The 9 Circles Of New York City Hell


Living in New York City can be heaven or hell, depending on who you ask (or what time of year it is). I mean, who here hasn’t see-sawed between “I love New York” and “I HATE NEW YORK” in the span of a week — nay — a day? New York is heaven when you’re strolling through the High Line on a warm summer day, but it’s straight-up hell when you’re stuck under someone’s armpit (or spooned — it’s happened to me) on the 1 train during rush hour. Heaven: lolling on the grass in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Hell: paying $15 for a kale smoothie at Smorgasburg. Heaven: a summer show in Prospect Park. Hell: a free summer show in Prospect Park.

But hey, let’s not over-dramatize things. Some hells burn hotter than others. Some hells could even be classified as limbos. Take Dante’s Inferno, for example. If Dante depicts the nine circles of hell that exist within the Earth, I’m here to depict the nine circles of hell above the Earth. Specifically, in New York City.

1st Circle (Limbo): North Brooklyn

These North Brooklyn nabes typically house the very individuals who would ascribe their lives to something resembling “post-adolescent limbo.” Not quite sure who they are and where their lives are headed, these post-collegiate youngsters are still figuring out how to get a job, do their taxes, piece together an Ikea bookshelf, sustain a meaningful relationship, and not get murdered by some vegan formula-slinging, Cobble Hill mom in the Trader Joe’s line (more on that later).

2nd Circle (Lust): Bedford Avenue

Whenever I visit Bedford Ave, I’m immediately struck by lust: lust for cute clothes, shoes, guys, and girls. Everyone and everything is so gosh darn young, healthy, and attractive, it’s like every cell in my body is itching to stare, shop, and salivate over stuff. But like lust itself, Bedford Ave is a fickle and shallow beast. Give it a month, and that person, place, or thing you were ogling is bound to go out of style and/or move further down the L.

3rd Circle (Gluttony): Trader Joe’s

Anyone who has set foot in a NYC-based Trader Joe’s understands this particular brand of hell. Only this hell consists of easy-to-make rigatoni, microwave Indian dishes, cheap produce, and triple ginger snap cookies. All for under $50. Which doesn’t SOUND so bad, but in order to actually procure this low-cost, high-quality grocery list, you’ll have to stand in line ‘round the store. You’ll stand so far back, in fact, that you’ll learn how to map out what to grab off the shelves pre-line and what to grab while IN line. I pity the fool who cuts 50+ grumpy, post-work New Yorkers to grab a thing of string cheeses from the dairy aisle.

4th Circle (Greed): Wall Street

Really, what does one do in the Financial District? Besides dodge bored-looking dudes in suits and feel bad for 22-year-old Stern grads chained to their desks? Greed might be good, but it’s only good for a very small percentage of NYC’s population. (Erm, see: that time Wall Street got occupied.)

5th Circle (Wrath): Your Morning/Evening Commute

Commuting in New York is a lot like playing Twister. At least I can’t think of any other situation in which you’ll find yourself stuffed under someone’s armpit, while someone else is stuffed under YOUR armpit. Only difference is that no one’s having any fun. Anyway, it’s probably safe to say that everyone involved is feeling particularly wrathful in this smelly, sticky, sardine can of a situation.

6th Circle (Heresy): Times Square

I don’t care what you make of this Dante’s interpretation — any space that’s packed-to-shit-with-tourists and flashing neon lights and larger-than-life ads for Guy Fieri’s pile of edible garbage is DEFINITELY the opposite of whatever it is God intended.

7th Circle (Violence): Penn Station

Or, if you shove me one more time while I attempt to board my NJ Transit train home, there will be blood. Specifically, yours.

8th Circle (Fraud): Canal Street

Walking through Canal Street used to be fun when you were a teenager. All those glorious (and super-cheap) purses, sunglasses, belts, earrings, and wallets just hanging like ripe fruit from the knockoff tree, practically begging to be bargained for and bought. But remember, that’s not a real Chanel wallet, that D&G belt isn’t gonna hold your pants up, and those “ghetto” door knocker earrings might turn your ears green. Like I said: fraud.

9th Circle (Treachery): Looking for an apartment

The last time I found an apartment to rent in New York, my boyfriend said of our broker, “I know he’s gonna fuck us, but at least he’s gonna fuck us gently.” SERIOUSLY. Finding a broker in New York who won’t behave treacherously toward you during the apartment process is like finding a good boyfriend on Tinder — the system’s not designed that way. So when you’re engaged in the soul-sucking apartment hunt, just remember: Your broker, no matter what kind of discount he/she offers, or how well they sell that new shoebox apartment to you, is going to be treacherous. Do not trust anything or anybody. Just hope to be fucked gently.