Friday, January 2, 2009

I Have Never Not Loved New York

Even in the cold and slush, I love this wonderful city!
by Charlie Leck

There are only a few real cities in the world. Places like Los Angles and Dallas, which are simply prime examples of mega-sprawl, don’t qualify. A real city has a strong urban core and a vital life of its own, without dependency on the suburbs. If you’re in New York or Chicago, you don’t going rushing out to the suburbs for dinner or to catch a show. Everything you want out of life is right there is the city itself.

The only cities I know that could be put in the same category are Toronto, London, Hong Kong, Madrid and Paris. There are probably a few others I haven’t visited. However, none of them comes close to this city with an exciting, beating heart.

I love it here, even in this cold and slushy time of the year, and I often wonder how I could ever leave it.

Our baby lives here now and she’s thinking of making this place home. I suppose a lot of parents would discourage her and try to bring her to her senses. Not I. I see it as a wonderful choice among the options. What possibilities and opportunities here.

We're looking for a home for her! That reality smacks us in the face a bit. New York is not a cheap place to live – au contraire! She’s lived here for two years now, renting. She knows Manhattan well. She knows where she wants to live and she’s comfortable there – even though it’s not one of the fashionable parts of town. It’s where she works and she knows the people in the community and she respects them. Whether its Lake Wobegon or Manhattan, that’s what you’re after as a human being, so I tell her to go for it. It’s her life and not mine.

I’d need to be on the Westside, near the park, or, perhaps, downtown. She’s cool! She moves around well in her neighborhood. She has the right attitude and temperament. This will be home for her and she’ll be a good neighbor and a good citizen.

You can be sure there is life here. There’s brilliant color and laughter and music and the constant, marvelous aroma of cooking food. And there are people everywhere -- running, walking, dancing, delightful people. Transportation is simple and always available. You can get to Times Square in 15 minutes and to the Village and Downtown in 20. The airport is a half-hour away and there are beaches that close also.

Want do you want to do? A great show? Wonderful music? A sunny walk in the park? Art? Libraries? Sports? Shopping? Spectacular dining and down-home wonderful meals? The best of all those things are all within 15 minutes to a half hour. And, if you yearn for the beautiful countryside and some rural life, you can hop in a car and be in the beauty of New York State’s parks, trails, small towns and farmland in a half-hour.

I was born out in the Bronx – on Saint Anne’s Avenue – and left the big city for the “sticks” of New Jersey when I was two; however, I could never cut myself free from New York. I came back in as often as I could. It didn’t matter to me what borough I was in because I loved it all – Brooklyn, the Bronx, Long Island or Manhattan (uptown, downtown, all around the town). I can’t find a real deli anywhere else. I can’t walk into a neighborhood Italian restaurant in any other city and be so assured that I’ll be overwhelmed by the quality of the meal. This morning I had breakfast, early and by myself, in an Itailian bakery a couple of blocks from the hotel. Mama mia! What a delight, this rich strong, Itailian coffee and pastries. No where in my wondeful Minnesota city could I find anything like this little joint on Lennox Avenue.

Sure there’s traffic and noise. To love New York you also have to love that and just go with the flow and be a part of it. I get a thrill when I hear the loud clicking, clacking and rumble of the elevated trains. And I never buy the Midwestern comments about New York being an unfriendly place. I never have trouble getting assistance, help or a pleasant conversation in New York. I call New Yorkers the friendliest people on earth. You musn't be afaid of them or they will overwhelm you. If you show them respect, you can't find kinder people.

The taxi ride in from the airport was like a dangerous carnival ride that doesn't get inspected by local and state officials often enough. It is an accident waiting to happen. Luis, the driver, terrorized me, passing trucks and cars on the far left at high speed and then squeezing through a narrow opening on the right, nearly touching rear-view mirrors with the cars he passed, but he got me to my hotel in incredibly fast time and beamed with pride when, with a heavy Spanish accent, he said, "Fourteen minutes! How's that?" I gave him a ten dollar tip and vowed to take the bus when I returned to the airport.

One of the wonderful things about New York is that you can isolate yourself and find great privacy and quiet, peaceful thinking, working time; or you can surround yourself with people and excitement and adventure. It’s really at one’s own option. Or, one can go with one approach one day and another the next day. It’s easy here!

There are problems and I could write about them, but everywhere I hear New Yorkers talking about those problems and how they are going to address them. Young people, by and large, are staggeringly obese. The mayor has a plan to attack that problem and New Yorkers have vast energy and they‘ll do it – just like they attack and solve all their problems. The infrastructure is old and needs attention. It will get it!

I think New York has become the world’s city. It seems the center of the universe. That’s why it’s more in danger than most of the world’s cities, but that’s something they know, too, and they live with it and keep a wary eye out for trouble.

Oh, how I love my home on the farm up there in Minnesota, near Lake Wobegon, but it is difficult to pull myself away from New York and all its pleasures.

New York! New York! What a wonderful town.
In the afternoon yesterday (News Years Day), we drove out to Jersey, to the town where I grew up. I showed her the old store, the elementary school I attended and then we went over the mountain, as we used to call the trip when we were kids, up to the high school from which I graduated 50 years ago. We just peeked at it from the car as we drove by. She didn't seem curious enough to get out and walk around. We slipped into a little town, Long Valley, near my old home town, and had a nice mid-afternoon meal in a fashionable, yuppy kind of joint where they brew their own beer. You know the type! There was nothing like that around when I was a kid. I don't know if that's good or bad. Others will have to debate it. It's just different.

Today, we'll do the tour of condos and we'll begin working on the numbers.

Oh yes, Saturday night we're going some place nice for dinner and the little kid said something interesting to me today.

"Dad, can I invite someone to come along to dinner. I've been dating him for awhile and I want you to meet him."

Oh, oh!

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