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.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of that great stuff, but I just can't get over the fact I didn't know it was spelled "brusque". *blush*

7/9/06, 11:56 PM  
Blogger Karen Bodkin said...

I can't wait to get back to New York. I was born and raised in Toronto and I feel the same way about Toronto as you do about NY. What a city!

7/10/06, 12:14 AM  
Blogger Lady M said...

I loooove New York! Thanks for sharing your story. I'm a geek for theater, so whenever I'm in town for work, I try to get a Wednesday morning meeting, so that I can see a matinee in the afternoon and come back for an evening show. I hoping to be there in September. Oh yeah, the rest of the city is awesome too. :)

7/10/06, 12:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's one of the best things about kids, I think, is seeing everything new through their eyes.
I can't wait to take Harley to the Zoo, and for Christmas this year because he's actually old enough to understand it.

7/10/06, 12:40 AM  
Blogger Pollyanna said...

What a lovely story. I want to go to NY one day. I would love to come in the fall to see the color changes of the leaves and all that. And although it scares the creepers out of me, I would LOVE to see Central Park. It sounds like you all are having a great time. That's awesome. How is Baby sleeping??

7/10/06, 12:49 AM  
Blogger Kelly Wolfe said...

That was such a funny and true post. I don't live in NYC, but I love it. And I love to pretend to know a lot about it too. When I was there for an extended stay for my husband's work, I even got asked directions once. It gave me a high.

Love your blog.


7/10/06, 1:21 AM  
Blogger Mary Tsao said...

I love NY with kids. There's so much to do and see. If you know a few tricks (like where to go to the bathroom, e.g., public libraries and bigger department stores), it's actually quite a kid-friendly town. I love it.

That last picture is so beautiful.

7/10/06, 1:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great, now I am missing my New York again ... after I left my parents' house, NYC was the place I stayed longest (6 years) ... I just love Manhattan ... and now I am very curious how it might be when one day I show this to my son.

7/10/06, 2:24 AM  
Blogger Overwhelmed! said...

I've never been to New York but I'd love to visit someday. If I do, I'm not only going to ask you for advice on what to see, but I'm going to try to arrange to meet you in person! :)

I find myself being tourists in our own hometown when we have guests as well. I love it!

7/10/06, 2:56 AM  
Blogger Sandra said...

Gotta love a kid that thinks you know stuff!!

Sounds like you were a fabulous tour guide for Brodie. You just opened yourself up for about 10 million bloggers to have you chaperone them through the big apple. Myself included :)

7/10/06, 7:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Liz. I'm crying a little now. It's the rainy days here that make me miss NYC the most. The options for kids are dizzying. I can remember knowing the exact layout of every museum. My dad brought us the the Natural History so many times he stopped worrying when we ran off. We'd just meet at the Triceratops.

Oh, and I've been in one of those 5-story apartments on the top of the Beresford, and yes, at LEAST 20 mil.

7/10/06, 7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, so you win the New York post award.

How I wish when travelling with kids and family members it was easy to follow your own path to fun and adventure. Our day was my aunt's idea of "taking us to the city" (she did no taking,really, although she did drive to the train in Trenton). That is why I am planning to revisit soon. By then I'll be the master of our fate, hoping you'll be willing to share some of your expertise!

7/10/06, 7:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great shot of New York - and nice picture too :)

I knew Philly that well - but it's been awhile. I've always loved NYC and in my next life, I'll live there.

For now, I'll just live vicariously through you.

7/10/06, 8:35 AM  
Blogger metro mama said...

We are hoping to make it to the Big Apple this year. I will request your advice for sure.

7/10/06, 8:48 AM  
Blogger Pendullum said...

I love your fair city...
I found it to be friendlier than where I come from...
And people may laugh at me here...
But the most child friendly city...
Battery Park is a gas for young kids...
and Central Park in the summer with all the water parks that are heated...
How many zoo's in the world charge 50 cents for admission for kids???
And Seredipty 3 with its Frozen Hot Chocolate???
Not to mention the drummers that go to the Park on Sundays!!! And the Puppeteers!
We are going back in the fall a belated birthday present for me and I can not wait!

7/10/06, 8:52 AM  
Blogger Jezer said...

I love your city. My brother lives in Brooklyn, and I don't get to visit him nearly as often as I would like.

The first time I visited NYC, I was struck by the two points that you make here: The people are very friendly and helpful, and the city doesn't feel nearly as big as one would expect.

Thanks for a beautiful post about a beautiful city.

7/10/06, 9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I miss NYC. We have been in LI for nearly three years with our three and a half year old twins and while it is nice to have a backyard and more space, I really miss all the color and the rhythm of city life. Thanks for the snapshot of my favorite city ever. I call it GCW-- Greatest City in the World. (for me anyway)

7/10/06, 9:18 AM  
Blogger Chicky Chicky Baby said...

You and Nate sound like the bestest tour guides ever. The fart machine? Priceless. I'm sure your nephew found the true beauty in that gag.

7/10/06, 9:33 AM  
Blogger Renée said...

My bonus son is visiting his mom on Brooklyn this summer and I'm FREAKING OUT. I watch the news for subway bomb threats or some other kind of terrorizing danger that he might encounter. I'm very comfy in my small New England town, safe from any danger other than the rogue pea combine driver. Can I send you to check up on him? ;) I'd be one of those morons holding the upside down map.

7/10/06, 9:35 AM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

R: Do you think 8 million people would stay here if our lives were threatened on a daily basis? The only terrorist threats are the faux orange alerts that go up every time Bush's poll numbers drop. I assure you your son is having the time of his life.

(And it's always the "small New England towns" where serial killers live. Never the city.)

7/10/06, 9:41 AM  
Blogger J said...

I haven't been to NY since 2000, but boy, I love it. We ignored the circle line, and got on the BEAST. VERY fun and touristy.

My city, and I know it's hardly a city to NY types, is San Francisco. Ever need to know some tips about SF, let me know. ;)

7/10/06, 10:16 AM  
Blogger PetiteMommy said...

I really really want to visit NYC. Great Photo!

7/10/06, 10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more. There's nothing better than having friends visit NYC to make you fall in love with the place all over again. And I love that Brodie had so much fun on the subway. When my niece stayed with us once, we took the 1/9 train up and down the city so she could sit in the very last car and look out the rear window. Have Brodie try it. Seeing the lighted catacombs of the transit system is amazingly cool for a young kid. Even jaded adults like me still get a great thrill from it.

7/10/06, 10:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great entry! I've been saving my nickels and dimes for an eternity, trying to get to NYC. It will happen. I've got a list of things I keep saying will happen, but this is definitely one of them.

7/10/06, 10:31 AM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

I am planning a little day trip with my 2.5 year old third week in August, staying possibly with a friend on Rutgers Slip if it gets to much for the ittybit. I have never been more excited. And I know my NYC friends LOVE to tell me where to go, what to eat and what not to miss. God I love your little town.

7/10/06, 10:34 AM  
Blogger S.T. said...

Ah, I love New York. I haven't been there in far too long. And my experience with New Yorkers is that they are definitely not rude on the whole.

7/10/06, 10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love NYC...in very small doses. It is always good to get to Maine.

Now, if you do head up to my neck of the woods this summer and happen to need directions there is a 50/50 chance you'll find yourself lost in the wilderness.

Next time I go to the city I'll drop you a line for the real skinny from a native. Let me know if you need any info about cool places to eat/visit in ME.

7/10/06, 11:34 AM  
Blogger Marie said...

Your nephew isn't going to want to leave! Will this become an annual adventure for him? Y'all are rockin cool aunt & uncle!

7/10/06, 12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a fantastic post! You are really in tune with the experiences of children from their perspective. I found your blog last week and find it funny, charming and insightful. Keep up the good work. I hope you and baby Thalia had a great first birthday! Keep up the good work :)

Jill Urbane, The Mentor Mom

7/10/06, 12:13 PM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Brodie knows what he's talking about.

(And? Be warned that next time I visit NY I will be stalking you and begging for the Very Special Nephew Tour.)

7/10/06, 12:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

damn, i just want to pack up and move over there. makes me miss my old stomping ground (london). actually, whenever I go home now i see everything through new, (dare I say) "tourist" eyes--Nothing like living in mid-Mihcigan to make you appreciate ye olde worlde charm of one's past.

7/10/06, 1:11 PM  
Blogger toyfoto said...

Oh and one more thing: For YEARS I was afraid of the subways. Y-E-A-R-S. Not because of crime or anything like that, no, I was afraid of being lost. My friends would drag me around and I'd squint, looking for signs, as they'd poke me in the ribs to get me moving. "This is us."

That all ended when I was pregnant and Jed and I went to the city for a kind of last hurrah before the baby. I never felt more liberated in my life when it turns out I was the one doing the poking as Jed looked around at our surroundings, slightly lost, underground. "This is us, honey."

When my friends tried to give me directions to their house (because even the cabbies couldn't find it) I just said: 'No worries. I know right where you are.' And I did. I felt possitively INVINCEABLE. Like I should be wearing two primary colors and a cape.

7/10/06, 1:17 PM  
Blogger j.sterling said...

this is such a great post! i love it! and i wish i would have realized when i went to new york in may that you fucking lived there. who knew?! lol

7/10/06, 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only ever been to NYC once, and while I was waiting at the corner to cross the street, some rough-looking guy came up and pissed on the sidewalk right beside me.

At the risk of having you and several other commenters who are clearly more in the know about NYC than I am, I have to ask why, if I were standing on the corner of Christopher and Bleecker, you'd laugh at me if I asked where Greenwich Village was. Take pity on me, for I'm just a simple Canadian girl, after all.

7/10/06, 1:48 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

between you and Dawn with her discovery of her new city Montreal, I'm getting a bit antsy to revisit some of my favorite things about my city. Glad you're having a good time.

7/10/06, 3:04 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Next time we come to NY, we'll purchase your Tourist Guide.

7/10/06, 3:10 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I'm in NJ with a lot of family still in NY and I might ask you about it when I go next time! =o)

7/10/06, 3:48 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Mama Tulip: Christopher and Bleecker are the crossroads of the West Village (and my former address). It would be the equivalent of standing under the Eiffel Tower and asking how to get to Paris. Sorry for the too-insider information!

7/10/06, 4:52 PM  
Blogger Silly Hily said...

If I ever make it to NY you would impress the hell out of out me because I would be a totally clueless Southerner.

7/10/06, 5:33 PM  
Blogger Melissa said...

Liz, When I make it back to NY city one day, can I pretend to be your long lost niece or cousin or something? Will you show us around. Pretty please, with a spick tuna roll on top. :)

7/10/06, 6:20 PM  
Blogger Perstephone said...

Wow, I wish that you had been my tour guide for my last trip there. Instead I got my cranky uncle who felt that New York was best seen by bus only when it was sunny. Unfortunately, my last trip there it rained the entire (every stinking minute) freaking trip. We barely left his neighborhood, unfortunately. Yeah, gimme you're number cause you're going to be on my speed dial Missy.

7/10/06, 7:49 PM  
Blogger Lisa said...

Years ago we went to NY and we thought the people were very nice. Not chatty or overly nice (that would have actually been a bit freaky whether we were in NY or St.L) but friendly.

If we ever go to NY, its nice to know you would be open to telling me what's what over there. I'd LOVe to get the inside scoop on what to do and what places to eat.

Oh and that photo is beautiful! LOVE, LOVE, LOVE it. I am so envious you get to see that on a regular basis in real life.

7/10/06, 9:20 PM  
Blogger Robin said...

I was in New York City with my parents for a weekend years ago when I was a teenager. I *loved* it. It was so *packed*. I saw the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade... with Sha-Na-Na and Eric Estrada. He was so hunky.

7/10/06, 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can attest to what a good guide you are in NYC---but ahhh, that was a lifetime ago! I remember with a smile your hatred of jeans being worn around the city and how easily you seemed to move through the crowds while I bounced off of everyone like a ping-pong ball. If you have read Amalah's recent entry about her trip with a baby to NYC, you will get an idea of what my last trip was like. I will never, ever try to do the subways with a stroller, a toddler and an infant again! I can't say I love NYC as much as you, but I do miss it when I haven't been there in a while. Oh, and have fun with Brodie! (is that a mallrats/Kevin Smith reference? we named #3 b/c of our major Clerks love).

7/10/06, 10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good stuff. One never appreciates home until one is showing it off to a guest.

If you ever come out here, I'll proudly show you where the Martins' dairy herd broke through a fence and caused chaos on Missouri State Highway Z for six hours.


7/10/06, 10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

awwwww I am so glad that the visit with Brodie is going so well!!!! Sounds like an awesome time!!! You do have a lot to share with your nephew!!! I so love the fart machine idea....bet it would work awesome at Disneyland.

7/10/06, 11:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brodie sounds like a great kid. I've never been to NY, but if ever, you'd be the first I'd call. You know all the cool stuff.
And, if you ever find yourself in AZ, I'll show you all the cool strip malls, and surbuban type stuff there is to do here.

7/11/06, 1:03 AM  
Blogger Mahlers On Safari said...

I love your response to R about serial killers in small towns.

This made me miss the city. Will you show me around when I come home in September?


7/11/06, 2:30 AM  
Blogger Movin Mom said...

I have only been to New York once, and I have to say that the absolute most surprising bit of knowledge I gained was that New Yorkers are wickedly friendly. I was that person on the corner with a map determined to find my way and every single time I was approached by a New Yorker willing to help. I had a mom of 4 , a man who appeared to be strung out on drugs near Tribeca with a huge pick stuck in the back of his head but he told us the way to get around and pointed us into Little Italy for a festival of the BEST FOOD we have ever had. The New York police sent us to a great club.....the list went on and on.

Now how could we be experiencing such a similar nephew adventure? My nephew is also here from Texas. I HAVE HIM FOR ABOUT 2 WEEKS. But we took him into the city for a game via train over to the "L" train. Your description of the balance with no hands all the way to the jump when the train stopped was a complete description of my nephews experience as well. Great Post!

7/11/06, 8:36 AM  
Blogger Carolyn S. said...

We're planning an end of summer trip to NYC to visit my brother and your tips will definitely come in handy. As a 25-year-old bachelor, his must-see's usually involve the inside of a bar. Now that you have extended to us a public invitatation, I will be e-mailing you as the date gets closer for more ideas.

7/11/06, 10:32 AM  
Blogger Dawn said...

HEY! Are you having city love fest?

Next time I am in town, I am SOOOO tracking your ass down.

7/11/06, 1:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Evey time I've been to NYC I'm impressed with how NOT rude people are. Seriously, I think ya'll are great and I can't wait to come back :)

(And if you want some REALLY rude people, come to FL. There are tons of them here. Yours truly excluded, of course)

7/11/06, 2:42 PM  
Blogger Ashley said...

**she thinks to herself--i hate it when people rub it in that they live in nyc and i don't...especially when they pretend to take the city for granted and don't realize the glory of it. we all know that they wake up everyday and think "haha! i live in new york and not po-dunkville usa." don't try to fool us**

seriously--i'm just jealous!

7/11/06, 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've often said that the reason New Yorkers seem standoffish is that if we conversed with everyone who sat next to us on the bus, shared an elevator with us, or fondled us on the subway (have I said too much?), then we'd never shut the fuck up. That's why we don't talk.

Unless you ask about what to do or where to go. Then we really can't shut up.

(I hope my use of "we" doesn't offend; I may not be native, but no place has ever felt more like home, and I can hardly wait to get back. And Tacy feels the same way.)

7/11/06, 10:18 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Ooh, thanks for the photo love. Once in a while I do manage to take a decent one. But then, I'm no Tracey.

7/12/06, 11:27 AM  
Blogger the mystic said...

I'm supposed to be making it to the Big Apple this year too. I haven't been in seven years, so I'm really overdue. And my experiences there have been that you are totally on the mark. "Don't get in my way, but sure I'd LOVE to show you the city tomorrow!"

7/13/06, 12:48 AM  

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