Friday, February 13, 2004

Wherein the Author Ruminates a Bit on the City So Nice they Named it Twice

Of the rich variety of cultural advantages available to New York City residents, it's quite clear to me that the one that really matters the most is the freedom everyone feels to blow his or her car horn.

Sure, the ballet and all that bullshit is great. The Met. The Guggenheim. Yankee Stadium. Papaya King. But all of that is really available in any city with more than 50,000 people, but this horn thing. This is where New Yorkers carve their niche. The horn honking is constant. In an hour sitting in my car on the Upper West Side, I heard more than 650 cars honk their horns. The complex and beautiful language seemed to have three separate messages:

1) I have become bored with the view of your car. I wish for you to pull over and let me pass along so I may wait in traffic behind someone in a different color Toyota.

2) You have parked poorly, and I fear that should I try to make passage that I might press my bumper up against your own. Please come down from your Ritz Cracker box sized apartment and realign your car.

3) I am a cab driver with many appointments in my future, and therefore I am sounding my horn becase a) I require some space to make this left hand turn from the right hand lane, b) my last tip was dissatisfying, and I need to take out my anger on my current passenger, and my normal violent swerving is not working on its own, and 3) it has been several minutes since I last honked my horn.

That last section is a joke. Just the 3 comical reasons. Everything else is true.

New York is a remarkable place. I mean it. About half the people I know think it's the greatest city in the world. I mean just the bagels alone sway most of my pals. Many of them go to New York 3 times a year. They see some art. They get matinee tickets to either Phantom or an off-broadway play where actors dress like kitchen implements and revolt against the eastern-Bloc styled "drawer" they live in (you think I'm making this up, and I'm not). They eat a bagel the size of a Christmas turkey, and then take the train back to Pittsburgh or Baltimore. I trust them. I really do.

I love Times Square. I love the sidewalk in front of MTV. I love Central Park when it's not crowded. I love 30 Rock. I love looking out the windows of my hotel and thinking: "Holy shit! Look at all the tourists." I love the neighborhoods where locals sit on stoops and chat across the street with the neigbors, all while sitting on stoops, or in open windows. I love Riverside Park, narrow and bustling, but lovely for being jammed between the high rises and the Henry Hudson Parkway.

It's exciting and busy, and for many, the only place in the world where all of the senses can be stimulated simultaneously. I see its beauty; I see its allure. But once we finished our interview this afternoon, we hustled across the GW Bridge, and before too long we were two beers and two big plates of food into a terrific and funny evening at the Longhorn Steakhouse in Parsippany, New Jersey, for my money, the greatest city in the world.