Friday, June 1, 2007

To Be or Not To Be, a new yorker


Disclaimer: I stayed up late reading last night and only got about two hours of sleep, so I apologize in advance if my post is not quite as coherent as usual.

I had planned to blog about a fabulous dessert I love to get when I go to CafĂ© Mozart, but a post by “A Home in the City” today caught my interest.

When I was young I always said I’d live in NYC. Deep down inside I knew The City was where one could find the best art scenes and music schools. As a young musician, I knew I’d eventually end up in NYC. Of course life didn’t happen the way I planned, but somehow I still ended up here anyway, despite the realization I had in 2001, that NYC has too much concrete.

Somehow I overcame the concrete and managed to find some trees, so I’m happy. But still the never ceasing grinding weariness of work and chaos in the city that never sleeps go on. Which brings us to today’s post topic.

What makes a person a bona fide New Yorker?

According to Addie @ Resonant Behavior and a woman I met on the street while taking photos the other day, one only has to live in The City a year in order to qualify.

But Kitty @ New York Portraits and A Home in the City disagree. They make some good points, go ahead and read their views, I’ll still be here when you get back.

. . .

Fern and I were talking about this issue earlier today, we decided that being a New Yorker is a state of mind. And let me tell you, there are New Yorkers and then there are NEW YORKERS.

An East Side New Yorker is completely different from a West Side New Yorker. Which are completely different from the New Yorkers that live down in Greenwich Village or perhaps the Financial District. Each region of The City breeds its own type and attracts others like its own.

And then you have New Yorkers that were born in Manhattan and have lived here their whole lives, and then you have transplants. Fern has lived in The City and Brooklyn for over fifteen years, and although she considers herself a New Yorker, she doesn’t feel like she can call herself a Brooklynite yet. (She’s only lived there a couple of years, Manhattan resonates far stronger in her.)

As for newcomers, I think one has to have lived here for over a year. I’m approaching my two year mark and am starting to feel like I belong. Which leads us to State of Mind.

Fern and I decided that a person could live here for twenty years and still not be a New Yorker, and a person could conceivably live here only a couple of years and feel completely immersed and assimilated. It just depends on how much you do to get out and experience city living. It’s a difference between feeling like a tourist and feeling at home. Do you know the nooks and crannies in your neighborhood, the dive around the corner that serves cheap (relative) yet great food, or community activities like the street fairs or gardens.

I’d always heard that The City was a place that chewed you up then spit you out.

It’s true.

So becoming a New Yorker is a state of mind, it’s how well you do while being thrown through the gristmill and what kind of person you emerge.

So to follow in A Home in the City’s footsteps,

Here are the top thirteen things that make me a New Yorker

1. I slept on a friends couch for my first three months living in NYC, then subsequently squeezed all my stuff into a 8’x14’room complete with floor to ceiling shelves. Leaving only a three foot path to walk.

2. Joined with my roommates screams when a two inch roach climbed over her, in bed, in our fourth floor brownstone walk-up.

3. I don’t use a shopping cart, and carry my groceries home from the store.

4. I think a $5.00 sandwich is a good deal.

5. I actually considered renting a 10’x 12’ “Studio,” back in January, for $1475 a/month, before the rational side of me kicked the desperate side of me back into the dark where it belongs.

6. I’ve actually read an entire book at Barnes and Noble, while sitting on the floor in an out of the way corner. (shhh, don’t tell anyone)

7. I’ve experienced the blazing heat on a subway platform while sweat drips down my back.

8. I know the ins and outs of my neighborhoods. (I recently moved from 81st and Amsterdam (UWS) to Inwood.)

9. I’ve walked through Times Square on New Year’s Eve and strolled through Central Park to watch the fireworks afterwards.

10. I’ve stood still in one place for a couple of hours to watch the tree lighting ceremony at Rock Center. Never Again.

11. I parked out on FDR Drive (a six-lane highway) to watch the fireworks on the Fourth of July.

12. I’ve gone to the Mermaid Parade at Coney Island. Boy was that an eye opener…

13. Oh, and one more, in the past week I’ve been hustled by a Italian-American guy at the deli, a Moroccan food vendor while waiting for the A train, and a drunk Canadian at Times Square. -Note to Mom: No, this has never happened before.

And the top five that don’t:
1. I still get excited every once in a while when I go to someplace new in The City. If only I were more blasé.

2. I actually got my driver’s license when I was 16, although it’s expired now, so maybe it belongs on the other list.

3. Like A Home in the City, I don’t have a small dog in a bag and don’t plan on getting one anytime soon.

4. The state of mind thing is not quite there yet…maybe next year.

5. Okay, so I couldn’t think of a fifth. I’m sure there are tons, but it’s 5:00 on a Friday, and I want to go home.



  1. After nearly 10 years in the city (granted 6 were in the Bronx), I am always a little trepidatious to call myself a New Yorker. Granted I grew up in western PA, so I do feel I stand out a bit, even dressed head-to-toe in urban black with trendy shoes. I am wondering if in your catagories of New Yorkers (as an UWSer I do not have a baby bump or stroller, nor a husband who makes $$$$$$) I may add one: the poor New Yorker. You know that one, the one who takes the cheap, tiny apt to live in a nice neighborhood. The one who considers going out to dinner a trip to the Chirping Chicken & doesn't recognize the names Babbo or Del Posto (suddenly concerned with her nails when collagues discuss the two). {sigh} Maybe we're just too sad to write about.

    Meanwhile, bring on the entry about the desert at Cafe Mozart. I'm ready for a little splurge!

  2. Loved the list and was nodding in agreement through each one.

    Re: enjoying new places in the city -- you HAVE to love that! One of reasons I love having guests come to visit is an "excuse" to go to the Top of the Rock, the circle line, museums and -- oh yes -- the Charmin store in Times Square. When you stop finding new spots and getting excited, it's time to cash in your NY chips.

    I'd love to hear about the circumstances of your move to Inwood.

  3. LOVED your post. And well written, despite your disclaimer!

    #5 made me laugh out loud. Everyone knows the brainwashing that happens with prolonged stickershock, like shopping at the Barney's sale. (Oh, a pair of almost see-through hotpants for $300? What a bargain!)

    You so lucky to have lived in that neighborhood. A bunch of great restaurants over there, including Sarabeths.

    I look forward to reading your other posts!

  4. JC - You're absolutely right! I myself fit in that category you added. Unfortunately, due to the latest surges in rental prices, I got priced out. Hence the move to Inwood.

    Columbia - I've never been to the Charmin store, I'll have to add that to my list. Good idea about a move post, perhaps it could be a two part series. My search on the UWS, and the subsequent looking of the eyes to the North.

    Kitty - I loved the movie Amelie! Your Barney's hotpants example made me laugh, and Sarabeth's has the best brunch. They're on my list to write about. :)