I love New York, but only as a friend

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Monday 16 December 2013

I love New York. In a strange unrequited kind of way. Like an old friend, who at times doesn’t recognise me, or perhaps doesn’t want to recognise me. But I still love the Big Apple and it appears I am not alone. A little under 100,000 tourists arrive each and every day, that is 35 million a year. So when people try to make out that they like to visit the non-tourist spots of New York, it’s about as believable as someone telling you they like the subway for the views.

But why does the city hold such appeal? Is it the allure, the entertainment, the independence, the opportunity or the underbelly? I have no idea, but I can tell you three reasons why I love it (but only as a friend of course)

I love the language, as in the peculiar and fascinating use of English. Where else can you go from perhaps the finest museums and art galleries in the world, where people talk of the cerebral experience of impressionist light through pointillism, to the directness of a subway warning: No Graffiti. No ‘Scratchiti’. Where else can you visit in the one day an up-town jam-packed fun-filled mega-store followed by a down-town farm-fresh, cream-filled, grippingly delicious gourmet restaurant, not to mention seeing any of the ten so called ‘number one’ Broadway musicals?

Whether it’s eavesdropping like a linguistic pervert or chuckling over the unnecssary euphemisms (facial bars for soap and rectal wipes for you know what), I love the language that New York offers.

But I also love the food. No I am not going to mention any of the boring hackneyed commentary about how the portion sizes are enough to feed a small African village, or whether the sugar and salt content is enough to kill a Shetland pony, as eating in New York is not about the destination (hospital or otherwise), but the culinary (and perhaps cardiological) journey. Where else can you dine in Chinatown while looking at Little Italy (said ten times quickly to improve your yodelling skills); have a hot dog on the street for lunch (or at a faux French restaurant called La Luncheonette) followed by an 8 course meal in the sky. Where else can you get ‘cawfee’ that when it is good, it is very very good, but when it is bad, it is not only horrid, but you wonder if they got a cheap deal on Luwak coffee minus the beans.

However I also love the tackiness. I love the bright lights. I love the cheapened experience of taking something beautiful and selling it for $2.95 as a souvenir key ring. I love the fake Academy awards you can buy for “World’s greatest lover”. I’m someone who doesn’t want an off the beaten track undiscovered highlights tour, I want to line up with the rest of the hordes of people and look with the millions of others at the pure-unadulterated tawdriness and tastelessness of it all.

However, none of this explains the love (without commitment) which apparently so many other people have for New York. Why is there such a huge pull towards New York, not just from tourists, not just from Americans, but from people all around the world?

Is it the anonymity, where you can be anybody, somebody and nobody all in the one day? Is it the opportunity of finding your way among “the pursued, the pursuing, the busy and tired”? Is it the freedom apparently epitomised by Mrs S. Liberty? Or is it because in a Gatsby-ish kind of way, there is some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life, an extraordinary gift of hope, a romantic readiness that is not found in any other city.

I don’t know, but I do love New York, and whether it ever becomes something more, it is at this stage, only as a friend.


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