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I Love New York

Ex-Atlantans Dish on life in New York



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Except my girlfriend had already been there two years and passionately hated Manhattan. OK, so she lived in a 20x10 flat with windows so thin the winter winds seemed to pay them no mind. Her rent was $1,500 a month, and that was five years ago. "But it's New York," I thought. And like a demanding and beautiful woman, New York calls for certain sacrifices.

At some point, however, I realized I'd had enough. I'd been awakened too many times by the 5 a.m. garbage pickup directly below her window. I'd slogged through dirty slush once too often. I'd reached the point where I was ready to strangle the next taxi driver who honked his horn. Most of all, I discovered that enjoying New York City had drained my bank account. By the time my girlfriend decided to move back to Georgia, I was relieved.

New York is a great place to visit, I came to realize, but Atlanta is a better place to live.

People go to New York for two reasons: They want to succeed on the biggest stage of them all and they want the experience of living in the most famous city in America.

Kasey Price, 29, got into the music business as a band publicist, and moved from Atlanta to New York three years ago because it was the epicenter of indie rock. "Feeling like I was limited in my career because I was in Atlanta was a bummer, although I guess I left at the wrong time because Atlanta is blowing up right now," she says. In fact, she's working with several bands from here.

Price's boyfriend lived in New York before she arrived. "I was ready to see what was out there," she says. "I've always liked that quote: 'Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard; live in northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.'"

Like other transplanted Atlantans, one thing Price doesn't miss is the traffic. She loves the subway system in New York, and the eclectic mix of people. "You see stuff that you would never see anywhere else in a million years," she says. "I was on my way to Coney Island the other day, and saw a man holding a parrot on the subway. My boyfriend saw a girl walking a rabbit on a leash in the park yesterday. Like they say, only in New York."

Laurel Wells, 29, wanted to work in the fashion industry and knew she'd have to move to New York to have any chance of making it. Now a designer whose clothes have been worn by Jessica Simpson, among others, Wells has embraced her new city. "I love the sense of freedom here, that you can be or do whatever you want," she says. "I love the culture, the city's history and the fact there's almost nonstop events, exhibits and performances. I love that people here accept one another regardless of external appearances."

For others, it's the energy of the city and its nightlife that's exciting. "The city literally never sleeps, and you could live here for a lifetime and it would still seem new," says Michelle Douchette, who works for a New York-based travel website. "And I honestly believe that Manhattanites are as friendly as Atlantans."

As outlandish as that may sound – New Yorkers do have a snarly reputation, after all – that sentiment is echoed by former CL senior editor Doug Monroe, who moved to Brooklyn last year. "The people up here are a lot friendlier than I anticipated," he says. "I'm on a friendly basis with neighbors from all over the world, from Pakistan to Greece to China to Iran. But New Yorkers do cuss more. The cussing on Brooklyn streets is almost like music. You hear the f-word all day long, from kids on skateboards to old folks on walkers."

You'd probably cuss, too, if you lived in New York, because living there isn't easy. How can you tell natives from tourists when you're walking down the street in New York? Tourists are in a good mood. "New York definitely tests your patience even if you are a generally patient person, which I consider myself to be," Price says.

Douchette tries to avoid the throngs at Times Square and Herald Square. "Yet I somehow always end up there, cursing," she says. "Dealing with mobs of people on the streets and in restaurants and bars is tiring, especially on the weekends when visitors flood the city."

Ex-Atlantans also marvel at how dirty New York is, and how trash bags seem to magically pile up on the edge of the street. "When I come home, I won't wear the clothes I wore to work," says Tate, 27. "And I go barefoot because my shoes are so dirty. That's my biggest complaint, there's so much trash on the street."

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