Recently, I made a trip back East to New York City to attend my aunt’s Memorial Service, and the experience hit “home!”
Being a child of the Bronx and Manhattan, my emigration to California over three decades ago, definitely came with culture shock, but my most recent relocation to the East Bay (Berkeley aka “Bezerkeley”) fleshed out stark bi-coastal differences in social environment/interpersonal communications that are worth screaming about!
NYC–You make friends on the elevator. I stayed at my ex-roommate’s apartment on Central Park West and ended up stuffing 27 crinkled post-its into my pockets with names, addresses and phone numbers. Three days, 9 rides, 12 floors.
East Bay–No phone number unless you OCCUPY the bank, post office, street corner, or even Trader Joe when it refuses to take Fiji Water off the shelf.
NYC– The subways are a miraculous social network–Getting lost is the best thing to happen. People will scramble, if not trample each other to assist. Goes with the territory. You’ll find your pockets bulging with more names, addresses and phones.
At my aunt’s Memorial, I had a reunion with my Performing Arts High math teacher, and she brought along a friend. No sooner than I offered my arm to the 85-year old, I found an empty pocket to stuff with her name, address and phone. (Not three days back in California, I received a no-strings-attached invitation to stay at her East Side digs–food, lodging and a guaranteed schmaltzy hug)
The East Bay: No bed, no breakfast– but one small space for a homeless person in Downtown Berkeley, or an endless ride on the friendless BART.
NYC: The ‘Y’ gym on West 63rd is another great hangout! Free bi-coastal passes–no hitch in snaring a clean towel or directions to the women’s lockers. Getting lost in the maze of workout rooms is another opportunity to make new friends.
The East Bay ‘Y’— An instant death sentence. Once inside the Women’s gym, it’s solitary confinement. No eye contact! Talk under your breath and risk a 5150 to the Alta Bates psych ward.
And Heed these posted WARNINGS!
1) NO CELL PHONE USE in this AREA 2) NO FREE PASSES to Albany, Oakland, or any ‘Y’ gyms in the area. Pay up or go back to where you came from! (Good Idea!)
NYC: Getting together with a friend is as easy as pie, i.e. “Meet me at the coffee shop on Amsterdam in twenty minutes.” (a done deal)
East Bay: It’s three years of strategy planning with NO clause to reconnect in a lifetime. Meeting up any sooner is a “boundary” violation.
My first house guest, (after 18 months of back and forth text-ing) confessed that her appearance was “ephemeral.”
“Don’t think I’m coming back. That way you won’t be disappointed.” She left a housewarming weed in a BPA-free plastic cup that died soon after her departure.
NYC: Your friends will wine and dine you with unswerving generosity– home-cooked delights and an unconditional welcome mat are your birthright.
East Bay: A Berkeley eating companion, who turns up 9 months after the planning stage, brings a calculator to evenly divide the tab.
(She forgot that you treated her the last ancient time at the Ethiopian Hut on Durant)
Every other spoonful, she mega-Networks and collates foot massage flyers for you to post around the neighborhood.
“Hey, how about us bartering a big toe rub-down for life-time piano lessons?”
“NO thanks! I’m pre-OCCUPIED!” (Need to practice!)
NYC: Performing opportunities may be sparse in the Big Apple, but no one will ask you to play Chopin into a drone of meaningless, high-decibel banter!
East Bay: Expect to be drowned out!
From Sanity to Insanity
The Last Lap My return to California
NYC: Going to the airport for my departure comes with good wishes. Elevator friends, the doorman, street cleaner–even the garbage men and fruit cart pushers give a warm thumbs up! Peace, Goodwill, and God Speed.
East Bay: At SFO arrival. Where’s the baggage area? Super shuttle, anyone?
Icy stares from a skeleton crew of janitors and OCCUPIERS, everywhere!
Rent controllers scream, “I hate landlords!” Landlords rage against the Rent Board. An avalanche of hate! A round of gunfire! Revolution now! Che Guevara!
Geezus! I’m way safer in NYC under Bloomberg.
When’s the next Apple-bound jet? I’ll call the lady who offered me her place on the East Side and firm up my reservation a.s.a.p.