Brad considers the Big Apple as something to look at, not live in. Still, he encourages people to live there for a while. Living in the city nurtures confidence, but not the self-assurance that anyone will help. The city provides the freedom to do anything, but it leaves residents in anonymity. These buts pushed Brad to consider the city as a visiting city.
His points are similar to E.B. White’s 1949 essay, “Here is New York.” But White argues those same points as benefits for a New Yorker:
“I mention these merely to show that New York is peculiarly constructed to absorb almost anything that comes along (whether a thousand-foot liner out of the East or a twenty-thousand-man convention out of the West) without inflicting the event on its inhabitants; so that every event is, in a sense, optional, and the inhabitant is in the happy position of being able to choose his spectacle and so conserve his soul.”
“Although New York often imparts a feeling of great forlornness or forsakenness, it seldom seems dead or unresourceful; and you always feel that either by shifting your location ten blocks or by reducing your fortune by five dollars you can experience rejuvenation.”
Maybe Brad’s perspective of a constantly gray city would have changed if he lives in the outer boroughs. The trees and lawns in my neighborhood have managed not to be filled with concrete. At least, not yet.
But I understand Brad’s points. I grew up in New York before moving out in 2003. One has had to fight (traffic, terrible roads and mass transit, people, loneliness, crime, higher costs, etc.) constantly to live in New York. Adult children usually had to live with their parents. The crime-scarred ’80s left me weary of people’s intentions. Those defenses began to ease only after I had left New York. Entry-level work for journalism grads were nonexistent in a post-9/11 job market. Many of my childhood friends joined the outbound migration.
Yet as I bounced around the country, I missed the energy and excitement of New York. I kept hearing about cool restaurants and neighborhoods that I had never heard about. A cliche proves correct. One doesn’t appreciate a place until one leaves it. I always made an effort in every visit to New York to find these hidden gems. White is right. Rejuvenation can be found by looking for the quiet spots in New York. This tweet captures my point.
People still come here and thrive in this metropolis of 8 million. The best song that captures that spirit of potential is Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York.” She compresses White’s essay into a 3-minute song.
Ah, New York. I still love you despite your contradictions: potential, frustration, excitement, dejection, construction, demolition, love, hatred, temporary, historical, artificial, genuineness, edgy, sellout, brooding, vibrant.
No matter what we think of New York, I end with this quote from White: “It is a miracle that New York works at all.”
This concludes my summer reflection series for this year. The bags are packed. It’s time to return to Boston.