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LJ Idol - Week [28] - U </3 N Y

The smallest county on the United States mainland is, quite arguably, the most famous one. New York County, also known as the island of Manhattan, is the tiniest county outside of one in the Hawaiian Islands, yet it has come to dwarf most everything else in the entirety of the country. Some people actually believe and loudly proclaim that New York is at the heart of everything.

I’m being very sincere when I say I want to apologize. Constantly or even frequently hearing that New York is the Center of the Universe can be annoying at best and outright in your face at worst, if you’re not from here. But I also want to clearly state, it’s not completely our fault!

I mean, look at the media. All of the television networks are based here, with most of the late night and all of the morning programs originating from here. And then a lot of scripted shows throughout broadcast history and in motion pictures since cinema began use or have used NYC as a setting for their plots. From “All in the Family” in Queens, to “Welcome Back, Kotter” in Brooklyn, from “Becker” in the Bronx to “Seinfeld” in Manhattan, New York is the backdrop for hundreds of comedies and dramas, past, present and, of course, future.

There’s a reason for that. NYC has a familiarity. People know it. They know what it is and what it’s about. If you’re on a vacation, or attending a convention or business trip, you probably either passed through or came to visit New York along the way. If you flew in from Europe or Africa or western parts of Asia to the United States, You probably landed at JFK.

New York is a kind of shorthand for a writer, since the world of the city is already established in a viewer’s mind. It doesn’t hurt that a lot of writers have spent quality time here too, so it’s a place that they know about, making it easier for them to craft their stories and characters with a New York lean. All those other television shows and films that have been set here, all work to help define what The City is all about. It makes it easy to have more.

Oh and there’s just a lot of people here. “Eight million stories, out there in the naked,” according to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” (which was a tribute to Kurtis Blow’s “Eight Million Stories” rap from the 1980s. Which itself was a tribute to the television series “Naked City” from the 1960s). And a lot of us do social media, so you’re getting even more Instagram photos of neighborhoods from Wakefield to Far Rockaway, more tweets about and during events like the upcoming Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and yes, even LiveJournal posts about life in the largest metropolitan center in the USA.

The other issue is one most people don’t even consider. There are dozens of different New Yorks. Yes, they all embody the same geographic space, but they are so distinctly different, you likely wouldn’t recognize them if they were all in the same line up, down at Central Booking.

New York is a place of culture and art. MoMA, The Met, Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall. New York is a place of fledgling musicians. Rockwood Music Hall, The Cutting Room, Otto’s Shrunken Head and Arlene’s Grocery. New York is a place of sports. Yankee Stadium, Madison Square Garden, The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and Barclays Center. New York is a place of finance. The Federal Reserve, The NASDAQ and New York Stock Exchanges and a host of brokerage houses. New York is a place of iconic landmarks. The Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty and the Unisphere. New York is a gourmet’s delight. Peter Luger’s, Gramercy Tavern, Patsy’s Pizzeria, Street vendor hot dogs. New York is a place of parks. Van Cortlandt, Prospect, Flushing Meadow, Central. I could do this all day.

You could travel in any one of those New Yorks and maybe only catch a glimpse into one of the others. That’s why NYC is such a multifaceted jewel. It’s always different, yet always familiar.

But ultimately, it’s not the places, it’s the people that make a city what it is, and if the world were a single city, the most representative place on the planet would be New York. We have people from every corner of the globe residing, working and playing here, which is a reminder of the immigrant days of Ellis Island, when thousands of hopefuls left their lives for the opportunity to become Americans.

It’s the intensity, the need to succeed, that draws people, like a magnet to this town. But, like a magnet, it also repels some who are a different polarity. That’s good, because if everyone really did love New York, everyone would be here! And trust me when I tell you, a rush hour Subway is crowded enough without adding an additional few billion.

But the personalities are the interest: from the working class blue collar types that build and rebuild this town, to the members of New York’s Finest, Bravest, Strongest and Boldest who keep things running. From the collegians at Columbia University, NYU, Fordham, Hunter, Brooklyn College, and other institutions of higher learning to the multi-millionaires that live on Park Avenue or in lofts in TriBeCa, the people make the place, and they make this city endlessly fascinating.

Personally, I’m not a New York snob. There are many other wonderful places both in the US and around the world. Every place has something to offer, something worth cherishing and celebrating. And again, ultimately that’s because of the people. There is no “Center of the Universe.” We’re all just dots on the map.

I will say this, though. If you spend a lot of time in this city, I mean two or three years, or more, preferably more, then go to some other place, you’ll understand New York and what it means: The action, the activity, the movement and connections, the glitter of the celebrities and the glare of the lights. There’s no other place quite like it. If you can make it there, well, I know you know.


This thinkpost was written for LJ Idol using the prompt: "The Copernican principle"


( 26 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 18th, 2014 05:34 am (UTC)
Everybody on TV tends to either be from New York or California because everything is shot there. I got some funny advice once - if you find a good location in New York and you're trying to secure it, ask them how many other projects have used it. If they say nobody's ever filmed anything there, there's probably something wrong with it.

(Actually, I think this advice might have been specifically "ask them if Law & Order ever shot there", which is even funnier.)
Nov. 18th, 2014 03:08 pm (UTC)
L&O SVU has shot on my office block three different times in the past two years. The trailers are always lined up just down the street in the same spot.

Between all of the L&O's that have aired, I suspect you'd have a much more difficult time finding a place that hasn't been used as a location!

Yes, production facilities are easy to find in NY and LA since they are media centers. And again, with writers setting the shows, they gravitate to those two places, and think of using exteriors, which is smart. But with the way camera kits are, with more and more internet producers and with production costs plummeting, it's beginning to be very easy to shoot a broadcast quality program anywhere. And I hope more people do!
Nov. 18th, 2014 06:46 pm (UTC)
There is no “Center of the Universe.” We’re all just dots on the map.

Yeha, but it's a pretty big dot, isn't it? :-)
Nov. 19th, 2014 06:24 am (UTC)
Admittedly, population wise, it is one of the larger places on the planet. I guess in a sense, that gives it some importance. But the old adage "familiarity breeds contempt" comes into play, and there are a lot of people familiar with New York!
Nov. 18th, 2014 09:11 pm (UTC)
The other issue is one most people don’t even consider. There are dozens of different New Yorks.

I was reminded of this the last trip I took there last month. In one day I traveled from Astoria to the East Village to Times Square to Central Park South to Midtown to MoMA. Everybody was there from everywhere. It's energizing and exhausting (the latter being why I decided I couldn't live there anymore)

And on Sixth Avenue and 53rd Street I walked right by a live alpaca. And nobody else noticed. Because New York.

Excellent use of the topic.
Nov. 19th, 2014 06:32 am (UTC)
Sounds like you did a week's worth of stuff all in half a day! But such is life when you have one short day in the Emerald City! Which reminds me of the other point: New York is either the basis for or the stand in of fictional places like Metropolis, Gotham City and more.

Hm. Live alpaca... on Sixth and 53rd? Was that part of the Nativity scene for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular? I guess they would have been rehearsing it at that point since I don't think it opened until right after Halloween. But you're right. It's both energizing and exhausting, all at the same time.

Thanks for a wonderful compliment!
Nov. 19th, 2014 07:14 pm (UTC)
I'm from Long Island, so I'm familiar with many of the places in The City that you speak of. And of course, there's also "Little Italy," "Chinatown," etc.

Oh - and Tavern on the Green! I don't know if it is still there, but it used to be a really awesome (albeit a bit expensive) restaurant. My uncle used to take us there fairly often when I was a youngling.
Nov. 19th, 2014 11:38 pm (UTC)
Sadly, the Tavern On the Green is no more. :-(
Nov. 20th, 2014 02:01 am (UTC)
Bummer. :(
Nov. 20th, 2014 04:29 am (UTC)
Um... NO!
Nov. 20th, 2014 04:31 am (UTC)
I thought about breaking it down by ethnic group From Harlem to Brighton Beach too... like I said, I could do that all day!

Tavern on the Green is, in fact, still there, and still serving meals.


It's a integral part of Central Park and at the finish line of the NYC Marathon.
Nov. 19th, 2014 10:15 pm (UTC)
I really liked this take on the topic - I think it's only natural for big cities and population centers to become sort of self-reflective, to be inclined to declare that they've got it all and are the center of the world (or at least, the bit that matters!). It's a human thing. That said, I would love to visit the city someday - I never have, and there are soooo many things I would love to do there. :)
Nov. 21st, 2014 05:55 pm (UTC)
Though I had some other ideas for the prompt, this was the one I knew I had to go with, just because it completely made sense. Endless conversations about this concept have been had over time.

But do come to NYC when you get the chance. There's nothing like the empirical experience of seeing it for yourself.
Nov. 19th, 2014 11:40 pm (UTC)
Thing about NYC -- from my perspective, at least -- is that it's the place you go if you have ambition because all the movers and shakers are concentrated here. Well. Here and LA. :-)

I grew up on the upper West Side myself. :-)
Nov. 21st, 2014 08:17 pm (UTC)
I think people buy into the PR, a lot of the time. There are people who want to leave but can't for whatever reason. There are people who long to come here but can't. And now, even more than before, that seems to be true for many.

The financial aspects of the city are crucial. This is the place where money is made. It is going to attract people who are interested in that. And it's an island made out of granite! It's perfect for building skyscrapers on.

My high school is on 89th and Central Park West, just a half block from the old Claremont Riding Academy.
Nov. 21st, 2014 08:22 pm (UTC)
Wow. I grew up on West 74th Street. Went to PS 87! But ended up at Hunter for high school.
Nov. 20th, 2014 11:02 am (UTC)
It almost felt like I was reading about Mumbai/Bombay..:)..very relate-able.
Nov. 21st, 2014 08:27 pm (UTC)
Aha! Of course Bollywood is a huge deal! I would like to see that someday!
Nov. 20th, 2014 06:29 pm (UTC)
NYC is awesome. I enjoyed walking everywhere. AW
Nov. 21st, 2014 08:30 pm (UTC)
New York helps keep you in shape... with the walk-up apartments, the up and down on the subway staircases, and walking crosstown (which is faster than a bus can get you there), the energy needed helps keep you going here.

Glad you had a good time!
Nov. 20th, 2014 08:41 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful response to the prompt! And great ending line which just encapsulates everything that came before. Great job!
Nov. 21st, 2014 08:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot!

The one constant in NYC is change, which is echoed in the great Ric Burns miniseries "New York: A Documentary Film" originally shown on PBS. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it as a real history lesson, an entertainment, and an explanation of how NYC came into its reputation.
Nov. 20th, 2014 11:35 pm (UTC)
I've been all over the country, in just about every state, but somehow I have never managed to set foot in New York proper.

I should rectify this.

This thinkpiece on New York snobbery got me thinking of a book I read once, some pretentious 'How To Be A Writer' garbage (I thought it would have practical advice on the craft itself. It did not). It told it's readers they absolutely MUST live in New York, and dress like a New Yorker, and act like a New Yorker, or else they were not REALLY a writer. Also, if the reader was male, they were instructed to get married and then have affairs, to get their creative juices flowing. Female writers apparently get their creative juices elsewhere.

I swear to God it wasn't a parody.
Nov. 21st, 2014 09:02 pm (UTC)
That's really hilarious! I'm sure I haven't seen that book because it's likely exported to other places. No need trying to sell New York to New Yorkers!

You really need to come here, though. We'll show you how to dress and act, and maybe THEN you'll be a writer!
Nov. 21st, 2014 01:17 am (UTC)
I haven't been to New York since I was in my very early twenties, but the times I have been there (three of them, all between the ages of 17 and 23), I could definitely see why so many people see it as the center of the universe.
Nov. 21st, 2014 09:04 pm (UTC)
Some have called it the world's largest movie set, and if you think exclusively in those terms, it's difficult not to see NYC as massively important.

There's no denying that there are elements of power, of interest, of attraction here. Just not to the detriment of anyplace else!
( 26 comments — Leave a comment )

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