Making it in Manhattan

By Garrison Keillor


Salon Staff
July 27, 2000 11:12PM (UTC)

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Gosh, Mr. Blue, sometimes you get so caught up in improving the souls and spirits of those who write to you, you miss a cry for hardcore, quick and dirty survival tips!

As a Canadian cheesehead who was transplanted to Manhattan four years ago, here are the top 10 things about fitting in as a youngish scenester in this tough town. Or, to paraphrase Maria Shriver, "10 things I wish someone had told me before I moved to the Big Apple":

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1. Work hard. (You were right there.) If you immerse yourself in your career, you will soon stop being mystified by what it takes to succeed, which is more hard work later.

The rest of the tips are much more shallow, but can save a lot of anguish:

2. Live downtown. Apartments, food, art, clothes and live music are cheaper and cooler there. You have to deal with rats sometimes, but you will feel like you're in the city, not near it.

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3. Find out where the Angel's Share bar is. Take people you want to impress there. Once you find this out, you will feel like you know New York like no one's business.

4. Once, and only once: beg, borrow and steal a weekend in the Hamptons. Rent a room at an inn with a friend, make reservations in advance for a great restaurant. Do this once, early your first summer, so you can quickly tell people that you are "so over" that scene. Spend your subsequent weekends reading real books in Central Park and visiting a different New York neighborhood (that includes all five boroughs) to keep yourself from being too caught up in your insular, junior-fashionista world.

5. Spend 95 percent of your clothing allowance on great shoes. If you have great shoes, you can wear thrift-wear vintage and look cool. Go to real vintage stores, not the ones near NYU. This means going to the outer boroughs sometimes, which is good for you.

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6. Have at least one source of new friends outside of work. Remember, most of the folks you'll meet will be in the same boat -- very few people are actually "from" Manhattan. Maybe your alumni association has a New York chapter or you can start a club for revolutionary cheeseheads who meet for fondue once a month. This is important: it gives you perspective, a break from the workplace and can provide leads to apartments, jobs and love interests.

7. Make friends with the coffee cart guy near your building. There will be days in N.Y. when you will be incredibly thankful that at the very least, the stranger you greet each morning remembers you like your coffee light, with one Sweet'n Low, which may be the only nurturing you get for a while.

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8. Do not ever eat the warmed-over food at the deli, even though it looks like hundreds of items to choose from. They all taste the same, are expensive and you'll feel awful after you eat it.

9. Do not let friends from back home visit you for the first six months. Their shock at your tiny apartment and limited spending money will make you feel crummy. Instead go home and visit them, because when you get there you will feel worldly and exciting and you'll forget all about your small apartment and be so glad you live in an exciting big city.

10. Find a friend with a car. Drive to big suburban superstores every six months and stock up on paper goods and sundries. Store these under your bed. This will save you hundreds of dollars compared to Manhattan prices, and this will pay for three or four great pairs of shoes a year.

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-- Seema Kalia


Salon Staff

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