Jun 6, 2008

Wonderful Piece on NY'ers and Our Attitude

I don't have a lot of original thoughts right now, with BarBri owning my brain for the next 2 months, but thought I'd share this article that I really enjoyed from last month's Smithsonian Magazine about the bad rap that New Yorkers get about our attitudes.

The piece highlights that in NYC, people act in public how most people act in their private spaces. Read the piece - her observations totally made sense to me - I have waited around when an outsider asked someone else for directions or tips, just in the hope that I could say something. I've struck up conversations (brief, because we always know when to stop talking, which is more than I can say for yappers from other parts of the country) with complete strangers about something we're experiencing, something they're reading, whatever.

Her conclusion? It's because of a sense of common cause. I've read it before, but I think her examples kind of jumped off the page for me. There is definitely something like that - it reminds me, to be honest, of India and other places where people don't have such weird feelings about interacting with strangers. But what I love about the City, still, is that you just shut that off when you want to. You can pretend to not want to engage with people, and go about your bizness. And when you're ready to plug back in, there are opportunities abound as soon as you walk out your door.

But the comments on the article are even more interesting. It really comes down to the difference between people who've never spent much time there (the occasional visitors are so easy to pick out, what with their incessant comments about crime) and those folks who recognized something in the author's observations. There's also an undercurrent of commenters completely not getting that there are spaces for most folks in the city (though we're all getting priced out at this rate).  If you put together the honesty and the grit of struggling to be on top each day, you start getting people who either  don't know how to look up and enjoy anything or those who take solace in dependable habits, unique moments, chance encounters.

The whole idea of going from boxes where you live to boxes where you work in the bellies of smaller boxes that consume fossil fuel, which you take to big boxes on the weekends to buy boxes filled with stuff: well, count me out. Okay, I'm rambling. I intended just to share the article, not to read the comments, but those comments underscore what I've always felt: people just don't get NYC.

And the real city is disappearing as I write this, with the working people and immigrants (whose faces and (sending) places may change with the decades, but whose stories still turn the engine of what makes the place so special) getting pushed out.  How many boutique hotels will we have in Chinatown by the end of this year? How many new condo buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and even Queens? And when they move out of the city, without the public transportation infrastructure from NYC that keeps these communities connected and people in more direct contact with one another, is the future just more suburban ethnic enclaves that revolve more around consumerism than residence and shared experiences?


Anonymous said...

good article -- my sis saw it, clipped it & sent it to me.

Rage said...

cool. hope you're well. liked that poem you woke up with.