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Dorothy Parker on New York:

On this happy morning, it seems right to quote from her ode to America's greatest city. From her essay, published in McCall's in January 1928, entitled "My Home Town":

It occurs to me that there are other towns. It occurs to me so violently that I say, at intervals, "Very well, if New York is going to be like this, I'm going to live somewhere else." And I do — that's the funny part of it. But then one day there comes to me the sharp picture of New York at its best, on a shiny blue-and-white Autumn day with its buildings cut diagonally in halves of light and shadow, with its straight neat avenues colored with quick throngs, like confetti in a breeze. Some one, and I wish it had been I, has said that "Autumn is the Springtime of big cities." I see New York at holiday time, always in the late afternoon, under a Maxfield Parish sky, with the crowds even more quick and nervous but even more good-natured, the dark groups splashed with the white of Christmas packages, the lighted holly-strung shops urging them in to buy more and more. I see it on a Spring morning, with the clothes of the women as soft and as hopeful as the pretty new leaves on a few, brave trees. I see it at night, with the low skies red with the black-flung lights of Broadway, those lights of which Chesterton — or they told me it was Chesterton — said, "What a marvelous sight for those who cannot read!" I see it in the rain, I smell the enchanting odor of wet asphalt, with the empty streets black and shining as ripe olives. I see it — by this time, I become maudlin with nostalgia — even with its gray mounds of crusted snow, its little Appalachians of ice along the pavements. So I go back. And it is always better than I thought it would be.

I suppose that is the thing about New York. It is always a little more than you had hoped for. Each day, there, is so definitely a new day. "Now we'll start over," it seems to say every morning, "and come on, let's hurry like anything."

London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it. There is excitement ever running its streets. Each day, as you go out, you feel the little nervous quiver that is yours when you sit in the theater just before the curtain rises. Other places may give you a sweet and soothing sense of level; but in New York there is always the feeling of "Something's going to happen." It isn't peace. But, you know, you do get used to peace, and so quickly. And you never get used to New York.

BobH (mail):
With all due respect to Ms. Parker, a very witty and perceptive woman (most of the time): What crap. New York City is a big, ugly, loud, depressing, dirty, terrible place. Always has been, always will be.
6.8.2006 12:10pm
byrd (mail):
Having Republican mayors has been good for New York's safety and business class, but at a steep cost to its vibrancy. Some days I love it and never want to leave; other days I want to pack up and leave right now. Which makes me merely a typical New Yorker.

I stay because every time I visit another city, I'm reminded of all the great things here I take for granted. Living anywhere else would just be too much sacrifice. Where else could you accidently stumble across a parade, fireworks, street fair at any moment of the day or night? Where else could you get the best ethnic food, no matter the ethnicity, within a few blocks walk of your apartment? Where else could you find Philharmonic quality musicians playing for free, on the platform, as you wait for a train to come take you home? Where great art (and bad art) can appear to you from anywhere. Where you can walk down a street a hundred times, and on the 101st, look over your shoulder and suddenly see a beautiful cathedral you've never noticed before. Where you could run into your favorite author, favorite singer, or actor buying deodorant or a bagel. And on and on it goes.

Sure, New York is all the things BobH says it is, but it's so much more than that too.
6.8.2006 12:26pm
Gordo:
As a non-New Yorker, I consider New York to be a man-made Yellowstone. It is an awesome place.

And, looking back from later in this century, I have a feeling that this will be considered a "golden age" in New York's history, primarily because of the crime rate that has plummeted to shockingly low levels, along with the economic vibrancy of the city.
6.8.2006 12:38pm
PGofHSM (mail) (www):
I think New York City for the long term takes more stomach than I have, but that Parker undoubtedly did.

Do you have the illustrated Portable Parker? I'm looking forward to getting that (and coincidentally, the illustrated New York Trilogy) in the mail soon.
6.8.2006 12:57pm
Mark F. (mail):
People who make comments like Bob H. just don't get New York, I'm afraid. I hope he's happy in Green Acres.
6.8.2006 1:21pm
Goober (mail):
That's a nice quote. I've always had a soft spot for Cole Porter's abbreviated version:

I happen to like New York, I happen to like this town.
I like the city air, I like to drink of it,
The more I know New York the more I think of it.
I like the sight and the sound and even the stink of it,
I happen to like New York.
6.8.2006 1:31pm
Jeek:
Can we have a moratorium on any further posts about this Stalinist shrew?

And, come to think of it, a moratorium on posts by and about self-involved New Yorkers wouldn't be a bad idea either...
6.8.2006 2:08pm
Goober (mail):
So much anger.... tsk, Jeek.

For what it's worth, I'm eagerly awaiting Carpenter's next post, "Dorothy Parker on Girls Who Attended Brandeis."
6.8.2006 2:24pm
H. Tuttle:
With all due respect to Ms. Parker and commenter Byrd, as a life-long native New Yorker I can assure everyone that Ms. Parker's statement was made (1928) long, long before today's era of a massive city government, ever increasing sky-high taxes, union head-lock on education, and numerous other items that have streadily chipped away at New York city as a worthwhile place to life and raise one's family. New York is living off the vapors of its past glory, and I'm planning to encourage my three children to move out of New York city when they are of age. I'll be happy to follow them to a locale without NYC's cloying liberal atmosphere.
6.8.2006 3:54pm
BobH (mail):
Mark F. says: "People who make comments like Bob H. just don't get New York, I'm afraid. I hope he's happy in Green Acres."

Oh, I "get" New York. I happen not to LIKE New York -- which I believe is a viable position, and (I assume Mark would agree) something about which reasonable people can differ. And I'm not sure where "Green Acres" is; I live in Los Angeles, a far more pleasant venue than New York City -- something about which reasonable people can also differ, right, Mark?
6.8.2006 6:15pm
devin chalmers (mail):
Ewwww, Los Angeles. A nice city... if you're a member of an undiscovered race of hyperintelligent Hummer H2s. In the words of Tom Waits, I'll take New York.
6.9.2006 5:59pm
BobH (mail):
To paraphrase Henny Youngman: Take New York. Please.
6.9.2006 6:59pm