The kind of crazy you get from too much choice

One of the big lies people tell themselves about living in New York City is that it toughens us up because it is so hard. The truth is that we try to make it hard for ourselves by creating a lot of tasks and rules and very, very specific needs. The arcane evidence fills the shelves at every big Korean deli in Manhattan and every bodega in gentrified Brooklyn: we need almond butter and organic tempeh and unbleached cotton tampons. We might even need specific brands of these things. We need 24-hour access. We need to never be more than two blocks from an ATM. We need taxis and car services that know how to take us anywhere. We need free wifi and bottled unsweetened iced tea and perfectly decent sushi that costs less than $10. We need fresh lemongrass and thai basil and epazote and coconut milk and three different kinds of artisanal ginger beer and cane-juice-sweetened dark chocolate. We need $40 moisturizer from Kiehl’s and perfect $10 bras from Target and Japanese bubble tea and two eggs and cheese on a toasted whole wheat bagel prepared in under a minute. We need kombucha.

I’m not calling us bougie little twerps and saying I’ve seen the light here. I’m saying thank you to the machine that brings us all our soy lattes and farmer’s-market chevre because, in its absence, boy do I miss it. But while that first sip of soymilk sure will taste sweet on my return, in the meantime I am slowly but surely discovering the compensatory joys of what is really a very cosmopolitan city, I mean, I’m not trying to be a snob here. I’m sure I could find plenty of soy products here if I looked hard enough, though they would probably cost like 300 rubles and I would certainly not be able to ask for them by name. (Rosetta Stone – the level I’m on, at least — is pretty useless i/r/t shopping, unless you are shopping for green bicycles or blue eggs or a boy who drinks milk).

So, yes: compensatory joys. Well, for starters, here in the center at least, Moscow is beautiful, with steep winding streets and old stately pastel buildings whose courtyards you duck through on the circuitous back-alley path you’re taking in order to avoid being overrun by the clacky-heeled packs of determined girls on the one-person-wide sidewalks that line the major boulevards. In these courtyards you may also find crazy playgrounds! The one with the samurai is actually pretty close to the apartment where I’m staying.

Also while yes it is gray and gloomy, that’s the kind of weather that makes you want to put your head down and be serious, which is good. Once I get used to leaving them smelling like I’ve bathed in a giant stale ashtray I’m sure I will warm to the coffeehouses here, which are full of people having intense conversations that for all I know are about important things. Really the people here are not unlike New Yorkers: they have grave forbidding expressions at all times and they walk like they’re headed somewhere. I always walk that way too, just on principle — even when, like now, I have no place special to be. Eventually I guess I’ll meet Bill Murray and we’ll go do some karaoke together.

8 comments to The kind of crazy you get from too much choice

  • I don’t know if I ever told you this, but the first time I really lost it in New Zealand was because I could find neither mozzarella cheese nor a payphone and the streets were already dark and deserted at 5 PM on a Friday.

    Miss you!

  • those playgrounds are hilarious

  • I have this theory about time. Well, not how time works, but how to measure time as an investment. Like if it takes you 12 hours to write your book, and it takes an hour to read it, and 13 people read it, you’ve come out ahead. Anyway, when you come back from Moscow, I’m sure you’ll end up thinking about your time there for way longer than a month. Your trip is a good investment for idle thought. Have fun drinking regular milk.

  • We so need a mini White House like smack dab in the middle of the Mall. You know, with like a crazy waterslide from the roof down into the reflecting pool. McDonalds really needs to rethink its lobbying efforts.

  • Linds

    are you taking the piss out of Jessica Roy or was this post meant to be serious?

  • emily

    Serious. Oops! I guess Jessica Roy and I are both lactose intolerant.

  • arthur

    I have never missed not having unbleached cotton tampons. Really. Never.

    This is the first I have ever heard of them.

  • arthur

    PS: I just checked out the crazy playgrounds! and accidentally clicked on and then clicked again and again and again on many of the photographs, accidentally also.

    Wow, everyone is impressed by my knowledge of these unbleached cotton tampons.

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