Post Urban Culture

Post Urban Culture

Cell phones are lovely things when they keep you in contact with the proper people.  Bill collectors, politicians looking to get elected and the occasionally crazy family member who wonders if now would be a good time to talk about some arcane piece of family fiction I don’t care about are the problems with being connected to the rest of the world on a constant basis.  Yesterday, in an attempt to disconnect from everyone else in a world that is quickly slipping into anarchy, I left my phone at home for several hours.  Of course, I missed a call that I wanted to take, in this case, Tomas, my former bartending partner who moved to New Orleans with his wife and daughters after she received an excellent job offer.  “I’m walking on the street drinking a beer I got to go from a bar,” Tomas teased.  “You can’t do that in NYC.  Call me brother; it will be great to catch up.”  I was kicking myself for not having my phone with me the one time in the past week I actually wanted to answer it.


Our game of phone tag ended a few days later.  “Not only will she be working at an excellent salary in her field (psychology) but we’re near her family so it cuts down on the cost of babysitters,” he joked.  After an hour or so of shooting the shit, I asked him how it was living back in the suburbs we both came from after being in the city for so long.  “It’s peaceful.  I’m working an adult joint and I don’t have to contend with kids asking for Long Island Ice Teas at 2 in the morning.”


“Was it easy for you to find a gig,” I asked.


“Easier than it has been for you,” he replied.  “If the aggregate age of NYC was something like 28, it’s closer to 40 here.  That means I have something in common with most of my neighbors and the people who come to drink at my bar.”


“I’m jealous.  You are working and I’m scraping along as Wall Street fails.”


“F*** that.  I’m jealous of you my friend.  You can still score a 25 year old chick,” he said.  One of his daughters needed to be tucked in so we bid each other good night.  I promised to keep him in the loop about my job search.


After our talk that night, I sat out on my stoop, looking out at the newly falling leaves that are piling up just behind the black gate of Gramercy Park, sipping at a 40oz. can of Heineken.  In my 20’s and early 30’s, I wondered just how many of the Friends and Seinfeld admirers in the hinterlands of the country wanted the exact life I was leading.  I got to meet beautiful women on a daily basis and be part of the most happening, imperial city in the world.  I’d sit back with that urban New York chip on my shoulder, nodding my head in self satisfaction.  I was living the dream.  That night, well into the early morning hours, I found myself in admiration of Tomas and three other of my closest friends in New York who have left for the suburbs and exurbs for a cheaper, better quality of life with their families, less crime and a low level of the existential neuroses and angst that city living is all about.  I began to feel like a man without a country.  No girlfriend, a part-time gig at best with limited prospects, either I was becoming some sort of nuevuea bartending version of Philip Marlowe or I was having a real problem getting on with the next phase of my life, moving into what I classify as Post-Urban Culture which my friends have found so easy to accept and I find to be both frightening and enthralling.


Post Urban Culture is the place where men 30-50 go when they reach the time in their lives when they become the Old Man.  No longer are you worrying about where the next party is, where the next hook-up or babe will be.  Now, you are trying to figure out to keep the kids safe, pay the mortgage and keep the wife happy.  The small one bedroom apartment on East 74th Street for $2,000 a month was great when you were living together or just got married but when the kids come around?  Forget it.  It’s time to grow up and get on with it. 


Although I would prefer to live in the city of New York on a 24/7 basis, I realize this may be a non-starter for someone that wants to settle down.  The present infrastructure of New York is no longer set up to raise a family.  Rents are high, apartments are too small and now, jobs are hard to come by.  For all of the culture that NYC offers, unless you are one of the truly wealthy or has mom and dad paying the bills, livable space at affordable prices is just not going to happen.  Then there is the question of the saloon culture.  Once hang outs for working men that offered a respite from the wife, kids and camaraderie with your neighbors, bars have become the major proponents of Guyland, where hook-ups, frat boy like stupidity and public drunkenness is not only the norm but peer pressure imperative to be a vomitous knucklehead is huge. 


The answer is to move back to the same suburbs form whence we came.  However, those suburbs and exurbs aren’t the same places that we left and now we hit the part of Post Urban Culture that terrifies me. For the most part, men in the 30-50 range aren’t out earning their fathers.  Also, one woman in four is now making more money than her husband and the men are okay with it.  Plus views of fatherhood have changed, men are now far more touchy feely with their kids, less stand offish and doctrinaire authority figures.  So here I am, the scion of a man who raised me to do better than him, come home everyday with a loosened tie, ‘yes dear’ my wife to death and play with the kids on the weekends and I know that isn’t going to happen.  The only way I could be a better earner than the Old Man would be to become Donald Trump and, let’s face it, like every other man, I am scared shitless of fatherhood.  Will I be able to do as good a job raising kids as the Old Man?  Do I have to be touchy feely?  Will I be too stand-offish?  Was it this complicated for my father?


Those fears, however, are all well into the future.  Although my married friends in the suburbs and exurbs are seemingly eager to hear of my exploits what I did where, with whom, what did I see on the streets and when can they read about it on the blog.  However, in order to achieve my life goals, the general running around like a maniac has to come to an end. (Trust me; it’s not that interesting to begin with.)  I realize that if I want to find a partner, I have to get over the New York single philosophy that states there is always someone better and find a partner.


Whether I or my peers that remain in the City still scraping along in a Bohemian culture that has totally disappeared like it or not, the coming recession/depression has foisted Post-Urban Culture upon us.  Unless we can live in our tiny rent controlled apartments or paid off co-ops with twelve cats as company for the rest of our lives, it is time to embrace the life changes that are happening around us.  It looks like we’ll have to be part of a generation that spends part of the year in New York and part of the year in the ‘Burbs.


Although I’m not ready, I guess I have to become an adult and make hard choices about my future.  I’ll let you know if I need a Xanax. 









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