Posted by: jevcat | March 12, 2010

I Love New York

Is there such a thing as visual cacophony?  Recently I found myself wondering this as I walked down a Mid-town street in back of a young woman in a dingy fake-fur jacket with a saw-tooth check pattern, a skirt with not-quite paisley pattern in terra-cotta, olive, yellow, and white on black background, and black-heeled, zebra-striped, platform stilettos with metallic hot pink on the underside between toe platform and heel that flashed in the sun as she walked.

I sometimes wonder what other people see when they look in the mirror, because obviously they’re not seeing what I see when I look at them (and devoutly hoping my own view of myself is more accurate).  There’s a man who commutes on the ferry with a toupee so lush and full, it appears to have a life of its own.  I once went on a riff to friends about how I imagine him walking through the door of his house in the evening and the toupee jumping down off his head and running to its bowl, waiting to be fed and then was embarrassed to turn and see him standing behind us, much to my friends’ amusement.  I’ve seen people wearing obviously home-made sweaters such that I had to restrain myself from asking the wearer if the yarn had been on sale, because that was the only possible reason I could think of for those colors appearing together in a single garment.  But this is New York, and generally no one bats an eyelash at odd combinations.

Which brings me to my native city.  Coming home on the ferry the other evening after a weekend away, I was surrounded (as I frequently find myself) by people in t-shirts emblazoned with “I love NY” (“love” inevitably being represented by a big red heart).  And it occurred to me that anyone wearing one of those shirts is, almost by definition, a tourist.  Native New Yorkers – and even just folks who have moved here from somewhere else – never wear them.  (My brother seems to think we might if in small letters underneath was added “in small doses”.)

This got me thinking:  what does this say about us and the city in which we chose to live (and presumably love)?  Is our affection meant to be understood by the fact that we put up with the city’s faults because we love its good points?  Are we too “New York” to say it?  Do we just not care?  Do we not want to be taken – God forbid! – for tourists?  (Breathes there a New Yorker with soul so dead, he never to himself has said, “ban all tourists”?)

But we DO love New York, with everything.  The city takes, but it also gives us so much.  I’ve lived on Staten Island for nearly quarter of a century now, and I still get a thrill crossing the harbor and seeing the Manhattan skyline – and I was born there!  I’m often out there on the deck with the tourists, gawking.  One winter morning with the whole city ablaze with sunrise I remarked to a man with whom a had a morning-commute friendship on its beauty and he responded, “And underneath there’s corruption, poverty, disease, and injustice” (see previous post on anger, lol).  I remember staring at him as though he’d suddenly gown another head and telling him, yes, I knew, and, in my small way I did what I could to make things better.  Meanwhile, could he please just let me enjoy the fact that, all that notwithstanding, it was still beautiful.  And it is.

Around the time of the 1976 Bicentennial celebration, I’d had an argument with a cousin who couldn’t understand why anyone would want to live in New York.  The week after my return, I went to an almost-free concert – it may have been Judy Collins – in Central Park with friends.  Afterwards, we walked across Central Park South to Columbus Circle, where a French brass band that had come over for OpSail and stayed on was playing everything from swing to La Marseillaise.  On one side of the gathered crowd a group of young people had formed a circle and were dancing the hora, while on my side an older black couple were doing (very well) the big apple or something jitterbuggy.  Meanwhile, a man was working the crowd begging money “to buy a Mercedes” – and getting contributions!  I turned to my friends, laughing, and asked, “Why would I live anywhere else?”

Like the outfit of that young woman in Mid-town, New York is a little the worse for wear but bright, exuberant, full of different parts that shouldn’t fit together but somehow manage to at least peacefully co-exist – at least most of the time.

Every New Yorker has their reasons, and every one of them is unique.  And yes, I love New York.


  1. I’ve never had a “I love NY” t-shirt but I always wanted one!
    Maybe I should get one, it would be different than all the “God Blessed Texas” and “Don’t mess with Texas” clothing we see here! LOL!!!!

  2. We love New York because we appreciate and understand its complexities. We take our city for granted hence the native New Yorker who has never been to the top of the Empire State Building. We are thankful that we can be ourselves, garish outfits and all, and still be an accepted member of the NY family. We love New York because it is us: a dysfunctional loving family. Just don’t invite us over for Thanksgiving.

    • Love the way you ended that comment, Leslie!

  3. Well, you know I’m an unabashed, one-woman NYC Chamber of Commerce. Having just returned from Indianapolis, I am so glad to be back “in civilization.”
    I don’t wear t-shirts of any sort, because I feel like they’re unflattering on me, but, if I were a t-shirt wearer, I might just get one of those “I (Heart) NY” sorts.
    Thanks for this beautiful love letter to our city.

  4. I adore New York, hookers, lines, stinkers and all. I think it is because she offers the right amount of resistance against which we sharpen ourselves. Simultaneously the energy and excitement to keep doing it. Does that make any sense?

    • Perhaps unfortunately, yes, Melissa, it does make sense.

      • BTW, Melissa, I hope you noticed that I ignored the pun(s) 🙂

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