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Just taking it all in. More after the jump.

New York is a really nice city. I first suspected as much when I spent a frigid January day with the NYPD trying to find my car, which mysteriously disappeared in the night and later turned up in their impound lot (but not in their computer system). Ironically, the experience made me want to move here. I found myself hoping my car was stolen so I would have no excuse but to move to a city where I couldn’t drive one. Everyone I interacted with that day went above and beyond the call of duty for me.

I spent most of my life in Virginia, and I tried really hard to embrace the south. (My family’s all from New England.) But below-the-Mason-Dixon stereotypes of New Yorkers as hard headed, sharp tongued, and hollow legged Left-leaners increasingly applied to me as I got older. And the longer I was exposed to glamorous depictions of life in New York in the media–from Sesame Street to Seinfeld–the more enamored I became.  But let’s be honest–it was inevitable that I would bring some preconceived notions with me.  Like the one about New Yorkers being rude, and the city being dangerous.

Almost two months after my car adventure, and almost one month into New Yorkerdom, I’m starting to think Charleston and Minneapolis could be one-upped in Travel+Leisure’s 2009 poll of America’s friendliest cities.* My heart has been warmed like a bathtowel on a radiator, which can be dangerous, I know, but my shower water is never hot longer than about four minutes. When I’ve asked for help, the response has been overwhelming. I’m being completely serious. My neighborhood wineshop owner asked, “How many do you want? Keep ’em!” when I asked him if I could borrow a razor blade to scrape tape off my walls from the previous tenant, which I know wineshops use to scrape price tags off bottles. He held out a whole box of razor blades and shook it in front of a Friday evening line of customers. It wasn’t exactly the response I was expecting. Even unsolicited response is generous. Friends of friends are offering to help me find work, and I recently explained that no, I’m afraid I don’t know anything about the independent film scene in Qatar or the men’s shoe industry, but I’m sure they’re fascinating. I received subway cards with $4 or $5 balances from pretty much everyone I know. And New Yorkers exhibit common courtesy to each other. Yesterday afternoon, a young, well-dressed guy pointed his urination away from the sidewalk, toward the gap between parked cars, and didn’t even make his friend hang up while he did so. If that’s not a considerate way of going about… that… then I don’t know what is. Yeah, I’ve come across some rude people–I had to change the password to my email account after an unsettling experience with a photo processing lab–but I’m genuinely impressed. And isn’t it more rude to hold on to negative stereotypes? I don’t know, I’m getting a kick out it all.

* Charleston and the Twin Cities deserved it, but I lived in Austin, and I think “friendly” has been confused with “fun” or else “high.” There is a difference!

The water is kind of a big deal. For my first three days, my GI system couldn’t even handle its, um, quality. I was told repeatedly on my arrival that the water was really good here, but it wasn’t until Slate’s Today’s Papers mentioned this LA Times piece about an entrepreneur who’s bottling and selling NYC tap water that I sort of believed the hype. Compared to Virginia and Massachusetts varietals, which I’ve sampled most recently, NYC water is more full-bodied, with a slight effervescence. Definitely steel-barreled. A bit nutty. Crisp finish. Great value. I already feel less self-conscious at expensive restaurants when I answer, “Tap is fine…”

City dogs are a breed apart. And I love them. They aren’t picky about where they squat! They work the spigot as soon as they reach a concrete sidewalk outside the apartment, even if the tap has run dry, as though they might never have the opportunity to relieve themselves on concrete again. Dogs in sweaters and tutus appear to have an extra spring in their step, because they know they’re hot. And city dogs don’t stop to smell almost anything. I’m confident a dog in a fairisle cardigan would pass a plate of foie gras if it were below the curb. Fortunately, dogs do stop for other dogs, as the Maltese I dog-sat my first week did when he met Robert Downey Jr.’s dogs…

It can be easy to live cheap in New York City. All you have to do is walk everywhere, eat French-Vietnamese take-out, stay off the sauce (or buy beer from Rite Aid), use craigslist, and live really close to a fire station and a bunch of a curry restaurants. You don’t even need utensils. Real New Yorkers use chopsticks.

People stay in the neighborhood. In “Here Is New York,” E.B. White tells the story of a lady friend who returned to the grocery store she had frequented for years after she moved 3 blocks away. He writes, “The proprietor was in ecstasy–almost in tears–at seeing her. ‘I was afraid,’ he said, ‘now that you’ve moved away I wouldn’t be seeing you any more.'” That was 1948. Murray Hill is the perfect neighborhood for me because I can easily walk to almost every other neighborhood, and no one has yet minded my eagerness to come to them for a drink or dinner. I’ve found several popular neighborhood restaurants to be painfully mediocre, and one need look no further than 3 blocks in any direction to know how they survive. So far, I like going to Brooklyn the best. With good reason.

Grasshoppers are as crunchy in the mouth as one would expect. That’s all.

All a woman needs to own to look fashionable are a pair of knee-high leather boots and a wool coat. I could wear dirty no-name skinny jeans with a rip along the pocket, athletic socks with pom-poms on the backs, and an old faded tee-shirt–under which there may or may not be another layer–under black knee-high boots and a black peacoat, and I could feel pretty darn good about it. Apply eyeliner with both eyes shut and tousle that greasy hair, and watch out, L Train rush hour, this double-shot hotté is fitting right in! I may or may not speak from experience. But seriously, I have yet to see a woman go a block without a thick coat. No puffy vests. No wooly hoodies. Almost no fleece pullovers. Only she knows what’s under the covers.

People can hear what you’re playing on your iPod. Yes. They project. Two days ago, I was riding the D train, sitting opposite an enormous man who could probably bend metal with his penetrating “don’t f* with me” stare. And yet all I could hear was, “All the single ladies! All the single ladies! Oh-oh-ohhh-ah! oh-oh-ohhh.” On the same day, I got some looks for my Punjabi MC. What, do I not look like someone who appreciates rap remixed with a sitar? Of course I do.

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Central Park.

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UES.

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Brooklyn.

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Brooklyn Brewery.

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Brooklyn style.

Snow in Central Park.

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Sledding.

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Sledder. Some teen boys were out with skis (see background of photo), but since they were yelling the three-letter-f-word-I-like-significantly-less-than-the-four-letter-one at each other, I decided against getting a picture of them too.

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Quieter part of the park.

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I like the aesthetic of the textures… Trash bags on the street.

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Rockefeller by night.

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Skate rink.

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