Sunday, August 17, 2008

What I'll Miss About New York:
#14 — The Center of it All

About ten minutes after the hour, the announcer on NY1, New York's own 24-hour, low-budget, local news CNN-clone, says "...and now for a look at the news from the world outside New York." When I hear this, I usually imagine a hypothetical New Yorker responding "Wait — there's a world outside New York?"

As Saul Steinberg's famous New Yorker cover makes clear, the prototypical New York view of the world is one where you're either in New York, you're in the provinces, or you're in some bizarre hinterland. Without so much as an iota of self-consciousness, most New Yorkers consider their city to be the financial, political, and cultural capital of the world, a place of unparalleled cultural diversity unlike the rest of the United States or anywhere else. (Every decade or so, a handful of New Yorkers reignite the New York City secession movement, a project that illustrates the degree to which residents of this city feeling that they are also unlike residents of their own state.)

There's little I could add to the well-worn discussion of New Yorkers' fascination with themselves, so I'll be brief. I'll miss living in a place where such a large percentage of residents are convinced that they live in the center of the universe. Granted, denizens of the Bay Area are more than enthusiastic about their home, convinced that they lead the way culturally and technologically for the rest of the world (More than one person has told me there's a reason that Star Trek located Starfleet's headquarters near the Golden Gate Bridge). Yet, few people in the Bay Area would claim that their area is the epicenter of the world's attention. To me, it seems most New Yorkers would make that claim.

What's this? After living in New York City for three years, I'm returning to California. These are the parts of my New York experience that I'll miss the most.


SaxBoy said...

My wife and I were finishing off some leftover Panatini (basically crispy bread with some herbs) yesterday when I noticed the bag was labeled "New York Style." And it occurred to me... who exactly says what "New York Style" is? Is there a collective way New Yorkers like their stuff? Is it "New York Style" in the sense of "It's my style as a New Yorker to make you pay premium for this product which isn't really that differentiated after all"... or is "New York Style" just a myth that is perpetuated outside the city in order to sell more stuff to us unsuspecting suburbanites? Whichever one it is, I'm curious if you'll miss it. :)

pwlsax said...

New Yorkers' attitude toward the rest of the world is one of defensive contempt - the stubborn insistence that everything here beats anything anywhere, combined with the touchy sense of dread that that might not, could not possibly, be true.