New Yorkers have a knack for quickly shifting gears to make the best of a challenging situation. On any given day, the subway isn't running when you're late to work, or your favorite take-out restaurant ran out of swordfish, or a plane just landed in the Hudson and traffic is delayed. We adjust to small and huge scale happenings and resulting inconveniences with pride and aplomb. How many times have we helped people in the subway, the ones who are lost, fainted, or fell on the tracks? We typically slough off our inconveniences and get right back to work!
But there is a new strain of inconvenience which is lasting longer than a subway interruption. It's financial. We are not getting what we want, or had, financially. My very smart husband and many of our creative and successful friends have lost their jobs in the last year, in fields as varied as computer programming, advertising, law, graphic design and special education. Months later, they remain unemployed. So how are we all doing? Adjusting! Here are a few suggestions for living wisely in these times.
1. Commit to the New York Public Library and other libraries.
At my local branch on East 96th Street you can reserve 45 minutes of internet service per day, join the weekly teen summer reading group, check out ten DVDs for a week, attend a performance of opera, watch a Sherlock Holmes movie, read Large Print books, and bask in the peace and quiet of a library, all for FREE!
Enjoy the many unusual libraries in this city, such as the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesman Library on 44th street, to name just one.
2. Consider the Many Free and Inexpensive Events in the City
Try the River to River Festival for free events (music, dance, theatrics). Run/walk in the park. The Staten Island Ferry provides the best view of the Statue of Liberty and it's FREE.
A subscription to the Unterberg Poetry Center at the 92nd Street Y is so good you have to pinch yourself. For just $350 per year you can see an entire season of more than 25 events, a deal which works out to only $14 per event. In the upcoming 2009-2010 season, which is soon to be announced, the Poetry Center will feature appearances by Adrienne Rich, Annie Proulx, Chinua Achebe and many others. I've enjoyed hearing famous people read, including Toni Morrison and Edwidge Danticat, but I equally enjoyed discovering those unknown to me. I knew nothing about musical composition until I heard John Adams speak this year.
3. Consider Public School over Private School
Our children go to public school and are socially and academically on par with their private school friends. Many public schools are great and offer a rich curriculum, as well as a connection to the best New York institutions to provide learning outside the classroom, from Memorial Sloan Kettering to Symphony Space.
4. Use Public Transportation
Subways are the way to get around the city, even for kids who can handle it. Our children have commuted by subway since middle school. Yes, they break out in hives near nature, like "Woody Allen boys," but they have acquired life skills like reading maps, figuring out alternative routes when necessary, coping with rats and crowds scurrying, and making it home every day on time for dinner.
Outside of the city, try train and bus travel. It's cheaper and avoids road rage. There are now two ways to get to the Meadowlands Sports Complex in New Jersey, where you can see the Giants, Jets, Red Bulls (soccer tickets are cheap and you can move to the front row), and Springsteen. In addition to the bus from Port Authority, you can now take the train from Penn Station to Secaucus Junction and transfer to the bus. The Secaucus train/bus route runs well and is fast.
Sometimes public transportation is simply good for the adventure. Rushed for time recently, I hopped on a bus in New Jersey which said destination, "NYC". I was dropped off at the George Washington Bridge bus station, a first for me. Yes, there is a bus station nestled in that bridge somewhere which you cannot see driving but which does exist and it's cool!
5. Enjoy Having More Time
It sounds cliche, but the best things in life are free. Your kids don't really need camp, and you don't need a car. We will all survive, but this time, with a new collection of economic survival stories told with great aplomb!