Summer is here. That means free concerts in the park, semi-justifiable Mister Softee binges, and movies with explosions. “Fuck yeah,” you just said out loud. But there’s a dark side. A massive revenue-generating dark side. You know what I’m talking about: tourists. “Bastards,” you just said out loud.
I’ve been ‘summering’ in this godforsaken city my entire life. And I’ve studied them. When you go mano a mano with a force so destructive, so dangerous, so unsure of exactly what street they’re on, you should know what exactly you’re up against. I’ve studied their most prominent species:
Rich European Couples
Most likely to be found on Bleecker Street eating gelato.
I somehow landed in the West Village for my first post-grad apartment in New York City. I was never supposed to live there, not just because my chosen spot in the on the East Side fell through at the last second and I got stuck with a ringer apartment I didn’t want, but because I was easily the poorest person in the entire neighborhood. That is something that one should never be. I will never forget the feeling of walking out of my tiny, sweltering basement apartment and seeing these gorgeous rich people looking so blissful and comfortable when all I want is a fucking bodega but this neighborhood doesn’t have bodegas because beautiful European tourists don’t go to bodegas.
Old European Weirdos
Most likely to be found wandering the periphery of a North Brooklyn waterfront pointing a huge DSLR camera at nothing in particular.
These are the aging Europeans who “heard about Brooklyn,” and came here to look endearingly weird while they take pictures of warehouses as if they’re cathedrals and young people as if they’re zebras. They never quite know where they are or where they’re going, but that’s OK — they’re happy to just drink it in. Not quite sure myself what that ‘it’ is, but as old people, they’re mostly harmless. These are the one group of tourists you can’t really get mad at, because frankly, they’re going to die soon, and if they want to awkwardly meander around Wythe Avenue in the twilight of their lives I see no reason to stop them.
Massive Groups of Chaperoned European Teenagers Wearing Identical T-Shirts
Most likely to be found on the sidewalk in front of you whenever you’re in a hurry.
I don’t know where these guys come from. I don’t know what they’re here for. I don’t know where they’re going. I don’t recall being offered any of these homogenized shirt trips when I was a teenager. I try to avoid them, I want to hate them, and yet for some reason I want them to have a good time.
Most likely to be found in Hell’s Kitchen drinking themselves into a violent stupor.
Do I honestly need to say anything about these people? Go back.
Most likely to be found walking through SoHo carrying large bags from Supreme while also simultaneously wearing head-to-toe Supreme.
Who are these kids? Where did they get all this money? How many different colors are on that pair of sneakers? Can I bum a cigarette? Yes? OK.
Bewildered Midwestern Families
Most likely to be found in a subway station looking sweaty, tired, and dejected while staring at a crumpled paper map and intermittently consulting the larger wall map during a hushed but clearly high-stakes argument about how to get wherever the guide told them they absolutely have to go.
The Holy Grail of tourist archetypes. The stars of the show. I love watching these people for so many reasons. Not the least of which is, how many times do you see an entire nuclear family unit, all out, together? Rare. How often do you get a vérité look at the nuanced dynamics of interfamily conflict? Very rare. There’s Bob, the fat Dad, realizing he doesn’t have a clue how to read his map or move around this big city at all. There’s Mom, the waifish blonde (in a visor), rapidly losing the desire to struggle with her sons as well as the desire for Dad. There’s Owen, Logan, and Noah, all aged two years apart, all wearing identical “I <3 NY” shirts and all identically tugging at Mom’s “I <3 NY t-shirt,” clamoring for ice cream she has no idea where to get. The Bewildered Midwestern Family is a live, tragicomic symphony. It almost justifies all the rest.