Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Wonderful Town

I've lived in New York City since April 2006. There's something about the place that pushes me to see, do, learn as much as I can before - at some future date - I pack it in and move back home to Atlanta. But since the first of the year, I've been steeped in all things New York more than usual.

It started when I got hooked on the Ric Burns 8-part documentary New York (thank you, Netflix/Roku) in January. I watched it straight through (well, OK, over a couple of days), picking up a lot of facts and interesting bits I'd never known before. My daily commute and weekend rambles have been greatly enhanced by what I learned. So many layers created, built, nurtured over its history by the native population, the Dutch, the English, Irish, German, Jewish, Italian, Puerto Rican, well, on it goes.

Then I read Washington Irving's A History of New York by Diedrich Knickerbocker, as recommended by the Burns series. Irving's fictional history is a funny, satirical mix-up of fact, gossip, and fable. Diedrich ("died" "rich," get it?) Knickerbocker  - not a real person - has lent his name to old-money New Yorkers, various New York sports teams, clubs, hotels, theatres, and restaurants since 1809. Irving's character is very much alive and well in the 21st century.

And last but not least, I'm coming to the end of Edward Rutherfurd's New York via audiobook. In typical Rutherfurd style (if you're familiar with Sarum, London, or any of his other Michener-type historical epics) you get hooked in by various characters and families threaded throughout New York's history. He adds flesh and blood to events that built the city and our country. A good, if long, listen, especially as I traverse the city day in and day out.

I'll give it a rest when the audiobook runs out. But the NYC documentary/literary obsession of the past two months has added to my New York living experience. New York was the very center of the revolutionary independence movement at the birth of this country. Look it up. From the early Dutch days, it was a place of commerce, money-making, new ideas. There was a work ethic, but not a Puritan work ethic, since the city wasn't founded by strait-laced religious types. (Explains a lot, eh?) Innovations in the arts, architecture, city planning, and business flourished - for good or for ill - but, by gum, anything was/is possible.

This city is much-maligned - especially during a political season - as not the "real" America. Somehow, New Yorkers are discounted as not representing the ideals and morals of the United States. Too rich? Too poor? Too ethnic? Too snobby? Too well-educated? Too capitalistic? Too socialistic? Well, I'm here to tell you, you can't get anymore American than New York City. It built and fought for the ideals of this country and nurtures them to this day. If you're interested in how I can make such an audacious statement, then I recommend watching Burns' documentary, getting to know Mr. Knickerbocker, or tracing the city's history through Rutherfurd's novel.

It is a wonderful town. And not just because the Bronx is up and the Battery's down.

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