Will New York ever be affordable again?

The Travel Episodes

I'm in New York because I've never been to New York. I think I want to verify my picture of this city. I've read novels like Moon Over Manhattan and The Great Gatsby, and seen classic films like Breakfast at Tiffany's and Sabrina. I want to know how much truth there is actually in all of Hollywood tales - and how pink the glasses were that I always wore while reading. Will a week in New York be enough to answer these questions? We will see.

In addition to the books and films that shaped my vision of this city, another image has burned into my memory: a 1500-piece puzzle that showed the New York skyline at night. It wasn't an easy motif and as a child I always needed several days to put it together completely. Being here feels very similar: I try to get an idea of ​​this city. Bit by bit, I combine what I have heard, seen and read with my own experiences.
This is not a best of or howto for New York.

These are my snapshots of a city that I drifted through for seven days.

One of the first discoveries: New York smells like burnt oil. I had expected that in the street canyons the smell of exhaust gas and subway smell would hit me, the “smell of the Moloch”. But the city planners have laid out the street grid too generously for this. Instead, what tickles my nose on almost every corner are the vapors from small mobile food stalls.

Asian, Mexican, halal - there is something for everyone here. A first foretaste of the colorful melting pot of cultures that I will get involved in in the next few days. There is much to suggest that these street cooks all use the same oil and let it burn on a regular basis. The customers don't seem to mind.

So many people live and work here, not all of them can be as sensitive as I am.

Next point: New York is LOUD! Traffic noise and the constant humming of air conditioning or heating literally wafts through the streets. Eyes can choose what they see. Ears hear everything. And that's exhausting. Therefore, it is almost a relief to be able to put on the headphones from time to time and be able to fade out the noise of the surroundings. And in doing so, I was spared the much-touted horn concerts on the main traffic arteries of the city.

Creating your own travel soundtrack also has other advantages. Will I always think of SoHo in the future when “The Sound of Fear” by Eels is in my playlist? I want to hope so much. Because I fell in love with this quarter straight away. In the cliché of old New York with its cast iron facades with fire escapes on every floor and its battered cobblestones. Here you want to move into a loft and look down on the street from the large windows.

There an Asian model is presenting the latest autumn look in high heels, and at the trendy boutique on the corner, a long line of people is patiently waiting to grab a bargain at the seasonal sale.

Could I really imagine living here? First I wave it off. But Esteban, my Airbnb host, was probably right when he said to me over breakfast: “One week is not enough to get used to New York. Stay three months and we'll talk more. ”He used to live in a huge apartment building in Manhattan.
“The apartments are tiny, but when you are young there is nothing better. Such a house is like a small village. Everyone knows everyone. And life is raging right outside the front door. "

That's true. New York never sleeps. And New York vibrates. I'm not talking about the “rhythm of the city” that would have grabbed me in a figurative sense. No, I mean specifically that the ground is shaking underfoot. In the subway shafts, in the skyscrapers, on Broadway and in Times Square. How could it be otherwise in a city that is held together by thousands of steel girders? I notice it for the first time when I'm waiting in Queens for line 7, which is supposed to take me to Manhattan. Away from the center, where my Airbnb is also located, the trams no longer go under, but one floor above the street. On a huge steel structure that has seen better days in many places. No wonder it groans and squeaks and wobbles as soon as a train is approaching - even a hundred meters away. My mind says: You know very well that nothing will collapse here now.

My feeling is: I know, but it's still uncomfortable.

Yes, I speak to myself. This often happens when I'm traveling alone. Because then you have no one with whom you can immediately share what you have experienced. Not even to hug you when you're nervous. But in return, you don't need to justify anything and you don't have to make any compromises when planning your day. I don't have to work through bucket lists while traveling and have seen all the sights. I don't plan when I will eat which restaurant and it happens that I get off at a subway station just because I think the street name is funny. That can be exhausting. Maybe it also makes me seem a little confused - but in this spontaneous way I can perceive the world much more intensely.

In a city like New York you are never completely alone anyway. This fact is confirmed again when I am pushed across the Brooklyn Bridge with hundreds of other tourists. Actually, there are a bit too many people here in too small a space for me, but I have a soft spot for bridges and the Brooklyn Bridge is a pretty old lady by American standards. I just have to look at it.

Around me there are rucksacks with and without selfie sticks, souvenir sellers and photographers with wedding couples in tow. They pose in front of the Lower Manhattan skyline, right next to a sign from the New York Department of Transportation, which announces that it is forbidden to attach love locks as a punishment. No kidding! I think that a token of love on the Brooklyn Bridge for $ 100 would be reasonably affordable, but I also know that love locks can be a serious problem for structural engineering. Bridges really shouldn't have to collapse under the burden of hearts in love.

When I walk through Central Park and circle the second largest lake in the gigantic park on winding paths, there are significantly fewer people on the way. Even if the noise of the city has subsided and the most diverse trees are blocking my view for the time being, I know that on the next hill a skyscraper will surely rise above the treetops again in a surreal way. I wonder how much the apartment house owners are on

Central Park can probably charge their tenants a month for this view and cross the "Lake" at a narrow point over the Oak Bridge.

Suddenly there is a lot of activity. Morning joggers overtake me on a lane specially reserved for them, cycle rickshaws drive the lazy part of the tourist crowd to the next “insider tip” and people with cameras crowd on the lakeshore. I work my way through the hustle and bustle until a familiar melody reaches my ear and I pause in amazement. "Moon River"? Yes, there is actually a musician sitting there and playing the famous melody from "Breakfast at Tiffany's". His instrument with the two strings and the small resonance body seems somehow Far Eastern to me, but the wistful tones it produces are similar to those of a violin. A Chinese erhu, as I find out later. But right now I just feel like Holly Golightly. This is New York. A mix of different cultures, fiction and reality, past and present. However, rarely as harmoniously as at this moment. I am painfully aware of this again when I am standing on 5th Avenue a little later. Before Tiffany & Co.

Although I don't care too much about glittery stuff, I enter the traditional jewelry store with the tiny shop windows through a narrow revolving door. The liveried bouncers can tell at first glance that I'm not going to buy anything here. But I imagine that they treat me as courteously as Paul and Holly did - back then in the film. At least I would like to believe that style is still important here, because next door in Trump Tower you certainly don't do that. And if it does, then it has a negative aftertaste for me. Trump Tower is just as old as me. But that's certainly the only thing we have in common. A sign above the entrance assures me that the building with the ostentatious five-story atrium is “Open to the public”. I don't feel addressed. And dive into the subway. I'm curious where she'll wash me back to the surface.

In the early afternoon, the stop on 5th Avenue looks deserted. An unusual sight, because so far I've only seen the subway in different parts of the city full of people. The New York subway is the most egalitarian mode of transport I've ever used. Everyone rides the subway here. The women with the expensive shopping bags in one hand and the spoiled daughters on the other, the student who sticks her nose into the books and is evidently studying for the next exam, the businessman with the briefcase, the old man who has two completely soaked cold pizza boxes balanced on his knees like a little dinner treasure and the young man with the alibi kippah, which gives you the impression that it is the smallest he has found - and that on this Friday evening he is only carrying it for his own To make mother happy. Little is spoken because almost everyone is staring at their smartphone, but when words are exchanged, you can hear all the languages ​​of the world.

At first I thought that the subway works on the principle of distant side by side. You use the same means of transport, but you are largely in peace. But I quickly learn that the subway is more of a self-regulating system. When one of your employees picks out the best way to get to my Airbnb on his mobile phone on the first day, I still think it's the usual tourist bonus. Four days later, when I rummage in the depths of my jacket pocket for the city map, a passenger kindly advised me that I had just lost my ticket. People slide together on the benches when more people crowd onto the train. Teenagers offer their seats to older women. The man

to my right travels with a mobile cleaning cart and does not notice that one of his oil-smeared rags has started its own and tumbled to the floor. A woman sitting across from us immediately points to the corpus delicti and politely asks him to take the rag back with him. I don't know how, but this system works.

Around the clock, seven days a week. And one evening I'm especially grateful for that.

It's just after eleven and I'm on the train. The car is half empty. I still have the rousing songs from the musical "The Book of Mormon" that I just watched on Broadway. As we drive off, I hear someone rapping on the other end of the car. After a Mexican duo with accordion and guitar gave a spontaneous concert on the train yesterday, I'm not necessarily averse to a hip-hop performance today. But this rap is incredibly aggressive, misogynistic and obscene. Listening is uncomfortable. I know that the train still needs a good five minutes to the next stop. I can't get out of here now. I exchange looks with the other girls in the car. We don't feel comfortable with this guy, but we try to just grin over it. Even when he slowly moves towards us. An old man stands up, a black man with a mottled gray beard, who has a bucket full of cleaning utensils with him, and tries to calm the rather shabby-looking rapper. He speaks softly to him and apparently wants to get him to sit down - which he finally succeeds in doing. Gradually, the tonality of the spoken word changes: It sounds less and less aggressive, but all the more helpless. I don't know what combination of drugs and depression can do that, but I've rarely seen anyone more desperate than this rapper, sitting on the floor like a pile of misery, bobbing back and forth in time.

It is these contrasts that make New York so fascinating. There are the skyscrapers, which soar proudly into the sky, impersonal and polished - and immediately below the widespread subway labyrinth, where it is all the more human. Both sides are inextricably linked by steel and concrete. There is perhaps more glass above and more dirt below, more quiet above and more noise below. But basically they can't do without each other.

I can't quite explain why I like tall buildings and why I'm fascinated by a city in which almost all streets intersect in a completely unnatural way at 90-degree angles. (Apart from Broadway, which is clearly out of line.) In the street canyons some houses hardly get any sun and where so many people live and work together in such a small space that you have to worry about your privacy. "Why don't you go to the mountains," they'd say to me. “The view is much nicer there. There you have untouched nature. You can really take a deep breath. ”That's true. But still I'm here and I'm thrilled. I enjoyed standing on the roof of the Rockefeller Center and looking at Central Park in the north and Lower Manhattan and the Empire State Building in the south. I let myself be carried away by the flow of commuters in Grand Central Station and admired the New York skyline and the Statue of Liberty from the observation deck of the Staten Island Ferry. I've photographed the world's most expensive advertisements in Times Square and crossed the East River by cable car - and I've risked a stiff neck several times by gazing at the skyscrapers from the sidewalk.

I managed to put some pieces of my New York puzzle together. But it is far from complete. The city showered me with its impressions. Some experiences were intense, others just scratched the surface. I could hide the gaps in retrospect and formulate these travel memories in a more harmonious and chronological way. But I don't want that at all. I want a reason to come back. And I will, but not alone.

I am already curious to see in which colors the Empire State Building will be illuminated next time. For now I will remember it in plain white.
"Signature White", as it is called in the official lighting plan. Yes, there is such a thing. And there has to be this person too, this one person who can answer the question "So, what are you doing?": "I'm the head gamer of the Empire State Building."

New York is definitely the city with the coolest jobs in the world.