New York and Paris

by Bryan

I had been planning to write about New York for this post, but it is Paris at the top of my mind, and it’s hard to access the mental space that talks about building cities and representing the on film when you see familiar ones being ripped apart before your eyes. What is sure to be lost on us is that the terrorists usually fail in the long run, provided the events are recognizable one-offs — Paris will remain Paris just as New York remained New York before it, and Paris remained Paris before that, and so on. Just as the stories of old New York so often evoke the stories of today’s New York, the stories of old Paris will continue to evoke the Paris of the present and future.

I was here to talk about New York, though, and how it is portrayed on television, mostly through three current shows that I think capture what has been called the three fundamental experiences of New York in important and distinct ways. The three experiences of New York are the ones I read on one of those ‘Poetry in Motion’ placards I saw on the subway about a decade ago, despite the fact it isn’t poetry, per se, and it’s the one by E.B. White from ‘Here is New York’ that flatters Brooklyn washashores like myself:

There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter–the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something. Of these trembling cities the greatest is the last–the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements.

I’m pretty sure that’s the second-best quote about New York of which I know. Until recently, it was the best, but the new king is fresh and mostly notable for who’s saying it and where he’s saying it, and for the fact it’s perfect. It’s Knicks star Carmelo Anthony, on the city he fought to play in:

If you’d rather skip the video, the nut is this: “New York is the greatest city on the planet, I think” he says. “But you’re not a New Yorker if you don’t wake up some days and be like ‘man, fuck this place.'”

Nothing in the world has ever been truer than that, except that people probably hate living in Paris from time to time as well, and that’s the rub: the places people bother to hate are generally the ones they love even more. If no single number instance of terror can shake the feeling, it’s because that small bit of extra love makes all the difference. You compound it over and over, and nothing can rip it apart.