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!

1 comment:

  1. I love this post and couldn't agree more. This should be a holiday article in all NY newspapers. Well done.