Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Missing New York City

This is what I miss about New York City:

I miss stuff like this, everyone of every race and gender sharing a moment, a common experience, working through a commonly shared emotion. When I described this video to someone recently she said sure but this kind of thing rarely happens. But you know, I saw it everywhere, all the time. Maybe not in big ways, but certainly in little ones. Interactions with the bus driver. Smiling at people in the park. Chatting with people at the next table in the restaurant. The drycleaner who smiled and chatted with me whenever I went in. The extraordinary Community Bookstore on 7th Avenue. Lots and lots of warm fuzzy feelings at PS 261, Lily's old school. Even when I first moved there and the subway took tokens and they still cost a dollar, I could use a token as money. I didn't do it often but if I didn't have change I'd offer that and I was never turned down. That was way cool.

It's the little things, the things that make you feel like you are in this enormous organic thing called New York City, and you are all in it together, trying to get along. Forget the guys in their limos and penthouses, they're not really New York. Or they are, I suppose, but not the New York I miss. I miss those of us little people just trying to share very limited space and air and sun, and doing it the best we knew how. The best of my Brooklyn life embodied the word "community."

Not being clear here. A friend who has lived here for generations was complaining recently about New Yorkers who come in and throw their money around, and how much the locals don't like them. I realized later that in New York, we didn't like those people either. We didn't like people who routinely talked loudly on their decks at 11 at night. We didn't like people who came in with expectations and assumptions. People who got priced out of Manhattan so they settled for Brooklyn. Go to Westchester!

Someone told me that after Michael Jackson died someone in downtown Northampton blared their car radio and a crowd gathered and danced and sang. She wasn't sure that story was true, but I like to think it was; it's important to keep singing and dancing together. We're a community, here and there. Times like these can bring out the best in us.

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