Beyond the Bubble: Just a Small Town Boy

By Parker Richards | 1/15/16 10:59am

So I grew up in rural Vermont. Like, really rural. There were times (about monthly when it wasn’t winter) when our neighbors’ flock of sheep would stampede up our driveway, take over the front deck and not leave for hours. Once, another neighbor threatened to shoot our dog if he kept eating their chickens (We claimed he hadn’t, but he definitely did — sorry, Mr. Bartlett.)

Then my family moved to Nantucket, an island 30 miles out to sea (and most notable for singlehandedly placing entire species of large marine mammals on the brink of extinction). No more sheep or neighbors’ chickens, sure, but about 50 miles of beach and enough irritating seagulls to invade Québec.

A view from our old apartment a the intersection of 14th and Sixth Ave. in New York.

My point is, cities aren’t my thing. Urban areas in general. Large cities are a testament to the arrogance of mankind, an affront against God or something like that. But now I’m spending the winter in Manhattan, living in the heart of American urbanity. It’s pretty gosh-darn scary, if you ask me. Yes, John Mulaney was correct when he said that it is next to impossible to actually become “lost in New York” (“The streets are numbered!”), but nonetheless the sprawling metropolis and its subterranean forms of communication are a mystery to me. Things like escalators designed specifically for shopping carts are the sort of newfangled, futuristic Star Trek-like technology that was thoroughly unimaginable in my former life.

Also, when you have these magically special-purpose escalators, how can you not make a train running the same route every day relatively consistent in its timing? HOW? There’s a solid 20-minute range in the amount of time it takes the Lexington Avenue subway to get from 86th and Lex down to Bowling Green, and that just doesn’t seem rational. Manhattan isn’t even that big! The entire length of the island is roughly equivalent to the length of a driveway in Vermont. Sheesh, people!

I blame Rudy Giuliani.

Though I’ve pretty much worked out the subway now, in all its inconsistent, mind-numbingly cramped “glory.” And I have developed a single rule for knowing if things are safe in the city or not (although the rule is fairly contingent on it being winter, as you’ll soon learn). It goes something like this:

Theorem 0.1. New York is safe when and only when you can see at least one person wearing a Canada Goose jacket nearby.

Proof of Theorem 0.1.

Fact 1: People in Canada Goose jackets are rich and powerful.

Fact 2: Rich and powerful people are likely to only venture where it is safe to go, otherwise they wouldn’t be rich and powerful.

Fact 3: The powers that be like to protect the rich and powerful in the hope that they will become rich and powerful (or at least not become un-rich and un-powerful themselves).

Fact 4: Rich and powerful people in New York City are known to constantly wear Canada Goose jackets in winter.

Therefore, when there are people in a Canada Goose jacket nearby, New York is safe.

Corollary 0.1.1. Canada Goose is the world’s greatest police force.

Corollary 0.1.2. Actual geese are still more terrifying.

As a caveat, this proof has not been peer-reviewed. However, extensive data collection during these past two weeks has demonstrated that it is accurate, as I am not yet dead or without any and all possessions. Mom would be pleased.

Parker Richards