Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Start Spreading The News..."

I knew I was in New York.  We had not yet left the airport, and I had already been yelled at.

We took a SuperShuttle to Manhattan, and the driver dropped us off twelve blocks from our hotel, after the man who sold us the tickets promised we’d be delivered right to the door.  A car we hailed drove us the remaining twelve blocks, but charged us an exorbitant sum for doing so.  Then, after checking into our hotel, we took a cab to the Village for pizza.  The cabdriver got seriously lost along the way.

We had been in the city less than an hour, and already we had been lied to, egregiously overcharged, and suffered the frustration of a cabdriver who did not know where he was going.

And I loved every minute of it.

I am not being sarcastic here.  (Computers should have a button you push to insure readers that, even though you may sound sarcastic, you actually mean what you are saying:  “Control – NR”, for “No, really!”)

You need New York to be like New York.  Otherwise, why bother going?  You travel to the South,

“Do you have any pecan pie?”


Then what you doing there?

“Can we go to the Freedom Riders’ Museum?”

I mean, it’s interesting, but it’s no pecan pie.

Visiting New York City without being insulted and monetarily abused is like sampling an olive lacking that peculiarly oily-musty taste that makes you not want to eat olives.  You might as well eat a grape.

We flew Virgin America for the first time.  Right from the get-go, it was an entirely different vibe.  The check-in area sported huge arrangements of fresh-cut flowers, and there was (like I know what I'm talking about) hip-hop music pulsing over the PA.

“Whoop!  There it is!”

We weren’t going on a plane trip; we were going to a party that plays old rap music!  The ambience continued onto the plane itself.  Rather than white, the in-cabin lighting was an iridescent purple.  We weren’t just going to a party; we were going to a party in a nightclub!  Thirty-five thousand feet in the air!

I felt so jazzed, when they asked if I was prepared to handle the “Emergency Exit” duties that our seating location required, I exuberantly replied, “I can’t wait!”  I would have said it anyway, because it’s silly.  But this time, I almost meant it.

The one drawback was that the normally adjustable, overhead reading lights were in a fixed position, requiring me to lean awkwardly to my right, so as not to be reading in the dark.  But hey, who cares?  You don’t go to a party in a nightclub to read!  This was an entirely different experience.  One in which I’d be enjoying four hours and fifty-seven minutes of wishing I could read.  (That one was sarcastic.)

Before I jump into the specifics, I need to come clean about my bittersweet reaction to the city.  Of course, my shameful ingratitude for the munificent bounties that have been bestowed upon me in my extremely fortunate life will come shining through here, but what are you gonna do?

Other than the time when I worked as a consultant on Lateline and, being a consultant, I felt no responsibility whatsoever, whenever I tried to live in New York,
as I confessed in an earlier post, New York City has unceremoniously bucked me off. 

Subsequent visits to New York inevitably come with the whispering reminder that I was never successful there.  The very idea that I’m there strictly for fun, carries the unspoken rebuke,

“…and not for work.”

“New York, New York” says,

“If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere

I did pretty well in other places. 

There?  Not so much.

Incidentally, other than feeling depressed by it, I have never understood that line.

“If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere…”

What are they talking about?  New York City is the Mecca of finance, fashion, theater, art, journalism.  entertainment, publishing.  If you made it there, why would you then choose to proceed to a lower rung?  

It's like,

“I made it to the Yankees.  Now it's, 'On to the Toledo Mud Hens!'

Moving on…

During our Thursday night to Monday morning visit – really only three full days – I saw four plays and one movie.  That’s a good month for me in Los Angeles, where you need to get onto a highway to go anywhere, and inertia pins you to your chair at home, watching ballgames. 

Just walking in New York is experiential delight.  You’re walking in Los Angeles – especially if you’re not walking a dog – and it’s like, “What, is your car in the shop?” 

Fifth Avenue in New York is Saks, and Bergdorf’s and Lord & Taylor.  You walk down Lincoln Boulevard in Santa Monica, and the big excitement is counting “Smog Check” operations.  There is there of them in one block.

With your permission, we will stop here for “Intermission”, except for a final observation.  Over the years I’ve been visiting, the tone in New York seems to have shifted, from acerbically crude to airily whimsical.  Where once you saw posted signs saying,

“Spitting is a dirty, filthy habit.  Don’t do it!”

there are now signs in the fenced-off grassy areas in Central Park saying,

“Lawn closed for renovation.”

Okay, one more.  This happens because New York’s sidewalks are extremely crowded, and being from a place where walking is generally a prescription meted out by cardiologists, I really do not know the answer to this question.

What is the protocol for when a person in a wheelchair rolls over your foot?


Canda said...

Unfortunately, much of New York has become a theme park for the wealthy. The last census showed that Manhattan (which is what we mean when we say New York) is now less ethnically diverse than it was in the last census. Those people got pushed to the outer boroughs or New Jersey.

It's still a great walking city, but there are no mom and pop stores anymore. Everything is about the newest restaurant, coffee place, fashion store. All the places look like they're filled with upwardly mobile, nicely dressed overachievers. Even in the East Village, it''s a vibrant restaurant scene. Much of the old Off-Off-Broadway scene is gone, because space is too expensive. Still, there is some theater, some new art being produced, but the street feeling of the New York of the 1970s - lively, slightly dangerous, off-beat types on every block, can be found in Brooklyn now.

Dave Arnott said...

"when they asked if I was prepared to handle the 'Emergency Exit' duties that our seating location required, I exuberantly replied, 'I can’t wait!'"

Pomerantz... top flight joke (pun actually not intended). I laughed out loud with great delight. In fact, so good was this joke, I felt it necessary to fully type "laughed out loud" for you.