Cities

Rural Living

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.

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When Waitressing Pays More Than Publishing

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.”

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A Cab Driver’s Best Fare Makes a Pretty Good Story

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.

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The Cost of Things: Freezing Your Eggs

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.

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You Never Leave Houston

Houston, the fourth-largest city in America, has a self-esteem problem. Our local boosters are continuously looking for new branding approaches, commissioning expensive ads and websites extolling our municipal virtues. There was “Houston, It’s worth it;” “Houston is hip/tasty/inspired,” and the latest “Houston, the city without limits.” The city’s younger residents are partial to the more profane “Fuck You, Houston’s Awesome,” in response to criticisms of the city. There are many reasons for this insecurity. For Houstonians, who know of our parks, our museums, our bars, our restaurants, our people, it can feel like the rest of the country has settled on an idea of the city that’s still stuck on fading memories of . There is also the nagging sense that perhaps they’re right; that Houston, for all of its diversity, for all of its affordability, for all of its expansiveness, maybe isn’t that awesome, and that better pastures lie just a plane ride away.

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Maybe Pittsburgh-Rich is Rich Enough

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?

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College Is Expensive and the NY Times is ON IT

Yes, even the Gray Lady has seen fit to write about how soaring student loan debt makes it hard to get housing in New York City.

It would be easy to dismiss the whole exercise, especially because it refers to “real estate maturity” as a state of existence to which human beings should aspire, and because it reports both the breed and name of a frustrated apartment-seeker’s dog. However, for a piece of non-news reported by the New York Times, the article paints a refreshingly varied portrait of post-collegiate financial distress. After first introducing us to Tierney Cooke, the dog owner who finds living with roommates intolerable (“I couldn’t take it. They were all in college.”), the Times also presents the tales of a mother of a two-year-old and a marvelously disillusioned chemist.

There is truly nothing surprising in the fact that housing in one of the most expensive cities in the country is hard to get in the midst of long-term economic trends that send personal debt up and wages down. But the chemist, Joseph Trout, a former foster kid from Philly who made good, is a font of excellent financial advice for an era of scarcity.

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Laundry Is a Problem That Will Never Be Solved

I mean yes but WHO CARES? I am not paying this kind man to design a website. I am paying him around $30 with tip to carry my laundry to his car, drive it around the block to his laundromat, and do my damn laundry. What I do not want, out of sheer principle, is to pay is a middle man with access to Photoshop (even one that gives me cookies with my laundry which, yes):

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What You Could Do With Your Money In Another City

How far does your paycheck go?

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Welcome to NYC! Please Enter Through the Poor Door.

In our super-stratified society, we are used to a certain level of unfairness. If you pay more, you can board a flight first and sit in the increasingly luxurious first class section of the plane while everyone else squeezes into steerage. If you don’t have dollops of dollars, as Josh Michtom notes, there’s probably no hope for you as a consumer, period. But what if you, a middle-class tenant who pays her rent, find yourself living among the super-wealthy because they have invaded your building and then added amenities to which you are not allowed access? Or you’re allowed to live in a fancy-shmantzy new condo, but only if you enter through “the poor door” (!) and stay out of the gym?

In recent years, developers who have earned tax credits by promising to provide affordable housing have built luxury condos with separate entrances and lobbies for the affordable rental units. The so-called “poor door” makes it easier to restrict who gets access to amenities. Last summer, 40 Riverside Boulevard, a luxury condo rising on the Upper West Side, drew criticism for a design in which low-income tenants enter through a separate door and do not share amenities with owners. …

At the Windermere, tenants living in the nearly 140 rent-regulated apartments have been barred from using the new spa with a pool, yoga studio and gym. As part of a $10 million renovation, Stellar Management is also adding a sky lounge, a bar and planters to the roof. Rent-regulated tenants, who pay about $1,000 a month for a one-bedroom, had socialized on the roof for years, but will no longer be allowed to use it when construction is complete.

This brings out my inner banner-waving go-ahead-and-pepper-spray-me revolutionary.

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Hometown Stories: Rhinebeck, New York

I have left Rhinebeck many times in my life. The first time I left I was in the ninth grade, fed up with the small town and its lack of diversity, aghast at my freshmen English curriculum that trafficked solely in dead white men tempered with a dose of Pearl S. Buck. I moved to California and lived with my mother for the rest of high school and gained the kind of cultural education I never would have gotten in my hometown.

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