Considering my upcoming trip to Europe, I want to stop and look back at how New York has done so far. Here is a poem and a quotation I’ve come across and which both ultimately express and reflect the opinions I share when it comes to the Big Apple.
As cited on Hot Child in NYCity’s blog, I couldn’t agree more with E.B. White’s opinion:
The Three Cities of New York
There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, 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 New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last–the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.
-E. B. White, Here is New York (1948)
Despite living here for one and a half years, I have come to the conclusion that I am still not a big fan of the actual people of New York. I’ve made friends with Brooklynites, Bronxers, Queenies, and even Manhattaners, but I am still not drawn to most of the New Yorkers’ mentalities. The people I can usually connect to for having the same personality or traits I consider interesting are, matter of fact, from anywhere but New York: Europeans, Asians, South Americans, West Coast buddies… That’s who I can relate to and I have the feeling those are who I will continue to feel attracted to throughout my stay here.
I don’t know what it is. But New Yorkers do have this tendency of ignorance towards other countries and cultures. Be it that they are constantly surrounded by those 350 different mentalities throughout their life here. Be it that some do not venture outside their neighborhood in the Bronx, Queens, or Brooklyn. Be it that their prejudices and complaints are a simple defense mechanism for something they are afraid of. All I know is that it is sometimes very tedious to argue with these people and I still find it unbelievable to find racist persons in the 8-million-citizen example of ethnic diversity.
There was this guy I met a few times and he uttered the following interesting words.
There are three types of New Yorkers: One who never leaves his city. One who leaves as soon as he cans and never looks back. And one who has traveled extensively and come back with an open mind.
Now, category one is easy to detect. Bronx hoodies who drag their brats behind them and consider TGIF the culinary highlight of the week (yes, I am talking about socially disadvantaged people).
Category two I’ve met on travels, so to say, but I hadn’t had the chance to talk to them extensively.
Category three was the aforementioned guy (as quoted), who did seem to display an interesting mix of cultural awareness and necessary openness. I cannot say I have met too many of those New Yorkers, though, and I am sorry I have to admit this.
I believe when being a child you are forced to be open to all the cultures going on here and you see your life as normal, possibly couldn’t imagine another child growing up differently. But after a certain age, shouldn’t you start looking behind this set mind frame? Shouldn’t you start seeing how many opportunities you have here and take them? Or is this a protection against the constant overflow of information and people you have to deal with on year-long bases?
Nonetheless, I still don’t understand how people grow up here and just take all their amazing things for granted. My friend from Coney Island has never traveled further than the East Coast and just recently made a trip out west (California, so to say). He is 30 something. I cannot imagine when he will book his flight overseas, possibly never. When I look at Europeans, I have many friends who have traveled to other countries, the furthest being Australia. I do suppose money is an issue, as in so many cases, but I also consider it an issue when you only see what is in front of you and not beyond. This is why I hate being in New York for too long and loathe the times I can venture outside. You can truly only appreciate this amazing city when you get out and see what you miss.
Despite these sometimes frustrating encounters with the “locals” I do have to say that New York is so far the only city that has triggered about as much creativity and new outlook than anywhere else I have been. I am sure I am not the only one with this opinion for this city attracts daydreamers, artists, and hopeful dishwashers from everywhere else still to the same degree it did 100 years ago. And exactly this flow of ethnically and mentally diverse people is what makes New York my New York: The good vibes combined show me many different facets I might not be able to experience in any other city.
Just to give you a few examples of these: I’ve been roommates with a singer who performed with Kanye West at one point in time. I’ve also roomed with a girl who got me invitations for my first fashion week show in winter ’11. I met journalists of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal without making the effort of meeting them. My morning radio show is hosted by Nick Cannon, who happens to be Mariah Carey’s huz and tells New Yorkers all about his new twins and life with the diva (take that, Morning Hans in Germany! Oh, how hard it will get used to those fourth–class-moderators after this…). I casually met one of Germany’s biggest TV show moderators called Kai Pflaume on a stroll through Time Square and saw him in a completely relaxed family setting (no one recognizes him over here). Filming and fashion shoots belong to the normal street scene as do beggars and homeless. I considered picking up on writing, photography, dancing, and singing – all of these in less than six months and without having the necessary background or previous interest in them.
Yes, this city is truly a whirling musical, a never-ending theater, one show coupled with another, and it has to be taken in and inhaled as long as possible. Believe me, there is nothing like New York – once you get in, it’s hard to get out!