New York, New Eyes

It’s a fallacy that New Yorkers are rude.

Rushed, yes. Brusque, sure. If you had sixteen people ask you for directions, beg for change, or shove flyers in your face for ShowWorld’s Nude! Nude! Nude! Review over the course of a three block walk, you’d start tuning out the world too. It’s not poor manners; it’s survival.

The fact is, if you’re standing on the sidewalk holding an upside down map, and ask a native how to get to Greenwich Village (that’s gren-itch, not green-witch, thank you very much) you’ll not only be pointed toward three possible walking paths, and a subway route, you’ll get a few restaurant recos thrown in for good measure. The only exception is when you’re standing on the corner of Christopher and Bleecker, asking how to get to Greenwich Village. Then we laugh at you. Just a little. But we’ll still tell you that while you’re in the neighborhood, Snack Taverna on Bedford has the best stuffed grape leaves you’ve ever had and Shopsin’s is aces for pancakes but they charge three times extra for the silver dollars because Kenny hates making them.

It all comes down to one simple truth: New Yorkers love to show you how just much we know about New York.

So of course I was crushed that while some of my favorite bloggers have made the trek to the Baked Apple this summer, none of them have bothered to contact me for my unapologetically opinionated opinion on where to take the kids for dinner downtown (Cowgirl Hall of Fame); whether to do the Circle Line (only the semi-circle cruise that skips that boring third hour up around the Bronx); who makes the best burger (Corner Bistro, no contest); and whether it’s okay to wear jeans to Gramercy Tavern. Answer: Please, in the name of all that is holy and good, put the jeans away. Unless you’re Plum Sykes and are able to accessorize them with an upper-crusty British accent, a size zero booty and a $600 haircut.

See? Opinionated. It’s my birthright.

So instead of helping my fellow bloggers with my dearth of knowledge about my hometown, I’ve had to settle for impressing my 8 year old nephew.

“Canal Street?”

“Yes, that’s where Chinatown is. All the signs are in Chinese. Isn’t that cool?”

“What are those different parts of New York called again?

“Boroughs, sweetie. There are five of them.”

“Hey, what’s wrong with that man?”

“He’s just a little crazy. Let’s walk on this side of the street, okay?”

It’s a joy to see the city through the eyes of a refreshingly non-jaded child. For local kids, subway rides are the metropolitan equivalent of buckling up a car seat. They hop on, then bury their faces in their bags of Veggie Booty and hardly even look up when a busker enters the car playing Sweet Caroline on steel drums. Brodie, in contrast, is smitten with every aspect of the journey.

He surfs the A the train, extending his arms for balance. He squeals as he lays a crumpled dollar into the empty case of the sax player. He shimmies up and down the poles, swinging around them with such glee, you’d think he’d bought a ticket to do so. And every time the train screeches to a halt, he jumps as high in the air as he can, which in his mind assures his maintenance of a vertical position.

“I want to live in New York City!” Brodie shouted. “It would be sooooo cool to take the subway to school every day.”

It’s no minivan carpool, but I suppose it has a certain je ne sais quoi.

Another bit of misinformation about New York is that it’s big. Not so. New York is the smallest of all small worlds, made only smaller by the fact that we get stuck, like lab rats, going back and forth between the points A and apartment B every day.

Brodie’s visit has forced us to open the map beyond the tiny fold of our own neighborhood, to be tourists in our own hometown. There’s something liberating about this. You don’t feel self-conscious about the camera dangling from your neck. You don’t assume that checking the subway map makes you a target for pickpockets. You don’t even think about pickpockets–it’s just second nature to wear your bag over your chest with your forearm extended over the zipper. And yes, that’s bag, not purse, Grandma.

The whirlwind tour of the Bronx Zoo, Central Park, the Museum of Natural History, various playgrounds, and a little more of the subway system than we had intended (thanks to Aunt Liz who got on the E train by accident–again) has been not only good for Brodie and Thalia, it’s been good for me. His visit plus some time off from work and unseasonably comfortable weather have conspired to reconnect me to the city I love, something I hadn’t been feeling quite so much since I moved from to Brooklyn two years ago. The adventures of the past week have reminded me of all the things I take for granted here–the diversity, the color, the smells, the culture.

Perhaps I had it wrong. Perhaps it is I who owe Brodie’s mother a debt of gratitude for his visit with us.

Come to think of it, I may owe her a little more after today. Let’s just say that a day out with Uncle Nate is a day to remember.

I mean, why just walk through Central Park when you can walk through Central Park with a fart machine in your back pocket and a remote control hidden in your palm? Yesterday, dozens of tourists and a very grossed-out group of teenage girls went home complaining about the disgusting, flatulent man near Bethesda Fountain.

On the way out of the park, I explain to Brodie those apartments on 5th Avenue with the big balconies are about $20 million each.

“You know a LOT about stuff here,” Brodie says. “How do you know so much?”

I don’t even answer. I’m smiling too hard.

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