By now you’ve surely read about, if not watched, the Hollaback video footage of a normal, 30-something woman walking around NYC for ten hours getting catcalled by men. The unwanted attention is astounding, despite the fact that she’s dressed in regular clothes and neither speaking nor smiling.
It brings back all sorts of memories for me, especially one awful pre-ear-bud summer when I was a self-conscious teenager working at a non-profit in DC. I got catcalled every day. All I wanted was to be invisible and instead guys shouted things out of their cars about how they wanted me to “Lewinsky” them, or walked by and said something savvy and sophisticated like, “Tits!”
“Is this Heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa.” –Field of Dreams
We’ve mentioned it here before on the site, so we’re not too surprised, but Des Moines is getting a lot of love these days. According to the National Journal, only half-jokingly, we should all be moving to Iowa, or at least visiting and considering it:
It was a normal night at the Social Club when we visited. The art gallery was open, just next to Capes Kafe coffee shop and comic-book store; upstairs, nine people in a comic-book drawing class watched an eccentric, gray-haired instructor in skinny black jeans and thick-rimmed glasses draw a cartoon about a retired Elvis impersonator named “Sid.” Out on the purposely graffitied porch with rope-spool tables, dozens of members of the local Young Nonprofit Professionals Network chapter met to network, drink, and take professional head shots.
Looking out over the courtyard marked by an old telephone tower and murals, Brianne Sanchez and Danny Heggen, both 29, describe the chapter they founded in 2013 for monthly coffee meetings. It has turned into a group of more than 550 members that successfully draws millennials downtown to connect and help each other out. It’s a quintessentially Midwestern mix of selflessness in a deep pool of ambition and drive.
“We always joke that Des Moines is a big small town,” says Heggen, a project manager for a firm that transforms old art deco buildings into new apartments. “But really, Des Moines is a large living room. There’s this homey feel. What I most want is everybody around me to be successful. And I believe that everyone wants that for me, as well.”
Well, well, well. Remember the Detroit Write A House fellowship we talked about, wherein a Detroit organization gives you the deed to a house if you agree to um, live in Detroit and blog about it for two years? Well, according to The Michigan Daily, they’ve declared a winner. That winner is a poet from Brooklyn.
Sometimes, living in the country means attending an annual neighborhood party, complete with both a locally-raised roast pig and many vegan side dishes, old men circulating Mason jars of moonshine, and a band playing Ramones covers.
In the restaurant industry, “I’m so broke,” was a constant server/bartender lament. Frequently, I good-naturedly nodded my head in agreement. “I know,” I said, pretending to be worried about making rent or having enough money to fly home for the holidays. “Me too.”
Comedian and writer Sam Dingman tells the story of his Best Fare Ever from his days (and nights) as a taxi driver in NYC:
As we sped along the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, I glanced into the rear-view at the pair, trying to determine what dark impulse had led them to voluntarily brave the unknown wilds of Avenue Z. I could see that they were clutching one another’s hands tightly, and as the woman dialed and then placed her cell phone against her ear, her husband explained to me that they would like me to wait for them at their destination, and then bring them back to the Gansevoort Hotel. I was relieved to hear this: I would not be left alone to do battle with the ghost pirates and their ilk, it turned out. Also, it meant that this was sure to be the largest fare I’d yet received. I was happy to wait outside, I told the husband, but I would have to keep the meter running while they were inside. That was fine, he assured me — they just wanted to make sure they had a guaranteed means of getting back to the hotel. They were, he said, picking up a very important package.
All at once, my suspicions shifted radically into more cynical terrain: were these well-heeled yuppies just garden-variety cokeheads? I instantly began to loathe them —hamstrung by their pathetic addiction but so fearful of those that enabled them that they could only bring themselves to engage with the reality of their dependence from the safety of a taxi. And what was I supposed to do in the event that the deal went sour? Drive them to safety, leaving the scrappy denizens of Avenue Z deprived of the only income society had made feasible for them? Oh no, I resolved. I would not be a party to this shameful instance of class privilege — except insofar as it enabled me to collect a sizable fair and pay my goddamn rent.
Read the full story here.
Doree Shafrir has written a fascinating Buzzfeed confessional about deciding whether or not to freeze her eggs. One issue to consider: cost.
I told my therapist that I was considering freezing my eggs, and she said she thought it was a good idea if it would alleviate some of the anxiety I felt about dating, and I said it would but it would also cause me a different kind of anxiety because it was so expensive in New York City — thousands of dollars in tests, then thousands of dollars for the drugs to stimulate egg maturation, then thousands of dollars for the extraction of the eggs. All told I would be looking at close to $15,000 to buy myself a few years of reduced anxiety, plus $2,000 or so each year to keep them frozen. I told myself it could be amortized over, say, five years and then it didn’t seem so bad. Still, I needed to come up with the money, so I cashed in a couple of 401(k)s from short stints at other jobs that had a couple thousands dollars in them each, and put a freelance check in my savings account, and figured I would charge the rest.
How much is it worth to you to quell a real and debilitating anxiety? My mom always says, If you can solve a problem with money, it’s not a real problem. But if you have to cash in 401(K)s and run up credit card debt to give your fertility a fighting chance, you’re not solving a problem with money at all; you’re potentially impoverishing your future self to benefit your present, and trading one immediate anxiety for another eventual one.
Further to Mike’s post about how much money people think they need to feel rich, and my own recent suggestion that we learn to be content with more modest artistic achievements, here is a synthesis of reasons why maybe you shouldn’t move to New York or San Francisco.
The article’s a little bit scattershot, and it gets confusing when comparing Austin, New York, and Pittsburgh while quoting Richard Florida (whose name is a place!), but here’s the TL;DR: Brooklyn and other traditional go-to places for those in search of artistic ferment are so expensive that creative people are finally willing to settle for a place like Pittsburgh, “where you can have a part-time job at a coffee shop, still afford a mortgage payment and be able to go out once a week.”
I’m guessing that bit about the mortgage is hyperbole, but the point stands: New York-poor is not just Pittsburgh-rich, it’s practically-everywhere-else-rich. So the questions that remain are, (1) is it enough to flourish creatively in Pittsburgh? and (2) are Pittsburgh, Hartford, Omaha, and all the other as-yet-ungentrified, small, post-industrial cities simply farther down the list of places that capitalism will ultimately embrace, devour, and make inaccessible to people of modest means?