Why I still dream about New York

(Commissioned by BTCPay store customers)

Hi there,

I hope y’all are enjoying the lovely weather. Over the past few weeks I’ve launched a pop-up BTCPay store for bitcoin tips and helped Bitcoin Magazine launch a bookstore with educational content for beginners. Then I also reported on e-commerce trends in the fashion industry for Elite Daily and Every

Coming up next, a subscriber named Jonathan asked me to write about “the personal tradeoffs many of us have been mulling over when relocating from a massive city to a more economically reasonable place to live.” Plus, the subscriber @jtarre commissioned a poem about New York to go along with that theme. I’m excited to share some of those thoughts with you today! 

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New York City

When the pandemic started, I had a newsroom job in Manhattan and had already been living in New York City for several years. 

I originally moved back to the U.S. from Israel for a sex writing job at a hip millennial publication. (It’s nothing like “The Bold Type;” I didn’t get to spend all my time shopping and flirting!) When I switched to the fintech beat, my lifestyle got quite hectic. I didn’t know anything about technology; I needed contacts. So I often went out to networking events and meetings after work, then responded to Twitter DMs and researched cryptocurrency at night. I rarely slept more than four consecutive hours a night during the week. 

Then COVID-19 hit. Suddenly I couldn’t meet people at bars and cafes anymore. When winter arrived, even meeting in parks became cumbersome and impractical. My world shrank to the walls of my tiny apartment. I wanted to understand what was going on in the restaurant industry, because I needed public meeting spaces, so I called up Jonathan Lemon, culinary director at Bareburger Group LLC, a franchise with locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island. He said restaurants were struggling because the city's regulations oscillated every month. 

For example, at first his businesses were told not to set up outdoor dining in the street. Then, when that became the norm, restaurants were required to set up barriers around the space that could withstand snow, but with strict and impractical limitations on outdoor heating. 

“The city never had a plan. They are inconsistent,” Lemon said. “At some points we lost 50% of our staff…we’re not in the financial position to help with childcare. I wanna say 15-20% of our remaining staff had schedule changes… it puts more stress on the employees when [their kids] have to do remote learning.”   

In Lemon’s mind, there’s no question why New York’s public school teachers have more say, as compared to restaurant workers, on how, or whether, their workplaces stay open. 

“There’s no advocacy group for restaurant workers that would have had political power,” Lemon said. 

He’s still generally in favor of unions, like hotel workers have, but doesn’t see any hope for his sector to gain that type of negotiating power. In 2020, many media workers also sought bargaining power through unions, as routine layoffs reignited. However, I worry that unions probably won’t save most middle-class media jobs in the long term. 

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Thanks to the bull market, I had relative job security. But my friends were leaving the city in droves or isolating themselves with their families. 

Access to networking opportunities no longer outweighed the city’s high rent and urban challenges. (I lived in...let’s just say not a safe neighborhood.) Moving closer to family felt more valuable than the increased earning potential I would have in New York. Even now, as New York is springing back to life, I’m satisfied to earn less money freelancing in a quiet place, rather than chase dollars after midnight. 

Back in New York, my (male) roommates were well-meaning, but often the burden of domestic labor increasingly fell on me, as it did for many working women. According to a study by the Center for American Progress, “the risk of mothers leaving the labor force and reducing work hours” to do domestic labor “amounts to $64.5 billion per year in lost wages and economic activity.”

When I left the city, I aimed to establish a more holistic lifestyle. It is not feasible to work 12 hours a day in addition to cooking and cleaning, nor do I think always relying on fast food and paid labor offers a healthy lifestyle. Someday, if I’m wealthier, I might live in New York again. Not today. 

I still hear about events for Brooklyn writers, or meetings in Manhattan, that I wish I could join. The desire drifts through my dreams these days like a feather in the wind. I see it pass and acknowledge it. It doesn’t compel me to trade what I’m able to do with my time this summer. 

Looking forward 

Thanks to my subscribers and BTCPay store contributors, and since I’ve cut my rent costs, the money from this community will allow me to write whatever I’d like for this newsletter throughout the summer. That’s it. I’ve purchased a few days of completely free choice.

There are lots of newly remote writers, like me, experimenting with online collectives. I’m not sure yet if they are comparable to unions, or if that’s even desirable at all. So, before I left, I chatted with an anonymous bitcoiner (one of my readers), who was born and raised in New York. He’s a public school teacher, the son of two immigrants that met in Queens. We talked about unions and the city’s imminent revival. 

“We definitely do have it good compared to most private sector jobs in terms of pension and retirement,” he said. “I can totally understand the issues that a group with money and lobbyists can have. But if you don't have a union, who advocates for workers?”

He added that he thinks the city’s creative industry and restaurant scene will recover quickly. 

“I believe NYC is up there with London, Paris, Rome. When you talk to people from other places, they love NYC. We've captured the hearts and minds of the world. That's priceless,” he said. “As much as people will complain about the unions, NYC is a union city. Not perfect institutions by any stretch of the imagination. However, growing up here you witness the impact of unions overall is mostly positive.”

Photo by Bảo Ngô

I’m still figuring out what my remote professional network looks like, although I’ve been incredibly grateful for the support so far. Now, without further ado, I’ll wrap up with the poem @jtarre commissioned. Special thanks to subscriber @mpmcsweeney for contributing edits as well. I hope you all enjoy it!

You'll Never Forget Her

A subway ride at sunset,

alone yet encircled by fascinating strangers

each one looks completely different. 

Soaring across Brooklyn's bridge

into the jungle of crystal towers

as the last sunlight ripens on the East River.

Young dreamers cheers with their

glass drinks on graffitied rooftops.

You know the sweet taste on their lips,

watching through the window on your way 

to see your own beloveds,

because now is our time. 

This, this here.

This is what it feels like to be alive,

these small moments in the great city of

New York. 

At brunch with friends

who only pretend to like these 

Sunday-morning, high-dollar dishes ironically, 

but secretly spend the week 

anticipating this ritual splurge

in spite of our hollowed-out bank accounts.

The pungent aroma of delicacies mingles with

the scent of trash mounds, framed by luxury cars.

Every New Yorker, in time,

has had an intimate encounter with a feisty rat.

(Rats also love brunch nibbles.)

This city is the muse of millionaires offering angel dust

in bone-white lines, nonchalantly, like a glass of water. 

Catching the eye-locked looks 

of subway beggars on the way home 

after a day of wondering 

how to know if I've finally made it.

New York is a city that tattoos your heart,

a city beside a river, beside a bay, beside an ocean,

all wrapped in water,

tears guarded by Lady Liberty and her bones of copper and steel.

The other thing about New York,

this city chews you up, spits you out,

but you'll never not beg for that fast ride, that broken heart.

The echo of a thousand love songs 

tinged by rioting punks shouting in the East Village.

Her kiss transforms you and, no,

you don't have to take my word for it,

or believe the generations of poets who

have sung love songs from Harlem to Greenwich Village. 

You just can’t help yourself, gathering 

your mistakes, as a new sun crisps the iron towers.

This city whispers to you after midnight: 

Sharpen these memories.

Keep them like tools in your belt 

for winter nights when knife-winds

cut across the river. 

Embrace the sorcery of Hudson snow,

bend that heart, fierce and golden,

take an eternal moment by yourself to slow, slow, slow 

Move your fingers over the ice-touched window,

watch the snowflakes dancing down.

You could live a thousand years,

yet never forget this. 

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Until next time, take care everybody!