Thursday, August 30, 2007

Union Square





A year ago, I was driving daily from a barren, isolated parking lot to a fast-food drive-thru for lunch (and feeling deeply depressed every time I left the building and looked around at nothing). And now, this is where I'm having lunch!

Union Square is so vibrant. I know, "vibrant" is an over-used trendy word, but I can't think of any other way to describe what all is going on there... Nothing in particular, but yet everything. It's hard to explain, but people are just putzing around here and hanging out, and it's interesting as hell to sit around and watch. It's like a bee-hive or an ant-colony---people in droves going about their business in a fashion that's highly organized, yet the onlookers are welcome, too, and definitely part of the "scene." Like on the subways, there's occasional eye-contact made, but then complete personal space given, an overall sense of non-judgmental-ness...

Some have written about New York City as being "impersonal" and "cold," but for me personally (my personality, my temperament), I don't particularly LIKE having to phonily "make nice" and pretend there's a heart-felt connection when there's not. I like wandering around and having daily---sometimes witty, sometimes obnoxious, sometimes utterly sweet---interactions with other people; I like the SURPRISE of it.

I just read in the NY press that NYC Mayor Bloomberg is spearheading a campaign to attract tourists, specifically trying to counter the image of New Yorkers as "unfriendly"... As a neophyte to the city of 6 months who has asked countless random New Yorkers on the street for street/landmark directions, for bank directions, for advice on pizza places, for you-name-it, I must say that I don't see why this campaign is necessary. From what I've seen in my 6 months here, New Yorkers are absolutely cool about being helpful and nice. I've had small-store owners give me incredible bargains on packs of cigarettes, waiters give me advice on where to live, Metro police officers help me swipe my subway card when it wouldn't go through...

I felt self-conscious in Austin, like I had to "act a certain way" to be perceived as "normal" and "competent." There's so much going on in New York City that no one gives a shit about "how you appear." What seems to matter here (thankfully) is simply that you "get the job done," whether you're a garbage collector or a trannie performer or an office worker or a business mogul or a model. The atmosphere is so free-wheeling and accepting, yet with the underlying coda of "competence." That kind of ethic is so utterly SANE to me.

3 comments:

Beth Austin said...

After work Friday, I stopped off at Union Square Wendy's to grab a bite. The line was tremendously long (maybe 40 people) and the counter-kids extremely lackadaisical about getting the orders out. All of US New Yorkers (ha! I guess I'm not one yet after only 6 months, but it was fun to say!) were standing there with typical New Yorker fortitude, not getting angry, but nonetheless shifting a little at how obviously slow the kids were moving. At one point, every single worker seemed to be just standing there chatting to a co-worker instead of ringing someone up or bagging their food. At seeing this, a 20-something punk guy behind me said whimsically, to no one in particular: "Look with what precision they move. [beat of silence as he gazed at the scene with mock admiration] It's like watching a ballet." I loved that! I laughed out loud and was in a good mood for the rest of my long wait in line. Even though I'm gay and was old enough to be his mother, at that moment I wanted him for a boyfriend, so I could listen to things like that on a regular basis! :)

Anonymous said...

Just wait until it's 20 below zero from November to April, see how much you "love" New York then.

Beth Austin said...

Good lord, it's New York, not Greenland! As a matter of fact, I moved here in the middle of winter, last February (temp in the 30s)...and loved it!