Talkin' New York

By Glenn 

New York City has changed a lot since I last visited in May 2001. A symbol of financial prowess and American decadence no longer exists - and with its disappearance came a renewed introspective outlook on life and certainly what it means to be a New Yorker. But whatever you think of old Yankee stadium, it's destruction pales in comparison to the terrorist attacks of 9-11. I remember eating dinner with my family at the top of the World Trade Center in the late 1990s. We couldn't get into Windows of the World on the 106th and 107th floor so we had to eat Pizza Hut instead. It wasn't the "authentic" World Trade Center experience but it still affected me greatly.

Technically I was here one other time in the past nine years, but a Megabus brought me and upon arrival I was immediately whisked away for an evening across the river in New Jersey. My emotions were the same as the immigrants arriving at Ellis Island over a century ago, except my disappointment was missing an Oasis concert at Madison Square Garden - not the death of my first born son on the long voyage to the new country.

This time Oasis weren't playing, I skillfully avoided New Jersey and I was unencumbered by the shame of traveling with my parents. Stepping off the plane at Laguardia, I broke both of my legs (we hadn't yet reached the terminal) but it didn't phase me. I was too excited to be back and I knew I'd have time to heal on the $40 taxi ride into the city. I was only outside the airport briefly before getting into a cab but it was long enough to feel the wondrous chill of NYC in February: air not cold enough to anecdotally disprove global warming but not warm enough to associate with Spring's renewal.

First stop was the Upper West Side, near Columbia University. This is where my sister became a lawyer and where hundreds of college students, each day, experiment with LSD for the first time. Stuart and I walked past tons of places that I wanted to enter because through the window I could see "young people" or "college students." We ended up going to a small Mediterranean restaurant. Stuart sat at the bar with me while I devoured a delicious falafel sandwich with hummus. Afterward we went to what Stu called a bar where people to go to sleep with Columbia girls. We ended up having a threesome with the entire band Vampire Weekend - Columbia's most famous alumni that I count as one because that's how many times I've seen them in concert.

The next day I got to experience a wider breadth of New York City through bus and subway rides. We saw where John Lennon was shot, where Giuliani cleaned up the streets and Central Park. The first made me sad, the second made me angry and the third made me happy we were seeing it from a bus window and not while jogging. Going through the heart of the city, Times Square, memories of earlier trips rushed forth through my head like screaming teenage girls at a filming of the nearby now deceased Total Request Live. Do the bright lights and Asian photographers define the city? Every New Yorker would answer something different, as we found out after registering for photography, Asian studies and lightology classes at CUNY.

Have you ever been to a fancy restaurant? I hadn't until I went to Tabla, which is a place in New York that sells "Indian Fusion." Think of jazz fusion, but in food form and with a Hindi twist! It was overpriced, granted, but what kind of fusion product isn't? The most important part of the meal was the company I was with: a collection of army veterans, college drop-outs, princesses, reporters, and Ralph Lauren employees that represent some of my closest friends. We spent the entire evening talking about favorite memories from Family Ties and our time at the University of Missouri, where we all graduated summa cum-laude. Though I was in New York it felt like being back in the womb (or some other place that people usually think of as comfortable and familiar).

The next day was much more comfortable for me as I got to see a celebrity, a sky walk, and a famous New York City area. The celebrity was Ethan Hawke, the "sky walk" was actually Highline Park and the famous New York City area was the East River, where we put Ethan Hawke's body after we ran into him at Highline Park. Scott also brought me to Union Square, where Godzilla was filmed and where a crazy woman screamed at us. (It turned out to be Kirsten Gillenbrand campaigning for US Senate.) Union Square is the like the less touristy version of Times Square.

Tuesday night we went to Spanish Harlem to watch LOST, the show that in New York is named "Long Island" and subtitled in Yiddish. I thought of the Bob Dylan song "Spanish Harlem Incident" and the lyric "I am homeless, come and take me // Into reach of your rattling drums." This was probably because a homeless person was following me as I got off the subway and walked to Jon's apartment. The LOST episode was the best of the season thus far, and to celebrate we all had a glass of wine. I invited the homeless man up to join us and it turned out to be Bob Dylan himself.

This segues perfectly into Wednesday, my final day in the city that never sleeps. This was the day that Maddie took me on a tour of her bohemian neighborhood. I saw Bob Dylan's apartment! And the Stonewall Inn where the Stonewall Riots of 1969 ignited the "modern gay movement." Thinking about these two Greenwich Village landmarks I was wistful for days gone by that I never lived myself. Who is our generation's Bob Dylan? What is our generation's Stonewall?

I guess I could have been experiencing this in any city: in Chicago, it would have been "what is our generation's Mrs. O'Leary's Cow?"; in DC, "what is our generation's burning down the White House?"; even in Detroit, "what is our generation's ICP?" But there's something unique about these New York icons that makes the feeling that much more visceral. I could imagine Bob Dylan almost 50 years ago walk out of his apartment, look out onto the filthy-but-not-yet-the-modern-kind-of-filthy streets and write "Talkin' New York." Now I can't even imagine [insert famous and current New York based artist who has integrity and limited but sustained popular appeal] writing [insert iconic song from said artist].

My New York City trip is probably best compared to the blackout of 2003 (pictured above). It short and sweet, doing everything I wanted to happen and seeing everyone I wanted to see. The only problem is that, like the blackout of '03, it felt like it had been done better and more intense before I even got there. In the blackouts of '65 and '77, people died. People rioted. Bob Dylan wrote songs and the Talking Heads released their debut album, respectively. I'm not as scared to live in New York after this visit and deeply love the people I know there now.

You can't get a true feel for a place just from visiting for four days, but I think I got close. I walked to Dunkin Donuts. I took the subway. I ate at Subway. I converted to Judaism. Most importantly, I got to spend time with people who truly live in New York the right way. It's an expensive place (like most of our biggest cities) but probably has enough going for it to justify living there, which I request that we all do by the end of the year. Hopefully this article gave you a good idea of why people like me visit New York City. It's the same reason the Republican Party held their convention there in 2004: craven desire to score political points off of innocent blood.


  1. This is great. Your best article yet!

  2. A. I agree with Jake
    B. I was really hoping you would mention "Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters" by Elton John
    i. did you find out that Spanish harlem are not just pretty words to say
    ii. did you see any rose trees in NYC?
    iii. Did you say good morning to night?
    C. Concrete jungle where dreams are made of. is this an accurate metaphor?

  3. that's kind of rude to call scott a princess! this article was as great as watching LOST with bob dylan and as moving as america uniting after 9/11. i can't wait for you all to move to new york. we can finally start our OYIT stage show.

  4. This article is pretty good. However, it fails to mention ME and my many experiences and contributions to NYC, which makes it not so good. Please amend this in your second edition.

  5. I love this. I knew I would, it's why I waited so long to read it. Glenn has a real voice that comes through in his articles, GMs and debates. And it's f-ing brilliant. I love this and I love you Glenn!!!

  6. Not of any significance at this point but I would like to point out that the top image is actually that of Odaiba, Tokyo and not NYC. You can tell by the more modern bridge and glowing Tokyo Tower behind it. There is a mock statue of liberty there for some reason as well. This pic is misused quite frequently.

  7. No way. It is definitely New York. I took it while I was there.

  8. I take back saying this article was great due to the photo inaccuracies.

  9. Right. Like I said, it doesn't matter to the post. Just had to point it out since I've lived in Tokyo. Was a good read anyways. I just visited NYC for my first time 5 days ago. Sounds like I'll need to revisit to really experience what it's about.