When does the magic of a city wear off?

San Francisco and New YorkI live in an enviable corner of the world, the San Francisco Bay Area. But living in any place for an extended period of time, no matter how great, forces you to confront the inevitable drawbacks to any place. I have separate lists for San Francisco and Oakland, but in general, they could stand to be a bit warmer and more mature culturally.

I’ve adored New York City for decades and have wanted to live there as long as I can remember (I grew up in nearby New Jersey and always felt in awe of our neighbor while living in its shadow). I’ve loved every trip there as an adult (almost always in the summer). I love the sultry weather, the diversity, the gritty realness, and, most of all, the energy that you can only have when you have 1.5 million people (twice that of SF) from all over the world crammed into 34 square miles (SF is almost 40% larger).

It’s not that much of a stretch to imagine how all those things that make NYC wonderful could be turned on their head. High humidity isn’t fun when you’re dressed up and are in a rush (or when the A/C breaks). People still get mugged on the subway. The high population density makes rents and property high, and the cost of living near-astronomical. I’d imagine I’d have to switch from Zabar’s to the neighborhood bodega, and I’d have to learn to love drinking longnecks on my stoop instead of enjoying martinis at Splash, if I actually lived there. I don’t have a feel for how New York’s quality of life is income-dependent because I’ve never had the experience of living there.

And, besides, there are a few things that make SF special (this is for you, ya cranky asshole; hope you enjoy having your face rubbed in it):

  1. the city’s youth makes it open-minded, liberal and very creative
  2. dress is always casual; dressing up is always optional
  3. the constant chilling breeze keeps the air clean
  4. no metro area has a better pulse on new technologies
  5. the food is great; wonderful ingredients and vegetarian-openmindedness
  6. large Chinese population (an ethnic group I’ve always felt an affinity towards)

But, then again, NY has:

  1. all age groups adequately represented, giving the culture broader, richer perspective
  2. the seasons (all four of them!) give everyone an opportunity to diversify their wardrobe
  3. predictable weather (if it’s summer, it’s hot and going to stay hot through the night, which makes nightlife a dream)
  4. a heady artistic and intellectual undercurrent, supported by the city’s huge art and publishing industries
  5. excellent high-end restaurants and real pizza and bagels (something I’ve missed living out here)
  6. large Jewish population (another ethnic group I’ve always felt an affinity towards)

I dunno. I suppose living in NY for something longer than 6 months would make me realize that the place isn’t perfect. I thought Amsterdam was phenomenal when I spent a week there; living there made me think it was cold (weather & people).

I guess our ideal scenario is 6 months of the year in the Bay Area, and 6 in NYC (a warm spring-fall in NY, and a milder cooling-off in SF). If that isn’t an incentive to make money, I don’t know what is.

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