Go to Chinatown, alone, preferably in the late afternoon. Walk around. Go into one of the shops that sells mysterious (to me) herbs and dried things. Buy some condiments or beef jerky or sweet buns for, what, $2. Listen to the grandmas hollering at their children and grandchildren, and the vegetable sellers. Listen to the teens swapping unknowable secrets, huddled around their phones. Wander over to the park and see if someone’s playing chess or mah-jongg. […]
Avoid the following: gourmet cupcake shoppes, Times Square unless you’re on a side street and there’s a light summer rain falling, Pilates classes, H&M, any place with bottle service, Port Authority, any place where you are likely to feel self-conscious about your outfit, high-end boutiques, people whose default mode of conversation is complaints about New York, people whose default mode of conversation is industry gossip or negativity about other people’s career paths or start-ups or book deals or record deals.