Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why New Yorkers REALLYNY

I recently returned from a trip to LA and was almost overwhelmed at the relief I felt stepping off the shuttle bus onto the streets of Manhattan. NY city streets are canyons enveloped by skyscrapers, each striving to be taller than the others. They seem to form a protective womb-like barrier against the forces of nature, while still affording us a glimpse of sun and clouds and stars overhead.
From the tops of those lofty buildings we look like silly ants scurrying around in mad enterprise. But up close each of us is propelled by hopes and dreams and projects that collectively reflect the energy and ingeniousness of the human race. I've never experienced that sense in any other place or any other city. Sometimes going anywhere else just seems an exercise in reinforcing my appreciation of NY.
Some sunny, less frenetic places seem lethargic in comparison. There's an emptiness and restless boredom never felt in the city that, not only doesn't sleep, but doesn't slow down. It's always entertaining.
Oddly, I think of NY city as safe. It hasn't always been, but it is now. If I go to a rural area where it's quiet except for the birds and crickets, I always fear some wild woodsman or animal can break in and threaten me. In our city we don't need guns, we have police and each other to keep us safe. I have no doubt that if I (a little older lady) were being threatened, any number of bystanders (armed with cell phones and courage and concern) would come to my aid. I've benefited from the kindness of strangers often lately. I have no such assurance elsewhere.
When New York City suffers, which it does with disturbing frequency, we all suffer. It's what makes for a collective empathy most of us feel either consciously or subconsciously. I think the racial divide is not felt as deeply here because we all live, work and commute in such proximity. We smile at babies on the subway cars no matter what color they are. People who travel in auto cars don't get that chance.
Don't get me started on the appeal of the heart of the city — Central Park — or I'd be writing for days. Best backyard ever!
Places do matter and they have personalities. New York's is curious, adventurous, ambitious, exhilarating, challenging, intellectual, exciting. Just living here increases the pulse to match the rushing taxis, delivery trucks and bicycles. And of course all the walking keeps us healthier. You don't need that much money to enjoy it. Pubs offer happy hour specials on every block. If you go alone you can strike up a conversation with a fellow New Yorker, or even a tourist. Thrift shops! Sometimes I wonder why anyone would shop anywhere else.
There's always protesting at Union Square to demand that injustices are noticed and addressed.
NY is not perfect. We have a huge class divide. To some of us it's a tragic waste to mindlessly compete, and ignore other priorities, so your apartment will be grander than others. 
The best ambitions are directed towards creative output — bringing a vision to life that will perhaps benefit our neighbors in some way — make them see the world a little differently, or at least entertain them. That urge may be contagious. Maybe we pick it up by breathing the city air. That's really what 'make it here' means: ideas, blogs, plays, poems, hip-hop, classical, docs, dramas, laws, libraries, silicon alley… We make it all.
Other places can't help but dull in comparison.
Thanks so much for reading!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Must See Movies

It recently came to my attention that some of my younger colleagues do not know who Cary Grant is. Quelle horreur! This is practically beyond my comprehension. Have they just been playing video games their whole lives!?
So to attempt to rectify - here are 2 lists of loosely defined 'classic' films that I urge 'young' people to explore at their most earliest convenience!
Of course there will be plenty of evolved males and females who can cross over this arbitrary line. Plus I hope those with partners will enjoy these together. Per my personal prejudice, I limited the war movie/violence selection.
These films are shown on Turner Classic Movies (cable). And almost all can be found on Apple tv.

Monday, March 10, 2014

My Awesome Dutch Ancestors

I have just finished an amazing book called The Island at the Center of the World by Russell Shorto.
Even if you don't have Dutch ancestors, it's worth reading to get a more accurate, complete view of the early influences of this country; plus it reads like a page turner novel.
Not only does it include several of my ancestors - discovered by the meticulous 20 year research by my incredible sister - it features some prominently. He calls the couple Catalyntje Trico and Joris Rapalje who arrived in 1624 - the "Adam and Eve of Manhattan" (New Netherlands). How cool is that? 
Several of my ancestors made up one of the first bodies of representative government in the country; 12 people who tried without success to stop Stuyvesant's predecessor, Willem Kieft, from starting a disastrous 1643 war with the previously friendly and generous Indians.  
Plus other ancestors assisted in preventing Stuyvesant from a suicidal retaliation against the English (when they - unprovoked - attacked Manhattan). Bad Puritan Pilgrims! If, instead of acquiescing to the English' generous terms, they had 'fought to the last man', I, and a whole bunch of other descendants would not be here. Thank you Nicasius, Joris, et al!
It helps to explain my interest in politics, strong support for tolerance, love of literature, easy going child rearing, even my taste for cole slaw - it's in my Dutch DNA. In addition to places: Lang Eylant, Breuckelen, Haarlem, Staten Eylan; we have the Dutch to thank for: District Attorneys, the boss, St. a Claus and St Nicholas stockings, cookies, and lots and lots of bars! New Amsterdam was rough, just as the city is today and we acknowledge - that's a large part of its charm.  
Not only is it exciting to learn about history in such a personal way, to know that you come from distinguished stock is kind of emboldening. Now we fight against the powers that be in corporations. Compared to what they did, crossing the Atlantic to an unknown land that didn't even yet have a wooden shack - let alone a Radisson - for them to sleep in? How hard can it be to put up with our modern day disappointments? 

What would my ancestors think of Manhattan today? Despite their vision that it would indeed become a multicultural booming metropolis based on the bustling trade port it was then, I'm sure they would be completely blown away by the skyscrapers poised on top of what used to be their farmland. 
I wish they could see what our lives are like - that I can order any kind of food to be delivered at my door at any hour - that I have this device called an iPhone that lets me make phone calls, access a web of knowledge and watch videos and listen to music - all at the tip of my thumb.  I can cross the Atlantic in a matter of hours instead of at least 4 months. It makes me appreciate those things even more. 
I am so proud of this city that never lost its melting pot roots that go back to the Netherlands homeland. Early Manhattan was welcoming of all the people who came here, and we still are. 
It's good that some things have not changed.