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One in 8 Million
August 22, 2009 10:06 PM   Subscribe

One in 8 Million "New York is a city of characters. On the subway and in its streets, from the intensity of Midtown to the intimacy of neighborhood blocks, is a 305-square-mile parade of people with something to say. This is a collection of a few of their passions and problems, relationships and routines, vocations and obsessions. A new story will be added weekly." A photo and audio series from the New York Times. posted by ocherdraco (53 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
No New York triumphalism please. I had enough trouble dealing with the unique, diverse and amazing population of Los Angeles for most of my life (and they are not all tanned, toned douchebags - there are more different varieties of douchebags in L.A. than Starbucks, McDonalds and In-n-Outs combined).
posted by wendell at 10:26 PM on August 22, 2009


Oh how dare I be happy to live in a city you wished you lived in.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:28 PM on August 22, 2009 [6 favorites]


Former New Yorker here, who, while now lives in Portland (which sucks so please no more new yorkers move here...heh...heh...)...really does love NYC...

But the RAT TO HUMAN RATIO IS 12:1.

That is all.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:42 PM on August 22, 2009 [1 favorite]


I, for one, welcome our new rodent overlords.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:48 PM on August 22, 2009


RE: "The Believer". There are plenty of Christian sites. my feeling is one does not need to proselytize here.
posted by vvurdsmyth at 10:54 PM on August 22, 2009


"There are ten million stories in the naked city, but no one can remember which one is theirs."
posted by monster free city at 11:35 PM on August 22, 2009 [2 favorites]


Another former New Yorker here (1984 to 1995), so I know why New Yorkers always have and still do and probably always will tell themselves (in breathlessly self-congratulatory tones) that they live in the most amazing, diverse, center-of-the-universe, only-place-that-matters (etc. etc.) city in the world. I used to do it myself. Because if you don't convince yourself of that, how in the world could you justify putting up with the insane amounts of noise (I don't mean simply aural here, I mean all kinds of noise) and bullshit that comes with living in NYC?

And i say that as someone who still has affection and admiration for NYC, even though it's a shell of its former self...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:43 PM on August 22, 2009


Because if you don't convince yourself of that, how in the world could you justify putting up with the insane amounts of noise (I don't mean simply aural here, I mean all kinds of noise) and bullshit that comes with living in NYC?

Or, um, I dunno, maybe we lived somewhere else and then moved here for all the things you can't find in any other American city?

Not everybody's cut out to be a big fish in a small pond.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:58 PM on August 22, 2009


somewhat similar to David Lynch's Interview Project
posted by merv at 12:04 AM on August 23, 2009


Afroblanco: "all the things you can't find in any other American city?"

Do tell.
posted by boo_radley at 12:05 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Or, um, I dunno, maybe we lived somewhere else and then moved here for all the things you can't find in any other American city?

Sure, I hear you. I was one of those people, too. One doesn't cancel out the other, that is, your point doesn't cancel out mine.

Not everybody's cut out to be a big fish in a small pond.

Your disdainful characterization of people who don't live in NYC as 'big fish in little ponds' is exactly the kind of NYC 'superiorism' (to um, sort of coin a phrase) that is also part of what I'm talking about. Belittling non-New Yorkers in the way you've just done is also depressingly par-for-the-course.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:07 AM on August 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


If you're one in a million, there's eight of you in New York.
posted by naoko at 12:11 AM on August 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


If you're one in a million, there's 12 of you in Tokyo.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 12:23 AM on August 23, 2009 [4 favorites]


maybe we lived somewhere else and then moved here for all the things you can't find in any other American city?

Like expensive apartments, trustafarians, hipsters, Wall St. douche bags, snobs, gentrification, overpriced pizza, and $5 gallons of milk?

Look I love NYC as much as the next guy, but the people there are not special compared to the rest of America. The pizza is great and I love the subway. There's just no way in hell I could afford to live there.
posted by Acromion at 12:39 AM on August 23, 2009


Farmland Dairies non-RBST milk delivered to my apartment...$1.69/.5gallon.
Trustafarians and snobs...in Chicago we called them Chad and Trixie.
Wall St. douche bags...in Chicago we called them Chad.
But you're right...some NY pizza isn't worth the price. I should probably leave, as that's why I chose to move here. I think there's a good chance Paris might be cooler, but I've never been.

Anyway, I see this post has already turned into "this is why they hate us." I thought the stories were pretty lame, anyway. I have yet to see any evidence that the NY superiorism (at least the part that isn't in jest) is any worse than the provincial "real America"nism coming from elsewhere in the country, though. Eight million people do afford to live here, after all. More of them are public schoolteacher than investment bankers, and most of them dress pretty well (which I only mention to point that they're mostly not hipsters nor made destitute by rent). It isn't really "better" or "superior," but they don't prioritize living space, entertainment centers, furniture, other belongings, or (large) families as much. That'll be the biggest difference.
posted by aswego at 1:45 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Belittling non-New Yorkers in the way you've just done is also depressingly par-for-the-course.

I think Afroblanco is just trying to provoke. My advice is not to fall for it.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:22 AM on August 23, 2009


See, what's crazy is that I randomly selected a story--I was flicking through the side scrolley interface and Mark Mocha Ex-Bank Robber was the first one to catch my eye. And wouldn't you know it?

The Ex-Bank Robber lives in my building. It was pretty surreal to be sort of half paying attention to the slide show and then suddenly realizing "Holy shit, that's the lobby!" I've seen him a few times, working on that Honda you see in picture 3.

Statistically speaking, there is a one in 8 million chance of this happening (source: The New York Times).

Snark aside, I thought it was a pretty good little story. Hell, a bank robber lives upstairs! It's not that I thought that was impossible, it's that I never even considered the thought. That's kind of the point of this type of journalism, to just let you peek through the keyhole into someone else's life and broaden your view of what's out there. It's soft journalism, it's human interest--but it's not without merit. It shows you a little of what it's like to be someone else in a place where the simple act of making making eye contact on the subway can feel awkward or threatening. It makes the city incrementally more human.

I think you could get stories like this in any city. New York's especially international, which is cool, but I bet it would be just as compelling a series if it were recorded in the most boring-seeming suburb in the world. People are interesting everywhere if you can get them talking honestly.
posted by andromache at 4:06 AM on August 23, 2009 [7 favorites]


Great story - thank you for saving this thread, andromache. I hope we can talk about the FPP now rather than NYC good / NYC bad.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 4:15 AM on August 23, 2009



I think Afroblanco is just trying to provoke. My advice is not to fall for it.

Curious here. Is there a significant difference between provoke and troll?
posted by notreally at 4:39 AM on August 23, 2009


I've been following this series for a while, my favourites are the Pathologist and the Sneaker Connoisseur.

If you like stories like this, you might enjoy The Moth (previously mentioned on the blue). If you only listen to one, listen to the first one by Ed Gavagan about being stabbed in NYC, a great story.
posted by toftflin at 4:46 AM on August 23, 2009


Not very long ago some one invented the assertion that there were only "Four Hundred" people in New York City who were really worth noticing. But a wiser man has arisen--the census taker--and his larger estimate of human interest has been preferred in marking out the field of these little stories of the "Four Million."
- O. Henry, The Four Million, 1906
posted by The White Hat at 5:07 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's always great hearing people's stories. The NYC focus does nothing for me personally—just happens to be where NY Times found these people. (Maybe there's a higher percentage of interesting people in a huge city, I don't know.)

I really like the format. The voice of the person talking over a photo essay. It's very intimate. Feels like I almost get their own POV—from within their life—rather than looking at someone's life through the lens of a reporter. Not quite, but moreso than a standard format human interest story.

Ra Ruiz's story (The Pier Kid) was amazing.
posted by Glee at 6:20 AM on August 23, 2009




Statistically speaking, there is a one in 8 million chance of this happening

New York is weird like that. I used to live across the river in Jerseyland, and I remember one time walking into a store in SoHo of all places, and the girl behind the counter immediately recognized me, knew my name, knew who I was dating, and I was like… uh, hello, who the hell are you? It turned out she was a year ahead of me in high school and friends with one of my exes. But at the time, I didn't know anyone in New York. And yet somehow, someone in New York knew me, and I actually ran into them!

Fucking great city.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:32 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Your disdainful characterization of people who don't live in NYC as 'big fish in little ponds' is exactly the kind of NYC 'superiorism' (to um, sort of coin a phrase) that is also part of what I'm talking about. Belittling non-New Yorkers in the way you've just done is also depressingly par-for-the-course.

Look, if you want to take it that way, that's all on you. I was pretty much just referring to my own experience and how I felt after moving to NYC. I think at some point, everyone has to ask themselves if they feel more comfortable being a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond. I felt like the former where I used to live, and the latter in NYC. I like it a lot better now.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:54 AM on August 23, 2009


Loved this site, the way it's laid out, the evocative image and sushi version of their individual stories. Loved hearing the stories. Nicely edited and meaningful. Each one is fascinating. Geography, place, does have an impact on people's lives, so I heard their stories with that in mind, letting their words create the feeling reality of the visuals around them.

Stories are wonderful, especially when they're well told. This is a great idea and I'd love to hear it, see it, done for all the cities in the world. Or on town websites. A sort of Spoon River Anthology , with all its rich stories, for everyplace in the world.
posted by nickyskye at 7:55 AM on August 23, 2009 [3 favorites]


Nice site, and thanks for rescuing the thread, andromache. Arguments about NYC are even stupider and more boring than arguments about religion.

Check your MeMail, ocherdraco!
posted by languagehat at 8:57 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes, andromache, wonderful comment/anecdote, what an amazing coinkidink you're neighbors to an ex-bank robber. Potent and interesting comments to his story, including comments by his wife and kid.
posted by nickyskye at 9:14 AM on August 23, 2009


It isn't really "better" or "superior," but they don't prioritize living space, entertainment centers, furniture, other belongings, or (large) families as much. That'll be the biggest difference.

I'll confess I'm a little bitter towards New Yorkers because of a bad experience I had last time I visited, so the animus is really undeserved. I ended up hanging out with a crowd of fashion students at Parson's, which is probably one of the Snob Meccas of NYC. Needless to say, I found most of them to be insufferable prima donnas. They were extremely rude. At one point, I was chatting with this girl who I thought was pretty cute. When I told her I was from Detroit, she literally crinkled up her nose and said "Gross!" and would barely speak to me for the rest of the night.

But other than that, I have found New Yorkers (at least the middle class ones) to be friendly to a fault. But in my wanderings around this great country, I have found people of all stripes everywhere you go. The city is vibrant and fun and I can't wait to visit again.
posted by Acromion at 9:44 AM on August 23, 2009


Everything I need to know about New York was explained by Will Eisner.
posted by SPrintF at 11:40 AM on August 23, 2009


One in 8 Million...

What a great web site/NYT feature. Thanks for posting it.

Obligatory.
posted by ericb at 11:44 AM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed the stories, thanks for the link.

Because if you don't convince yourself of that, how in the world could you justify putting up with the insane amounts of noise

For many new yorkers, undoubtably true. I love NYC. Every time I visit I feel alive, almost like when I was a child and visited disney world. But there's honestly about 4 cities I'd rather live in, and that's only in the U.S.

It would simply be too big a sacrifice for me to live in NYC. But I'm quite sure if I made that sacrifice, I'd be telling you how no other place compared. It would help with rationalizing my decision. And I think it's great to be proud of where you live, to believe that it's perfect for you. But NYs like AfroBlanco overcompensate, and I think the reasons are very transparent.

Over and over I hear 'only in New York City', and 99 percent of the time, well, that's BS.

Afroblanco: "all the things you can't find in any other American city?"

Do tell.
posted by boo_radley


You're going to be waiting for that answer for a long time.
posted by Dennis Murphy at 12:02 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'll confess I'm a little bitter towards New Yorkers because of a bad experience I had last time I visited, so the animus is really undeserved. I ended up hanging out with a crowd of fashion students at Parson's, which is probably one of the Snob Meccas of NYC. Needless to say, I found most of them to be insufferable prima donnas. They were extremely rude. At one point, I was chatting with this girl who I thought was pretty cute. When I told her I was from Detroit, she literally crinkled up her nose and said "Gross!" and would barely speak to me for the rest of the night.

Dude, that is soooo not representative.

Anyone who acts that way is a recent arrival who's trying too hard to fit in.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:21 PM on August 23, 2009


And yet somehow, someone in New York knew me, and I actually ran into them!

Happens to me all the freakin' time. Ran into my high school drama teacher from FL one day walking down a street in SoHo I had never walked down before. Ran into a family I grew up with in VA (our mothers were good friends, they swapped babysitting all the time) on the shuttle train between Times Square and Grand Central one night- they walked into my exact car, what are the chances of that? Some might call it "weird" but I call it magic.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:04 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is there a significant difference between provoke and troll?

You can only get provokes at that little Jewish-Hindu deli on East 57th.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:55 PM on August 23, 2009


Crap now everyone's going to know about it and I can no longer go there! This calls for a NYT opinion piece I think!
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:56 PM on August 23, 2009


This Times series is very well designed. The Bar Fighter happens to be someone I know, and it's amazing to hear his voice as part of this.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:29 PM on August 23, 2009


Over and over I hear 'only in New York City', and 99 percent of the time, well, that's BS.

This. All of those "I ran into so-and-so, only in NYC!" It's not just NY. Happened to me in a bar in Colorado, once in San Fran, twice in Minneapolis, and all of the time in Chicago.

Meh. New York. Born there, raised there intermittently, have four generations of my family who live and work there. Old school types--cops, detectives, bar owners, Wall Street Execs, doctors, lawyers, business tycoons. The cranes at the Port Authority are named after the women in my family, including my mother, grandmother, three aunts, many cousins, etc. Politicians, crazy people, famous people show up at family shindigs quite a bit.

Do I love things about New York? Sure, I do. I love to visit. I moved away to Chicago twenty years ago and never felt compelled to live in NY again as I found everything I wanted AND it was accessible and affordable here. Plus, all of the cool and connected and creative people. Had a chance to get transferred back there for my job in early 2001 and turned it down flat. It's a wonderful city, but there are many wonderful cities. NYC is not the be-all, end-all that it desperately wants to be. All the self-congratulatory folk just happen to be holding the media megaphone and present this stereotype of superiority that I also feel is attributable to overcompensation and a bit of insecurity. But most of the rest of New Yorkers are just like anyone else from a big city...no big deal.
posted by jeanmari at 11:13 PM on August 23, 2009


Do I love things about other cities? Sure, I do. I love to visit. I was born and raised in other cities, but never felt compelled to live in them again as I found everything I wanted from them in NYC and a hell of a lot more besides. Plus, all of the cool and connected and creative people. Moved away a few years ago for good reasons, but I still miss it. It's a wonderful city, and there really aren't any others like it. Chicago is not New York, though it desperately wants to be. All the resentful folk who keep hollering that there's nothing special about NYC, nope, nothing at all, nossirree are suffering from overcompensation and a bit of insecurity.
posted by languagehat at 4:37 AM on August 24, 2009


Hey, languagehat, wait a minute, buddy... weren't you the guy upthread who said "arguments about NYC are even stupider and more boring than arguments about religion"? Guess you got sucked in like the rest of us stupid, boring folk! :)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:10 AM on August 24, 2009


I never claimed not to be stupid and boring!
posted by languagehat at 6:36 AM on August 24, 2009 [3 favorites]


Actually 'hat, you're anything but, but your self-deprecating humor is most welcome and refreshing in this context!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:04 AM on August 24, 2009


Look -- if New York is the kind of city you like, you'll like it. If other cities are what you like, you'll like them better. The same is true of disliking a city. Disliking New York is no more a sign of weakness or a sign of overcompensating than it is for someone who likes Butter Pecan ice cream to say they dislike Rum Raisin. Chacoun a son gout and all that.

More to the spirit of this thread now: my parents don't want to live here, but they do like visiting, and my father is one of those people who is especially blessed with the ability to draw people into conversations. Every time they've visited, he's struck up lengthy conversations with waiters, cabbies, cops, bus drivers, bartenders...when I took my parents to Ellis Island, and the boat was waiting at Liberty Island before going on to the Ellis Island stop, my father wandered up to the boathouse and struck up a conversation with the boat captain, and he ended up getting so wrapped up in his stories about how he and his buddies used to swim out to Ellis Island from Jersey that we almost made him late for his scheduled departure. Dad also had a cabbie comp his fare just because he'd had such a great time talking to him, and got along so well with the waiter in one Greenwich Village restaurant we went to once that the waiter kept bringing out other waiters to talk to him, and somehow addresses were exchanged and my parents got Christmas cards from them for the next three years.

I just sat back each time this kind of thing happened and listened, because each of these stories were totally unique; this feature sounds like Dad's somewhere behind the scenes drawing these people out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:49 AM on August 24, 2009 [2 favorites]


There are eight million stories in the naked city... but surprisingly, and disappointingly, few of them involve naked people.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:51 AM on August 24, 2009


But most of the rest of New Yorkers are just like anyone else from a big city (jeanmari)

And that's exactly why this feature is so fascinating. Not because it's about New Yorkers, but because it's about people.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:57 AM on August 24, 2009


Meh. New York. Born there, raised there intermittently, have four generations of my family who live and work there. Old school types--cops, detectives, bar owners, Wall Street Execs, doctors, lawyers, business tycoons. The cranes at the Port Authority are named after the women in my family, including my mother, grandmother, three aunts, many cousins, etc. Politicians, crazy people, famous people show up at family shindigs quite a bit. Once weekend Dinkins came over and got on all fours and bade me use him as an ottoman for my freshly-pedi'd feet while we watched home movies of my father banging Marilyn Monroe. Later that day, the President called me to let me know that they were already stenciling my name on an aircraft carrier. My teeth are made of a polyceramic compound that originated on a sentient planet orbiting Gliese 436.

I can disassemble matter with my mind and and seduce any chordate. My blood is so pure it cures leprosy. I am the All-Mother. My dog sings epic poetry in long-forgotten languages. My face makes grown men weep with desire and my scent is the Word that gave form to Divine Will.

NYC is not the be-all, end-all that it desperately wants to be. All the self-congratulatory folk just happen to be holding the media megaphone and present this stereotype of superiority that I also feel is attributable to overcompensation and a bit of insecurity. But most of the rest of New Yorkers are just like anyone else from a big city...no big deal.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:59 AM on August 24, 2009 [10 favorites]


*grins* I say we make Optimus the next person the TIMES interviews for their "One In 8 Million" feature. Just because I want to see what would happen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:17 AM on August 24, 2009


We can email them and suggest him. It might be amusing.
posted by ocherdraco at 9:18 AM on August 24, 2009


I don't think it would be all that great

CAT OWNER POSTS ON INTERNET
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:25 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


"all the things you can't find in any other American city?"

I've moved back to NYC after stints in Chicago & Pittsburgh. For me, the allure is in its opportunity: despite the recent contraction, the center of American finance is still in New York, and if you work in that industry, this is the place to be. I'm told by peers that this is the same in other fields as well, such as fashion.

New York is also considered to be one of the most diverse cities in America. Food, languages, and experiences from all around the world mingle here. And this is coming from a kid raised in Elmhurst, Queens, one of the best examples of this 'melting pot' at work.

It's also America's safest big city.

That being said I can't stand the pollution, taxes are high, and our transportation infrastructure is embarrassing, but hey, you can't have it all. =) Personally I love it here.
posted by gushn at 9:34 AM on August 24, 2009 [1 favorite]


taxes are high, and our transportation infrastructure is embarrassing

does the cognitive dissonance ever give you a nosebleed
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:49 AM on August 24, 2009


For me, the allure is in its opportunity

Finally, someone who understands!
posted by Afroblanco at 8:48 PM on August 25, 2009


Once weekend Dinkins came over and got on all fours and bade me use him as an ottoman for my freshly-pedi'd feet while we watched home movies of my father banging Marilyn Monroe.

It wasn't Dinkins, it was Giuliani. And that wasn't my father, it was probably my uncle.

Yeah, I was reacting to the "Or, um, I dunno, maybe we lived somewhere else and then moved here for all the things you can't find in any other American city?" You wanna make something of it?
posted by jeanmari at 5:43 AM on September 1, 2009


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