I don’t hate New York City, but I don’t love it either. It’s difficult to love a city that’s already so in love with itself. I can’t think of any other US city that’s so enraptured with its own image, one so intent on mythologizing itself. (Los Angeles doesn’t count because, outside of Hollywood, it’s barely a city at all; more a series of hamlets connected by endless highways. Chicago is so intimidated by NYC that, like a middle child intent on keeping the peace, it labeled itself The Second City just to avoid conflict. New Orleans is too enraptured with its history and tragedy that it’s like a fly trapped in aspic. And although Atlanta and Houston come close, they are both cities of the empty hustle and always so busy reinventing themselves that, ultimately, they fall victims of their own insecurities.) I can’t think of any US city that loves itself so much – that embraces even its own glaring faults, the way a prizefighter does his scars – with such a sense of boosterism as does New York City. Like an aging hooker well-past her sell-by-date, New York City – even at its worst – always manages to smear on a new layer of lipstick, hike her skirt a little higher and convince itself that it is the most beautiful woman on the block.
Yes, New York City – the city so nice they named it twice – takes every penny and gives no quarter. It takes what it wants when it wants and apologizes for nothing. New York City doesn’t need you and it expects the same. It’s the city of a thousand songs, that’s inspired a million dreams, and crushed untold numbers of hearts on its boulevard of broken balls. As that old chestnut goes, the one that’s basically supplanted Lady Liberty’s screed as the unofficial motto of the city: “If you can make it here you can make it anywhere.” Of course, the unspoken reverse of that pithy bon mot is “Until you make it here you haven’t made it at all, bucky.” Did I mention New York was full of itself?
Of course, there’s a whole lot of substantiation to New York’s puffy-chest pride and its endless self-love affair. Just as Rome was millennia ago, it is the center of the known universe; the place where anything worth happening is happening and everything worth doing is already being done. Or has been done.
New York City, that preening peacock of a town; that narcissistic, arrogant, vain-glorious pile of bricks, is unquestionably the greatest city in the US – if not in the world. It is the prettiest girl in school, the one who never puts out but everybody wants to bed – and the one no one ever does bed because nobody can ever capture her heart the way she has already captured her own. So while I can never love you as much as you love yourself, I don’t hate you New York. I want to love you (you little tart), I just wish that you’d shut your mouth and open your heart once in a while. Sweetest dreams to the city that never sleeps (but that desperately needs a nap).
(c) 2012 Jim Yoakum
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