Three New Yorks, maybe Four?
E.B. White’s observation can’t be bettered: “There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. … Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion. ” My husband and I moved to Manhattan in August of 1998. I have lived here longer than I have any other place on the planet. I feel very at home, but, as E.B. White would point out, I am a settler. My children are natives, and I am not. This whole city–in all its wonderful madness–is normal to them. To me, it is amazing. It’s amazing that I have a favorite bakery for sour dough (Orwashers) and a different one for focaccia (Agata). I love that the brother-sister team who run my favorite handbag store, which has been in their family for generations, ask about my kids (Suarez), and the amazing gentleman who owns my favorite shoe store has let me peak inside his suitcases full of shoe-related accessories when he returns from his regular trips to Milan (Diane B). I love the energy, the museums, the libraries, the parks, the way people dress, the individuality, and the diversity. I love that New Yorkers expect everyone to have a different opinion, but they also expect you to be able to discuss said opinion with intelligence and an openness to, perhaps, changing your mind. New Yorkers do not, on the whole, suffer fools gladly. This is not a city for intellectual laziness. Your cab driver will cite corroborating sources for his point of view. Speaking of having different opinions, I asked my fellow Miss Demeanors what they think of my adopted home. They did not disappoint. While I think E.B. White is pretty much on the mark, I will suggest that maybe there is a Fourth New York: The New York of the visitor. The New York of the person who visits once in a lifetime, or, possibly, makes regular pilgrimages. Susan, Alexia, Tracee, Michele, Paula, Cate, and Robin offer up this Fourth New York. Susan: It’s so interesting that you ask that because I just returned to New York City today after being away in England. Our plane landed at Kennedy Airport and I walked into Immigration Hall and there was this huge and vibrant mural (by Deborah Masters) of NYC scenes. (I’ve attached a photo.) Everyone around me was speaking a different language. Many of the immigration officers were speaking different languages. I just felt absorbed into the vitality of New York City, and I felt very at home. Alexia: I’ve never lived in NYC and have only visited it a few times so I can’t say I love anything thing in particular about it. I love cities in general. They have a fabulous energy and you can be alone in a crowd. NYC has gorgeous architecture. I love art deco flourishes on the windows and doorways of many of the buildings. I do love the New York accent (and the Brooklyn and Bronx and Long Island accents). I read somewhere the New York accent is dying out. I hope not. And I like New Yorkers. The stories I heard about them being cold and unhelpful aren’t true. The one time a New Yorker, a bus driver, was rude to me, as soon as he realized I was visiting from out of town, he changed his tone and became super helpful. New Yorkers seem to want to be ambassadors for their city. Tracee: I’ve never lived in NYC, but I have spent a good deal of time there starting with my first ever visitwhen I was sixteen. It was a week long stop over before a longer trip to Europe, definitely my first time in a truly large city, and I was thrilled. What I most remember was how kind everyone was to the kids from out of town. To me, all cities are a dose of culture writ large. I love the museums and art galleries, hotels, street culture, outdoor specialty markets, Grand Central Terminal and the Botanical Garden train display in the holiday season, and so much more. My favorite memory is, and will likely remain, a trip to see the re-lighting of the Statue of Liberty. Visiting with a friend, we watched from Battery Park…. by far the best fireworks I’d ever seen! Ironically the man I would eventually marry was watching them from an apartment overlooking Battery Park….. a shared memory before we even met! That’s New York magic. Michele: I hesitate to say this, but I used to hate New York. The few times I ventured to the city when I lived in Connecticut, I felt overwhelmed and suffocated. I was sure the towering concrete and brick buildings were going to collapse on me. I wondered where was the sky, the birds (pigeons don’t count), the trees. Clearly, I hadn’t gotten to Central Park! Then I spent a week in New York when I took Robert McKee’s Story seminar, which was held at the Screen Actors Guild. I stayed in a tiny hotel and explored what would be my neighborhood for the week. By the third day, my barista at Starbucks already knew my order, I had found restaurants where I didn’t mind eating alone because I was eating with other solitary diners, and I had explored my turf. I found my way to Central Park, discovered food I’d never tried before, and before you knew it I was chanting I love New York. The key for me was appreciating that it is a city of many neighborhoods filled with people, sounds, and scents, not a colossal granite kingdom where I was lost. And I learned how friendly New Yorkers are. Paula: I first visited New York in the late Seventies as a teenager in love with a New Yorker, and I saw New York through his eyes. New York was a far more dangerous city then, but he didn’t let it scare him and I didn’t let it scare me. I fell in love with the energy of the city and the way her people celebrate the arts. I spend a week a month there these days—the perfect antidote to my village life in New England. I never fail to leave restored, refreshed, and re-invigorated. Not to mention saddled with lots of shopping bags. Cate: I love New York City. I grew up in Teaneck NJ, 12 miles outside, and it always seemed like a place where life would be more exciting and cultured and grown up—where I could be more exciting and cultured and grown up. After college, I lived there for about a decade. I love that NYC is constantly changing. I remember being in a band and playing a club called Le Bar Bat, which was a deconsecrated church that had been turned into a recording studio that had then become a night club. Now, I think, it’s a restaurant. New York is a place of reinvention. People come there from elsewhere to be different from where they came from, and I think New Yorkers celebrate that—not just tolerate it. Robin: I’ve never lived in NYC but I’m a frequent visitor. It’s always been a magical place to me, from my first trip with my parents when I was a teenager. I was a theater kid and remain a huge fan of stage and screen so Broadway, of course, is a huge draw. I’ve been known to make the cross-country trip to see a particular cast or a particular show that I knew wouldn’t travel. I’ve also gone to see particular musicians because they’re playing in a small venue. Of course, I go for writer’s events. And I sometimes go just because I miss it. Like San Francisco, it’s constantly changing while holding onto its history. What’s most striking to me, though, is the people. The population is 10x that of San Francisco yet people are friendly and get along. There’s a ballet in the foot traffic on the crowded sidewalks, which is my preferred mode of transportation so I can take it all in.