Even after washing my hands tonight, they were still black. For supper, I had some yogurt, broiled a cinnamon bagel and poured a glass of Zinfandel. Next week I will visit New York City for the first time. I'm intimidated.
Why? I love cities. I like to fly into an airport, catch a cab, and watch the skyline emerge from the back seat. I like staying downtown, walking the streets and taking my own measure of the life and character of the place from first impressions. I like taking pictures, people watching with a glass of Starbucks unsweetened black, window shopping, visiting museums, learning the street names and their provenance.
But New York seems just that much bigger, unfamiliar, cosmopolitan. I might, on occasion, FEEL cosmopolitan while sitting at a fine restaurant but I would never claim to BE that knowledgeable. I don't read the New York Times, even if I check the headlines on my phone. I've never been to their airports. Years and years ago, we vacationed in New York, visiting Saratoga, Cooperstown, the Finger Lakes. But we studiously and deliberately avoided the metropolitan area.
What is the origin of this unease? Perhaps it has to do with the Yankees... baseball in New York is treated differently that here in the Midwest. Is it cultural? Have I bought into the notion that the newest thing, the next big thing, originates in Gotham? The best newspaper does (the Wall Street Journal) even though I know it is freshly published in Iowa and delivered to our mailbox in Tarkio. The music I love, Broadway and cabaret, originates from New York and graces the airwaves of Hurst Greenery via XM. The news we hear and watch via satellite from New York. The Met was background music for Saturday afternoon popcorn and I felt richer listening to the Texaco Opera Quiz, even if I didn't understand it. According to the movies, New York is rich, violent, historic, romantic, impoverished, unique. Tarkio doesn't have salons. Tarkio doesn't have a fashion district; Tarkio hardly has a business district; our financial district begins with the Farmers and Valley Bank and ends at the US Bank.
I love Chicago; after all these years, I am still thrilled to fly in over the Lake, to see the Magnificent Mile, Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, the Wrigley Tower, the string of great museums aligned around the Lakefront. But in my mind, Chicago still has agricultural, Midwestern roots, so the mystique is approachable. Grant Park is beautiful, but I know in my heart of hearts it doesn't have the pedigree of Central Park. The El is out there where we can see the city; the subway network just seems bigger and more complex to me.
Bottom line; I just don't know if this Midwestern gal will match up to New York. I'm not sure I'm "up to snuff". (Does anyone else say that?) When we sit down to listen to the "Oxford" debate, when various intellectual and media types look Blake up, when I sit down at the banquet, will I be overwhelmed? I've always subscribed to the notion that I know more about urbanites' lives than they know about mine. But in New York, that may not be the case; as a matter of fact, my assumption is that they not only don't know, they really don't care about my life at all!
On the other hand, coming down to the earth like the Martians we might as well be makes us distinctive, odd, singular and even eccentric. We know more about our earth, our weather, our soil, the structure of our lives and enterprise than anyone in New York city. We are meeting strangers on our ground and we have nothing to be ashamed of. Farmers meeting foodies; we have generations of dirt on our side. Foodies have a philosophy and a fad.
O.K. New York, I'm willing to face up to my insecurities. I'll play the tourist; I need to see all the cliches. What's the point of being there if its like all the other places? I'm anxious to take in whatever I can in our quick overnight survey of the city. My camera is charged up; my sense of adventure is ready to go. I've been out of place before, but never in THIS place~ which New York tune do you want me to sing now? Anything but ' New York, New York'......it's been done. Maybe Nanci Griffith....' I guess we look like natives here; just a middle aged couple with silver hair.' That's more like it.