4 Underrated Things About NYC From a Guy Who Doesn’t Hate It There as Much as He Used To


So, the title is somewhat misleading. Even though every time I’m there it’s cold and hot and wet and generally smells like a lit candle stuck in a pigeon’s ass, I never actually hated New York City. I just felt uneasy, awkward and overwhelmed. Basically, visiting New York City is like watching Funny Games.

But in the past couple of years, I’ve come to appreciate certain characteristics of it that I had overlooked—stuff that New Yorkers themselves perhaps don’t even realize is unique to their city. Behold, below, a short list of these things:

1. Uber drivers don’t talk to you.

Perhaps this is just something that happens with me. Maybe everyone else gets litigators and LaVar Balls as their drivers, or maybe the drivers I get intuit “This nigga must be an INTJ” and instinctively avoid small talk with me. Either way, I get in the car, they say, “Damon?” and I say, “Yup.” And the next words said are at the end of the ride, with me saying, “Thank you” and them saying, “Five stars, please”—a stark contrast to the drivers in Pittsburgh, who want to talk about the weather and my dreams and shit. Fuck the weather and my dreams, please.


2. Y’all have all of the clothes!

I have thighs and man-ass. Which was great for basketball and football because it allowed me to mine power and a favorable vertical leap from them, but it sucks when trying to find pants that fit and are fashionable. For instance, Levi’s 522s were a godsend for me. Until those bastards discontinued them. And then tried to rebrand them as 512s. Which are ... eh, but workable.

But the only place you can find a nice selection of Levi’s in Pittsburgh is Macy’s, which often might not have your size or the color you want. And then your only option is the internet, which ... who really wants to order jeans on the fucking internet? But in New York? Shit. There, you can go to the Levi’s flagship store with all the damn Levi’s. It’s Levi’s bukkake. You might even share an Uber with Frank Levi—or whatever the fuck the guy who invented Levi’s name is—himself. The same dynamic exists with all other types of clothes—suits, shoes, shirts, whatever. There are so many stores—including flagships—with such large inventories that you can always find what you need. And shit you didn’t know you needed (and probably don’t) until you saw it.

3. You see famous people doing genuinely unfamous-people shit.

I was at lunch with my agent on Manhattan’s Upper West Side Thursday afternoon, and I happened to glance out of a window and saw a vaguely familiar and impossibly cute young woman walking past. She was wearing sweats and a parka and looked to be carrying a bag, and looked like she’d just left yoga and/or was headed to Trader Joe’s or some other mundane unfamous-people shit. After a couple of seconds, the reason she was vaguely familiar dawned on me: It was Zazie Beetz—Van from Atlanta. (I’m 99.9 percent certain it was her, at least.)


Again, if this were Pittsburgh, it would be HOLY FUCKING SHIT, THAT’S THAT FAMOUS PERSON FROM THAT SHOW. And if that famous person did happen to be in Pittsburgh, he or she would likely be there to do some famous-person shit. Like, Denzel Washington might be here to film a movie or speak on a panel. But you ain’t gonna see his ass at a Pittsburgh Applebee’s. On Thursday, however, it was just “Oh ... a famous person in a city where all of the famous people live. Hi, Zazie.”

4. It forces you to walk everywhere ... which forces you to stay in shape.

Although I try to hit the gym as much as possible, much of my life is sedentary. I sit all day and write at coffee shops, bars and my office. When I need to go somewhere, I drive. And yes, playing basketball regularly helps, but it sometimes feels like an artificial injection of exercise and adrenaline to replace what I’m missing from staying still for so much of the day.


In New York City, however, everywhere is a fucking hike. Blocks are miles-long. And to get from A to B on the sidewalk, you have to hurdle bags of trash. You even have to trek to get to public transportation—and trek some more when you get off of it—which is stupid and paradoxical, but whatever. But all of this movement keeps you energized and keeps your blood warm. Which is great because you need to be in great shape to run from all the rats.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


Vanessa Futrell

Oh Damon, you are so bridge and tunnel. Native New Yorkers do not take Uber, we hail a yellow cab or call car service. Native New Yorkers do not wear Levi’s. We wear black. Famous people are not famous here, because all Native New Yorkers are the stars of our own Broadway shows.

We are not forced to walk, we choose to walk , and as a result, we have the best thighs. FYI, every Manhattan street is 1/4 mile, avenues are approximately twice the length.

And as for the rats, if we’re out that late, we just take a wide berth around, because New Yorkers don’t run from anything. Not even from the Pizza Rat. In fact, we cheered the Pizza Rat because tenacity is one of the things that New Yorkers value the most.

I’m guessing.... Philly?