New York State Of Mind

Guadalupe Astorga

This month Natural Selections interviews

Jens Matthes, Information Security Architect.

How long have you been living in the New York area? 

18 years, since March 1999. I remember I was terrified, I wanted to go back home after a week.

Where do you currently live?  Which is your favorite neighborhood?

I live in the Upper West side near the Central Park and that’s probably one of my favorite neighborhoods. I also like the Lower East side, it’s fun down there.

What do you think is the most overrated thing in the city? And underrated? 

Overrated all the touristic places like Time[s] Square and the Statue of the Liberty. Underrated, the public transportation, it’s actually great here, even if people always complain about it. They don’t realize how much value it adds. I also like the ease of the access, everything is close, pharmacies and stores in every block. People don’t realize how convenient and easy it is to have it.

What do you miss most when you are out of town? 

The fact of not having to drive. Every time I go somewhere and I have to drive everywhere, it really gets on my nerves pretty quick, to sit in the car for everything. I also miss the food, all the fantastic options, whatever you like for however much you want to pay. Also, the public transportation, most places, especially in the U.S., don’t have it. I remember I went to L.A. like 10 years ago and I hated it after three days.

Has anything (negative or positive) changed about you since you became one of us “New Yorkers”?

I come from a really small city in Germany, so things like homelessness and crazy people in the street would have affected me much more, because it wasn’t common and not a big issue. Here, I got a bit jaded about these things. When I see crazy people in the subway all I think is “I hope he doesn’t throw me down the tunnel.” I don’t think “how did this happen, or how could one help him?” This has definitely changed. Also, the stress of the city, when I get visitors they say “why do you have to run like that?” It’s something you don’t realize, you just become part of it. It’s negative, but after so many problems you see, you cannot get involved all the time, it’s just too much.

If you could change one thing about NYC, what would that be?

One thing is the noise, it really stinks. It’s always noisy, also where I live, even the Central Park.

Another thing is prices. It’s just crazy, I don’t know how people live. I have a full-time job and also my wife and I still feel poor, that kind of sucks.

What is your favorite weekend activity in NYC?

I like my brunch, NYC is definitely the capital of brunch. I like to play some tennis, do things with the kids, watch a show, or listen to some live music. I like to take advantage of the culture that NYC has to offer.

What is the most memorable experience you’ve had in NYC?  

We used to go with some friends to the World Trade Center, in the twin towers, tower number two, 110th floor. “The Windows of the World”: on Wednesdays they had a cool DJ with good music, it was very impressive to have a beer there, see through the windows, especially after 9/11, I always remember that time.

 Bike, MTA or Walk it?

It’s too far to walk home. I had to do it for the “Blackout” [of 2003] and it took me two and a half hours. I use the Citybike quite a bit if it’s available, it’s a great way to get around, saves me some time. MTA, of course, in the winter, subway and bus.

If you could live anywhere else, where would that be? 

I could live in Florida, I have some family there, it’s cheap. California, of course too. I could also move back to Germany; I may even have to think about it with the current political situation, which really sucks.

Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker?

I have always been told that it takes about 20 years, so I’m not quite there. But, I guess I feel pretty much like a New Yorker, people from out of town come and complain I talk too much, I walk too fast, I talk too fast. So, they definitely think I’m a New Yorker.

I still feel connected to my roots and my culture, I have a lot of friends and family in Germany. In that sense, maybe a New Yorker with roots, I think that’s very common in NYC.