About six months before I moved to New York City, I came to visit. It was, as I recall, cold and clear the day I found myself at Magnolia Bakery. As is wont to happen here, a young guy waiting on line with me struck up a conversation. He was getting his Masters in journalism from Columbia University and, upon learning of my impending move to the Big Apple, he insisted on taking me across the street to a charming West Village bookstore.
“Here,” he said, “anyone moving to New York City has to have this book.” He bought me a copy of E.B. White’s heartbreakingly beautiful 1949 essay, Here is New York. “It’s required reading. I hope you like it as much as I do.” I thanked him, we ate our cupcakes, and went our separate ways.
“Hold on,” you’re probably thinking, “a guy you met waiting to buy a cupcake bought you a book about New York just because you told him you were moving there?” Yes. Yes, he did. And the thing is, things like that happen all the time in New York City.
New York can slam your heart into the sidewalk and, in the blink of an eye, make you fall in love with her all over again. Once I climbed into a cab and began crying. I’d only been in New York a couple of months and everything was going wrong. I was exhausted and lonely. A guardian angel disguised as a cab driver drove me home, telling me to keep my chin up: “After all,” he said, “we’re in New York, and anything can happen.”
Some people say that New York is a nice place to visit, but they wouldn’t want to live here. Those people generally haven’t spent much time in the Apple. Despite their reputation for brusqueness, New Yorkers are some of the friendliest, most outgoing people you’ll ever meet. If you’re standing on a street corner looking perplexedly at a map, someone will always stop and ask you where you’re headed. Then they’ll gladly give you directions and, more than likely, a restaurant recommendation.
New York is a food-lover’s paradise; entire worlds are contained in her myriad neighborhoods. Chinatown and Little Italy, for example, are unlikely neighbors, spilling over into one another downtown. This happy juxtaposition of cultures means that you can enjoy a bacchanal of Tsingtao beer and crab-and-pork dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai, then turn the corner and end your evening with cheesecake at Forlini’s.
Perhaps you want a late-night pastrami sandwich from the Lower East Side stalwart Katz’s Deli. Or maybe you would rather have rib-sticking soul food up in Harlem at Amy Ruth’s. Then again, no summer is complete without a Nathan’s hot dog at Coney Island, followed by dinner at Primorski with the Russians in Brighton Beach. Of course, if you’d like to stay in, you can get anything delivered. Anything.
The world’s best food, art, music, theatre, dance and baseball are all right here in the Big Apple. Thanks to the subway, there is literally electricity pulsing through the streets 24 hours a day. And if Central Park in Autumn doesn’t make your heart stand still, you probably didn’t have a pulse to begin with.
The city at last perfectly illustrates both the universal dilemma and the general solution, this riddle in steel and stone is at once the perfect target and the perfect demonstration of nonviolence, of racial brotherhood, this lofty target scraping the skies and meeting the destroying planes halfway, home of all people and all nations, capital of everything…this city, this mischievous and marvelous monument which not to look upon would be like death. –E.B. White, “Here is New York”, 1949
Nothing, not even the “destroying planes” chillingly foretold by E.B. White, can diminish the dynamism, generosity, and hope that define our beloved New York City. I love New York, today and every day.