Where We End Up

February 16, 2011

My favorite part of my forty-minute NJTransit commute is between Seacaucus Junction and New York Penn Station– a post-apocalyptic landscape, a modern day Gotham. This time of year the frozen meadowlands seem to to stretch infinitely, the frost-covered reeds peak around the cellphone towers and construction sites, and the New York City skyline is just a distant haze.

There are about five minutes every morning when the train sounds like it’s losing power in this straight between Seacaucus and Manhattan: the fluorescent lights turn off and the train quiets; all you can hear is the gentle hum as the train coasts along the track and soft mumbling of the woman behind me talking on her cellphone.

(Photo by Jake Nussbaum, post college comrade.)

Then you arrive in New York, cram into an escalator and up into the dregs of Penn Station– up into the low-ceiling underbelly of midtown, where there is always the faint aroma of buttered popcorn, the potpourri of businessmen, teenagers, tourists and homeless, and Auntie Anne’s frosted pretzels. A.M. NEW YORK.

Apparently 80% of college graduates are moving back home. So I guess my experience, in that respect, has been pretty typical. My mom still cooks me dinner and asks me when I’ll be home to eat it. But, within these past four months, and partially inspired by them, my post college life has been pretty atypical. See: When Parents Text. The blog. The book. The sitcom. This post-collegiate twist has been all-consuming, and now, as I take deep breaths aboard the NJ rail between Seacaucus and Manhattan, I ask myself, again: where will I end up?

Should I bite the bullet– move to Brooklyn? Get a dog and a fix-speed bike? Embrace my New York neighbor and its melange of scents.

New York City. Mystic, CT. Los Angeles. Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Boston. New Jersey. Staten Island. Switzerland. Chinatown. Portland, OR. San Diego, CA. The East Village. Mammoth, CA. Honduras.

What are important factors in deciding where to live?

Can I own a car? Do I know people there? Should I know people there? I don’t want to know anyone there. Is there a grocery store?  It is affordable? Is there good public transportation?  Is it expensive? Is it New York City? Will I have a job? Do I have to have a job? Can I start a band? Can I work part time? Do bars close at 12AM? Do gay people live there? Do artsy people live there? Do too many artsy people live there? Are there bed bugs? Is it close to my parents? Is it too close to my parents? Is it warm? Is there a place to get brunch on Saturdays? Do they have real bagels? Is it NOT where I grew up? Is it NOT Ohio? Blue state? Red state? Does it rain a lot?