“Oh, wow. That’s a breast.”
It was the first thing I noticed, and I’m pretty sure that’s how it was intended to be. A big, beautiful painting of a wonderfully sexy woman laying on her back, her left tit out there for the world to see. I wondered how many people had seen that breast over the past few decades. A hundred thousand? A million?
I was at Raoul’s, the semi-famous French bistro that’s been around since the 70’s and home to one of the best steaks in Manhattan. It’s the type of place you imagine when you come to New York – casual and elegant at the same time, the sort of place that lost a piece of it’s soul when smoking indoors became illegal.
“There’s a fortune teller upstairs,” my dinner mate pointed out. Of course there is.
I’d been in Manhattan for half a decade. I’d worked down the street from Raoul’s for the past two years, and yet I only managed to make it during my last week, days before I left for good. There’s always another restaurant; another street, another speakeasy, another hidden gem around here. You can spend a lifetime in New York and not see it all.
The steak au poivre for which they’re known was excellent, as advertised. It’s been excellent for thirty-plus years, from Koch to Dinkins to Giuliani to Bloomberg and, finally, de Blasio; to last around here that long, “good” just doesn’t cut it. You need to be among the best.
That’s what draws people to New York, above all else. It feels major league. People come from all over the world and throw their hat in the ring, elbow to elbow with the cream of whatever crop they hail from: the best restaurants; the best musicians; the best comedians, bankers, writers, bartenders, businessmen, fashionistas, and so on and so forth.
For some, it’s not enough to be a big fish in a small pond; some people would rather come in last place as long as they’re up against the best. There’s no point in competing at a lower level; everything else comes with an asterisk (unless you currently play for the Yankees – in that case, we’ll let it slide). That’s why New Yorkers sport that infamous braggadocio, that arrogance towards the rest of the world.
Oh, you’re the best in Ohio? Fuck you, walk faster.
It’s equal parts charming and offensive, depending on how you look at it, and it permeates through the whole city. Some of us are just here to enjoy the spoils that come with being surrounded by greatness. Stumble into a random bar and you might have the cocktail of your life; walk into a rinky-dink comedy club on a boring Thursday and you might see Louis CK. It’s why even though 99% of those “wild New York City nights” end with the corner deli and falling asleep without brushing your teeth, every once in a while you end up partying till the sun comes up and seeing an NBA player get stabbed. You just really never know. It’s unpredictable, and that unpredictability is straight-up addictive.
That’s because Manhattan is like an incredibly sexy, batshit-crazy chick (like so many of her inhabitants). She’s a leggy “blonde” (she doesn’t even remember her natural color anymore) that has no discernible job but manages to go out four nights a week anyway; three of those nights end with her throwing a drink at someone. She tells people she works in “PR,” whatever the hell that means. She’s got a little bit of a coke habit. She will buy a $1300 Givenchy bag and eat tuna until the next paycheck, all so she can wear it four times and then sell it for $300 (okay, fine, $275). She’ll go through your phone while you sleep and kick you out in the middle of the night, all while screaming like a banshee and throwing your clothes into the hallway. The doorman is used to this; he doesn’t even bat an eye. While you walk home in the middle of the night, you promise yourself that it’s over and you’re leaving for good… then the next day, right when you’re ready to start packing your bags, she’ll start sending you a couple dirty texts and rope you right back in.
She’ll empty your bank account, fuck your brains out, tell you she loves you, and at the end of the day – when you finally muster up the courage to leave – she won’t even miss you. You’ll see her partying on that next Wednesday like you never even existed, flirting with your best friends and giving you severe FOMO.
New York, New York – the greatest city in the world, and one bad bitch.
– Jack Gashi