Hell of a town

This month is my one-year anniversary of living in New York. I grew up in the West and didn’t even see New York until I was in my 20s (seven years ago this month). That first, brief visit gobsmacked me. Even though the city was in the grip of a maniacal heat wave with temperatures higher than 100 degrees, I could bring myself to stop walking the streets of Manhattan, digging the amazing scenes that passed before me, the neighborhoods, the people, the sheer sensory overload (perhaps brought about by heat stroke). I’d never seen a firefly before I saw the fireflies in Central Park, and they took on all of the city’s energy and all of New York seemed as energetic and unexpected and magical as those fireflies.

I moved to Washington, D.C. soon after that first trip to New York and ended up spending a fair share of time here visiting friends; the city became less overwhelming to me but never lost its capacity to surprise. Now, having lived here a year, I feel like I still barely know the city — although I’m at least coming to know better the extent of what I don’t know, as Socrates and Donald Rumsfeld might say. But indulge me in a few observations to mark the occasion:

All New Yorkers are romantics. Most of them hide it under hard outer shells, but they care passionately about many things, and especially about their city.

New York doesn’t care. New Yorkers are romantics, but they are hard-nosed romantics, and they generally believe that everyone is responsible for their own shit.

Tourists are the city’s pact with the devil. It seems that Giuliani, playing Faust, brought hordes of tourists and their cash to the city; the price may be New York’s soul. On the other hand, relatively clean subways and relatively safe streets are good for residents, too.

Everyone here is smarter and more beautiful than you. Okay, not everyone. And by “you” I mean me, not you, gorgeous. But seriously, this place seems to have skimmed off the brainiest and most gorgeous young people from every smaller city and town in America, with a good selection from abroad as well.

Every conversation will touch on real estate or the best subway route from here to there. It’s eerie how true this is.

When you have an idea for something to do, half a million other New Yorkers have the exact same idea. Go to the park? Have a drink at an outdoor cafe? Go listen to a band you read about on pitchfork? Get in line.

You have to take breaks and get out of town from time to time. The pace really is faster here, making downtime that much more essential.

The golden age of New York is over. But don’t worry — they’ve probably been saying that since the Dutch got here.

It’s still the greatest city in the world. Never a lack of things to do, people to meet, places to discover — there’s no excuse for being bored. What else could you ask for?

Lower Manhattan from the harbor

3 responses to “Hell of a town”

  1. Lane says:

    I really miss those towers that should be on the left side of this photo. But this picture is also interesting for the way it points up New York’s relationship to the water. Look at how the whole city just sits there right on top of the sea. Just waiting for global warming I suppose.

  2. andrea says:

    As a DC live in I can only say…thank you for setting this straight Dave. I am now watching a fireworks display from the window of the DT Marriott SLC. Nate, you know what I mean. Happy Pioneer Days!!

  3. dave — the best thing that happened to us last year was you moving to new york.