Monday, May 20, 2019

Explaining New York City and its suburbs to outsiders.

The above sign was clipped from  And it fits the New York City ethos.

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New Yorkers are used to big things.  We have some of the tallest buildings in the world here. We have some of the biggest banks in the world here. And we may be the entertainment and sports capital of the English speaking world.  Only in the New York area can we say that we have 8 Major sports teams (Giants, Jets, Islanders, Rangers, Devils, Knicks, Nets, and the Yankees) and the Mets.  Yes, it's a running joke on how badly the Mets have been eclipsed by the Yankees in their own sport. But if the baseball Giants and Dodgers hadn't left town in the 1950's, we might be saying the same thing about one of them.

People in this region are known for their "attitude."  The Glove and Boots video starring "Johnny T" is a good introduction to this attitude and how to be a tourist in the city.  But it is only a start.  Most true New Yorkers only go to the tourist sites when their friends come to town.  As Yogi Berra said: "No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded."  And it's the crowding that contributes to the New York "Attitude."  I like to joke that a friendly New Yorker delivers 10 minutes of deleted expletives before telling you to have a nice day. It's just a way to vent one's frustrations regarding the problems in this city.  And if you accidentally bump into someone and say "Excuse me!" he'll just mumble:

Yup, Johnny T's attitude can be found miles from the city proper as in the picture above.  Expect to recognize it in any area within commuting distance of NYC - which is at least a 75 mile radius centered at the Empire State Building.

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As you might guess, it's hard for a New Yorker to be impressed with things outside the city. And this is a problem for many of us, as we have almost everything one might want (for a price) available in this region.  Within a couple of hours of Manhattan, one can work on his/her tan on beaches at the Jersey Shore, Long Island, and Connecticut.  In winter, the same person can go skiing without having to fly to Aspen, Vail, or Jackson Hole. (Yes, the powdered snow is much better out West, but New Yorkers will make do with the things we have.)  So it's easy to understand how a jaded New Yorker can view the rest of the world in this perspective:

Given the culture wars of late, it might just make sense for a New Yorker to consider most of America "Flyover Territory."  Yet, there is something to be said about the Hudson Valley in which I live.  One recent traveler through the region noted how attitudes change the further one is away from NYC.  She notes that "Upstate New York" seems to begin at the end of Metro North territory - and I would agree with her. The hyperactivity of New York City does seem to end where people no longer depend on the city for their jobs.

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To me, the best way to describe this city is to experience it, then use metaphors to give people a clue to what the city is like.  Each of the illustrations on this page gives a clue to what the New York City psyche is.  The first illustration shows how New Yorkers tend to take the most extreme incidents in stride, as if we've been born with a "been there, done that" attitude.  The second illustration hints at the inelegance beneath the city's elegant veneer. Much of the city looks pretty at street level. But go into the subways, and you'll see something else.  And the third illustration hints at New Yorkers' belief that civilization ends at the Hudson River. We know it's not true, but we act that way anyway.  In short, we know we're the most important city in the Western World, and treat is as a simple matter of fact.

Does the above mean that New Yorkers think we're at the center of the known universe?  Probably not.  I think we just recognize what we are for our place in the world, and avoid putting on airs of false humility for our city's status in this world.

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