ONE 4 • Mean City to Big Apple: my last bites

Today the New York sky reminds me of a famous Rothko painting I saw in the Metropolitan Museum, ‘The Met’ to us locals. Rich blues contrasting with a deep Manhattan skyline. In a week or so, my horizons will once again change as I return to Scotland. Let the reminiscing begin…

I’ll miss my American college — the classes are just as boring as they are back across the pond, but soon I’ll not be surrounded by the distinct character of cracked plaster and 1970s design, which makes me a little sad. Only yesterday I experienced the amazing cultural differences within my new student community: a mass of loud, colourful, binge-eating peers dressed in enormous baggy outfits shouting to each other on their mobile phones who’ll pause at the drop of a dime to chat or help you find your way.

I won’t miss my American school bureaucracy — not unlike the bureaucracy back home, chartered with the same tactics of operating as slowly and unproductively as possible while asking you to sign forms declaring ‘everything is ok’. Only a government could make bigger messes. The one advantage to being a foreigner: turn on an accent and some Scottish charm and the wheels begin to turn.
I’ll miss the range of class experiences: The undergrads at St. Peter’s can become a mob of childish school kids, sitting slightly slumped and when discussing things, trying to mention drinking or sex in every sentence. But, so can the adult students in my grad-level night course. Most are attentive students taking meticulous notes; however, a select few still think being a badass is “cool”. I do get a strong sense of love for the professor though. One woman jumped the starter’s pistol by shouting “Good Morning!” as he entered the room promptly at six p.m. More modestly she then corrected herself with “afternoon”.

I won’t miss my roommates: When I come home after a hard day’s slog in the Big Apple, down to my dark, basement apartment, I find, surprise-surprise, my fellow lodgers all huddled around the electronic box they are addicted to: television. It’s either video games or primetime. One thing I am definitely not going to miss is American programming. The incessant noise of American programming emanating from my roommates’ TV is unbearable: they flash more images than even the most dubious subliminal messenger of old could imagine. Even the so-called news is a fictional flip through fantasyland, with multiple camera angles, zoom-ins, and silly sound effects. Many of my fellow students, the ‘educated’ future of America, are more concerned with ‘reality’ shows than with their education.
I’ll miss the fashion faux-pas: most of the students on campus wear every article of clothing branded with the university name. Caps, jumpers, sweatpants and socks all have initials, signifying their collegiate pride. Here, patriotism carries well into adulthood—even the graduate students in their 30s and 40s still wear university apparel and I’ve noticed cars driving round with alumni number plates. Cut to Scotland for a contrast, where the students wouldn’t be seen dead in something like that. All this must have something to do with a distorted American dream ideal: that anyone can be anything as long as you wear the right logo.

I will miss the Big Apple: New York is still a truly amazing place, with people bustling, lights flashing and cars driving 24/7. At a pace not unlike my roomates’ television. Recently I’ve had a plethora of visitors and family around which means I got to play tourguide…again. I’ve not quite been here long enough to take the place for granted. In a sense I feel like this is good closure to my New York experience; showing it to other people is my way of doing some final rounds of what has become my home—all the nooks and crannies and less-chartered paths and a few streets left that have yet to be touristified. Each time I take time out I re-experience New York as a curious young Scot.
New York neighbourhoods have such a distinct feel that within a short bus ride the scene shifts from neon-light headache-inducing tourist-ville to coffee-cup holding it-bag sporting yuppie-town in a matter of minutes. This happened to me the other day when I went with my photography class to various exhibits in Chelsea. This district is the ‘old-new SoHo’ with so many galleries you could gag and a vibrant residential gay community. Never before have I seen so many man-bags and shaking booties, but just a short bus ride up by Central Park at the site of John Lennon’s death, it’s back to tourist-land with a gaggle of girls getting snap happy with their digicams. Strawberry Fields Forever…
I’ll miss my internship at a small retail shop at 543 E. 6th Street in the East Village called Love Shine, where I’ve have had an amazing opportunity to sell my vintage collection of Disco Dolly Designs, and in April we held a special neighbourhood event: with face paints for kids, lemonade, live models and even a bubble machine. This gave me the experience of a slice of Authentic East Village life—sitting outside in the sun, with decorations, music, a tent and tables on the sidewalk—the air flavoured with incense from the homeless man next door who’s lived on the block for years—chatting with the local residents, who were so prepared to get stuck in and have a rummage through our things—nowhere to be but where we were.
Someone very close to me said that New York would always be here for me, and I think now I have really accepted that. I love New York, the new friends and contacts I’ve met, and now the time has come for me to cement my education in the country I was born. My next year is laid out, but after that who knows? There are many more destinations to discover and so many more people to meet.
Watch out world, here I come!