He Said, She Said: The Big City vs Small Town Debate

A fish may be best friends with a bird, but where would they live? Please don't say Austin.
Publish date:
January 10, 2012
small towns, living, eliot and jackie, big cities

Jackie and Eliot are best friends who don't always see eye to eye. For which we are thankful, because it's funny when they fight, like two bums but with less guilt.SHE SAID:The funny thing about this post is that when Eliot and I got the idea to write it, we were driving from New York to Vermont.

He was coming to visit me for a couple of days, to see how the other, freezing-cold-and-miserable half lives. When he got to my apartment at 9pm, he immediately discovered that every train on his planned departure date was sold out, and so he ended up leaving at 9 AM THE NEXT MORNING. My “BFF 4EVA,” who took a YEAR to finally get his ass up to where I live, didn’t see an inch of it. He saw the train station, my house, and the gas station that we passed (although, technically, that is Vermont for you, A to Z). So, originally this article was going to be written on location together. BECAUSE IT’S CHRISTMAS. Instead it’s a google doc, and I’m alone on my couch eating leftover turkey out of a mug. THANKS FOR THE VISIT, EL.Eliot and I haven’t lived in the same place since 2001, when we graduated High School on Long Island and moved on to our respective colleges. He to NYU, and I southward to University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, VA. I fell in love with the South for its friendliness, heat, folklore, accents, elderly eccentrics, thriving art scenes in Richmond and squeaky-clean, raise-your-family-here-now cities like Fredericksburg. Eliot refused to visit me between the months of April and November because he said Virginia was a “hell swamp.” If he had ever stumbled through the wardrobe into Narnia, he would have done everything he could to keep the White Witch in power, just so it never stopped snowing. In fact, Eliot has a “sweating problem” which I for the most part attribute to his turning a minor symptom of anxiety into a charming and exaggerated affectation, but to each his own. I also just really enjoy belittling his problems and concerns. It’s our thing!After a couple of years in the South, I refused to visit Eliot in New York (where I had grown up, no less), because I had become so used to the slower, Southern lifestyle that I found so much more pleasant than the panic-inducing, loud, expensive, and exhausting labyrinth that is New York. This annoyed him. For good reason. He visited me way more than I visited him, I admit it. He’s a hell of a guy. Thing is, when I would visit him, even in the winter, he’d have his bedroom window propped open with the fan on full blast. You can see your breath in his apartment, regardless of the season, and all of his blankets are glorified top sheets. “They breathe!” he says. “It’s not cold, it’s brisk!” I reply, “Please take me to the emergency room, I cracked a tooth from chattering last night.”So I barely [okay, never] visited New York, which was not very nice. To be fair though, Eliot is one of those New York hosts who acts like your own personal tour guide, because he is always on the go. Ever since we were kids, when I was content to sleep through the entire day all summer long and he worked back to back shifts at Lindt Chocolate and Talbots Woman (yes, really!) we have known that we run at different speeds. I think most people love the fact that he is an enthusiastic host and activity planner, but it gives me nervous diarrhea. I have lots of friends in New York, but Eliot is my main squeeze, so every New York experience of my adult life has been colored by him Eliot. It’s possible that New York is not actually a spinning, psychedelic circus of adrenaline-flushed faces, clammy hands and almost-missed trains, but how would I know?The thing is, we’re best friends, and we miss each other a lot. We often fantasize about a place where we could both exist and have everything that we wanted, AND each other. That’s impossible because you cannot control climate like a Sleep Number Bed, but let’s suspend climate from this hypothetical for a moment.I know Eliot pretty well, and here’s what I think is important to him about the place he chooses to live. He needs:- A community that celebrates diversity. He’d never move to Virginia, as much as he loved to visit, because of the 40% possibility that he would have been Jack Twist’d if anyone ever found out he had an Ennis Del Mar.

- A strong independent comedy scene where he can continue to get up on stage and dress in the same dilapidated wig, pretending to be 15 different old ladies who are all actually Bea Arthur with a dark beard. (He’s actually very funny.)- Close proximity to someplace green and calm. Living in Brooklyn, that equates to his parent’s house in St. James, NY. Hop on a train and you’re standing at the edge of the Long Island Sound.- A large number of pastry/dessert shops. While discussing eating habits the other night, Eliot explained that his new strategy was to think of dinner as a “means to an end.” Sometimes, apparently, he will just eat a handful of nuts for dinner so he can gorge on cupcakes and peanut butter cups. When I visit, he drags me from bakery to bakery, dripping with sweat from sugar-induced mania. The man loves sweets.- Close to family, which is really important to Eliot. Cute, huh? He talks about moving to LA to write, but I honestly don’t think he could ever live across the entire country from Sandy and Larry Glazer, they’re too awesome.Since it would be pretty hard to find these things anywhere else, I’ve decided to compromise (cave.) This winter, I’m gonna give it a go, xojane. Rather than face another winter in the arctic circle, I’m packing up and heading back to New York. (As soon as I find a I’ll bring you some maple syrup.)HE SAID:To be fair, I wanted to stay in Vermont, but there’s only one train per day and I’ve got shit to do! But it was nice to finally see my friend’s place, although knowing that I was so close to the Ben & Jerry’s factory and had to “get on a jet plane,” so to speak, destroys my soul.It has long been a dream of mine, too, to live in the same town as my best friend. I mean, the last time we did it was SO MUCH FUN, and that was ten years ago. And we were in Smithtown, Long Island, which gave us plenty of material to work with, but how many times can you take ironic appreciation in the muffin-shaped …”spaghetti muffins” at Uncle Giuseppe’s? (That is the name of our Trader Joe’s because we grew up in a very Italian neighborhood, which is fine if you like your muffins made out of spaghetti, which I VERY MUCH do.) (Also, we pronounce Mario like you would “El Barrio,” and don’t correct us on it.)This winter, however, it seems all will be right with the/my world when Jackie inevitably leaves the cold, sad tundra that is Vermont and hunkers down in NEW YORK CITY, where she will inevitably find a job [ed. note: strikeout] writing a weekly column about sex for an alternative weekly while supporting an insatiable taste for luxury shoes and an enormous apartment, where she will spend her time smoking, staring into a vintage MacBook in between days and nights on the town, spending scurrilously because that’s just the type of lifestyle a once-a-week-column supports as an administrative assistant.Unlike her beloved adopted state of Virginia, New York City will be a very different way of living. In fact, New York isn’t for lovers. It’s for CRAZY PEOPLE, because you’ve got to be a little crazy to live in a place where your exorbitant rent barely nets you room to stretch your arms and the brutally extreme weather patterns tend to fall on the far reaches of each side of a thermometer, making heat and air conditioning necessary at all costs.Here’s what Jackie needs:- Nice people: In fact, finding nice people isn’t hard to come by outside of the brittle northeast, where “elitist,” NPR-loving, Volvo-driving locavores prefer not to make eye contact, unlike EVERYWHERE ELSE.- Access to criminals: Considering Jackie is a truly altruistic person who would be happy if she could spend her time giving back to society (as she does in her work with the young and incarcerated), there should be people who need help, and to whom she could give it.- Gas stations: In fully adopting the “non-profit lifestyle,” Jackie has somehow managed to lose weight subsisting on hot dogs from gas stations, which she refers to as “Hillshire Farms meats” to throw off hipsters who think everyone simply must pair a local wine with a charcuterie plate after work.- Greenery: about which we’re on the same page (the beach counts, too).- Safe weed dealers. Or very generous doctors.- Power walking clubs. My best friend, Jackie, loves nothing more than stepping into a nautical-themed jogging suit, sliding on a velour visor, and hitting the mall “before the crowds” for a full-scale, 2.0-MPH power walk with her elderly friends, Erma and Flo.Whoops, that’s not Jackie, that’s me. And, whoops, that’s just my dream. A silly dream. One that will never come true ): ): :Can we do it? Can we live in New York City at the same time, her with a love for rural getaways and merciful crooks, and I with the gnawing desire to blow through my latest paycheck at Chico’s in the hope that a hemp pantsuit and dangly earrings won’t look too nuts on all beefy, fuzzy, 180 pounds of me?A boy and girl can dream. Hopefully, though, soon we’ll be dreaming together on the Q train, complaining about Time Warner cable on our way to find the best chocolate chip cookie in North Brooklyn.