Thursday, April 04, 2019

On The Other Hand - I Love NY

Well, actually, I don't. But I don't have additional reasons to dislike it it as I thought I would. I see some good in it.

It's an overstimulating place, and some people greatly desire that.  Nor should that be despised.  Those of us who prefer quieter places can tell ourselves this is wiser, more mature, more at peace with the world.

On the other hand, the places of ferment, interaction, too little sleep, and too much action have been the drivers of improvement, historically.  Leaving New York in specific out of it for the moment, cities have been the places of trade, education, new ideas, new jobs and industries, and it has been that way for centuries. They say there is so much happening, and I suppose there is.  With millions of people there, a lot has to be happening just by default. Yet it isn't just more of what happens in Davenport.  It's mostly that, but at such great density the whole nature of interaction takes on qualitative changes as well.

People say they like that there is so much more diversity in New York, but that neglects the fact that people mostly just like observing that, not participating in it so much.  You can only know so many people, the rest are just background.  It excites people that the background is so diverse. Not the same thing.

On the other hand, whatever you look like, you can find people in New York who look like you, giving you an ongoing visual cue there's a place for me here. That has value. While all humans can transcend mere appearance and find common cause and friendship with other humans, the head start is necessary for some, and at insecure times, something that all of us fall back on.

The art museums! The famous places! The cultural opportunities! The great universities! Well, yes, but the locals don't actually go to those all that often. As with the diverse appearances, it's mostly just background, giving people the impression that they are participating in elevating culture. Not the same thing. I have cynically said "they just mean restaurants," in the past.  More on that to come.

On the other hand, they probably go at least a bit more often than folks not in the city. More deeply, they are constantly reminded that such things exist, and have importance. It may be background, but it is the real background of Western Civilisation.  Children grow up knowing that these temples are important, even if they seldom attend there.  And when they likely get dragged to a few on school trips, the place is still seen by them next week and next year, prompting some memory. It doesn't make or break an education, but it's a supporting piece.

I noticed in Oslo the same fascination with diverse food! as a marker of multi-culti superiority. There is a variety of food in New York. Most of it is food you can get other places just as easily, but there is one great difference.  It's just everywhere - as it is in smaller downtowns, or malls, or county fairs - yet in New York it's over a more extended geography. There are millions of people in those buildings, they have to eat somewhere. One smells food and sees food everywhere. This is more pronounced in touristy areas, but it is still very high off to the side. I don't get the cultural uplift from mere overstimulation, though. Sensation-seeking people go to cities and have withdrawal when they have to visit a place that doesn't assault them with smells.

On the other hand it is exciting.  We're wired that way, not just city people.  And my lack of being impressed circles back on itself.  It may seem a small lesson in diversity to know what other cultures have for food.  It doesn't tell us much about their history or other cultural items. Yet to them it is Their Food(!) and very much part of their culture, especially when they don't live there anymore. You do get to know something about them.  Plus, knowing the food is some foundation for learning other things about a place later. Why so much fish? What's with all the spiced rice?  They don't eat beef?  

I walked on the High Line, which was narrower than I expected. It seemed a bit tourist- heavy, and I also noted there were few black or Hispanic people there. No clue why not. Gay men seem to like the place. Some female joggers, but the narrowness makes it more difficult. Still better than the street, I guess. I observed people speaking a Slavic language more loudly and self-importantly, with better clothes and more shopping bags than the many other Slavic speakers.  I eventually concluded they were Russian.  Just my stereotype - though I'll bet I'm right. It gave me some clue as to why people are irritated by Americans talking more loudly in public.  What makes them think they're better than the rest of us, like they own the place, eh?


james said...

Eating together is bonding; eating in someone else's home is welcoming. An ethnic restaurant isn't a stranger's home, but I think there's a little bit of a gut feeling that eating their food under their roof makes you a little bit of a part of them.

It doesn't do that in any fundamental way, of course, but it rings the little bell, and as long as you don't think about it closely, you feel closer to the strange culture.

HMS Defiant said...

You confuse NYC with NY.

Shame on you.

Roy Lofquist said...

In the 1980s I lived in Manhattan for a year then commuted to work another 9 years. I found it alienating, cold. I was used to the friendliness of Arizona. In NYC nobody looked at or acknowledged you. If you looked at anybody for more than a second they'd call a cop.

Bob Dylan was living there when he wrote "Money doesn't talk, it swears". Expensive jewelry, bling, was all over the place.

As for diversity there was a definite, discernible insularity among ethnic groups. Trust was spare, you're not one of us.

If it were not for a woman, a particular weakness of mine, I'd a vamoosed in a New York minute.

Texan99 said...

When I grew up in Houston, the great ethnic food revolution was undreamed of. We visited San Francisco in 1968 and were blown away by the sophisticated food. At home it was steak places, places more or less like Howard Johnson's, a bit of Tex-Mex, maybe chicken, pizza, and thoroughly Americanized Chinese food.

My visit early visit to New York really did have ethnic diversity in food, and it was wonderful. Later on, Houston began to get some more unusual food, starting with Asian after the Viet Nam War, then a whole flood. Even so, New York in the 70s offered restaurant choices I'd ever imagined at home.

In the 80s I enjoyed the museums and Broadway shows.

I don't go there any more.