Though born and raised in the Midwest, I am a longtime New Yorker and over the years have seen many changes. I reside high above the Magnolia Bakery of Sex and the City fame in Greenwich Village. When I first came here in 1953 to do graduate work in French at Columbia University, I had to get used to the city’s bigness, noise, and bustle, its pace and its attractions. But get used to them I did, to the point where I needed them, craved them, and celebrated them. For me, New York is the most exciting city in the world. It’s special, it’s unique. I have even expressed this in an equation:
intensity + diversity = creativity = New York
The intensity of New York is experienced immediately by anyone coming to the city, and the city’s diversity will leap out at you wherever you may go. Which makes the city incredibly creative; things happen here: the Gay Pride movement, Occupy Wall Street, opera and ballet, the Empire State Building, 9/11, and yes, the Donald and his Tower. Not everything here is admirable, but in spite of all its faults, I love this city; I couldn’t do without it. A sign that appeared at the entrance to the Staten Island ferry once asked, New York: Is There Anywhere Else?
Not everyone would agree. We New Yorkers are a very special breed, tough and savvy. We challenge, we complain. And we know that New York is not for everyone, nor should it be. For quiet, for peace of mind and the illusion of stabili- ty, go elsewhere. Here are flux and change, the perennial strife of old vs. new, the turmoil and fervor of nine million strivers. We New Yorkers are great doers; we savor the charm of the old and often want to preserve it, but at the same time we forge ahead, we create, we do.
In this book I want to share with others what it is to be a New Yorker, who we are, how we live, what we do, our past and present glories and horrors. Ask twenty New Yorkers about these things, and you’ll get twenty answers. What I’m sharing here is my New York. The chapters derive from posts for my blog, “No Place for Normal: New York,” which is about any- thing and everything New York, past and present. This is the city I love; I hope you’ll love it, too. Or hate it, if you must. The main thing is to know it; it’s unique.