking to a photographer who’s been living in the city for 10 years and had never been to Astoria (people actually talk during Uber rides? So neat!). It’s crazy how these things manage to happen. Norwegian coffee notwithstanding, Williamsburg’s pretty cool. It’s still filled with a number of walking stereotypes (No, I don’t want to hear why Starbucks doesn’t count as a real barista experience), but also Hand-Crafted Hot Sauce Apothecaries and Chicken & Waffles restaurants (ok wait, these are actually still stereotypes). Due to some Visa issues, I extended my stay to New York for most of last week and stayed in Bushwick because I figured it might be fun to stay in another neighborhood I had never been to before.

Strangers who offer to carry my luggage or beseech me to fellate their genitals. 

Above all, what I’ve missed about the U.S. have been the people. Despite what everyone says, New Yorkers have a certain sense of communal compassion. When I had a really hard time coming off of local anesthesia last week (so much that I threw up, but that tends to be a common reaction from my weak stomach) and almost fainted in the doctor’s office, the nurse sat with me to make sure I was okay and brought me ice packs and Andes mints. While yes, that should sound like a part of her job, when I wasn’t feeling well in a Chinese hospital (just two weeks ago), the doctor yelled at me so much she gave me a panic attack. I’ve missed apologizing when bumping into people or even the simple thrill of telling the creeps on St. Mark’s to shove it when they ask me to ‘use my mouth on their genitals’ (in less nice terms, natch)

The Narrows
Next time you’re in Bushwick, stop there, for the Frozen Negroni machine and the $1 oysters. The Narrows, I don’t know you well, but I’ll miss you too.

0 thoughts on “The L-Pocalypse and other (good and bad) impressions of being back in New York”

  • Seems like China “roughens” people up.
    Each time friends of my wife were back in China for a few weeks or months and came back to Finland they seemed like different people, as if their human side had left them (ok, not this drastic) Littering eveywhere, not standing in line and shouting a lot 😀

    • I absolutely feel more wild in the U.S., especially in restaurants when the urge to shout 服务员 to call someone over is the strongest. But I do feel like China’s also made me more assertive in some ways 🙂

  • You know your American points of reference are as baffling to us as the Chinese ones. Funny that. I know of Uber but thought it was banned in New York.

    And tipping is the thing that frightens us most about America. I don’t know if I mentioned this to you before (possibly?) but on an American podcast I listen to they discussed between them what they considered the different tipping percentages for everything in America. To an outsider looking in: frightening.

    p.s. In the UK we still have medium coffee and you’d get nowhere asking for a “twelve ounce”.

    • I think AirBnB is actually the one that’s been banned in NYC, but I actually stayed at two AirBnBs during my time back so it’s still very widespread. Uber’s actually pretty great. It loses money on its promotions like the ones this weekend because one of those rides would typically cost ~$30, but it does this to keep the customer base.

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