I like New York. Half of my family is from Manhattan (“Dry dock Country” as they say). I’ve been backstage at Carnegie Hall. I’ve run around Central Park plenty of times. I’ve wandered the canyons of Downtown and been in the kind of clubs many folks think died in 1981. I’ve spoken on the stage of the Cipriani and in the shadow of the new World Trade Center. I had too many beers in the straight bar (and former Kerouac hangout) right next to the Stonewall. I appreciate a hot dog while walking down a cold street. I like the Brooklyn view of Manhattan more that the standard view from across the Hudson. New York has lots of great things. But I have to tell you New Yorkers, you can be pretty lame.
And you have hicks too.
Oh you don’t call them hicks, they tend to wear gold and drive mid-90s Accords instead of pickups. They don’t say “ya’ll.” But they do say “you’s guys” while spilling pizza sauce on their Jets jerseys.
But New Yorkers generally are so self satisfied they don’t understand that most of the world does not see New York as the center of the universe at all. For many people, New York is a place to be avoided. This is true for many many people.
Indeed New York has the same sort of rottenness hanging in the air which one smells in many of the northeastern cities. Cleveland, Chicago, Buffalo (that’s right, I said it). The smugness New Yorkers cling to I find is mostly a defense mechanism. And remember, I’ve known many New Yorkers. They know that their world is compressed (psychologically if not literally) into 5 boroughs (that is if they count Staten Island which many people consider New Jersey practically) and as such they fear the broader, more open, less congested, in many ways much more free, world. I am of course speaking in broad strokes here, and this certainly wasn’t the case for my grandparents who eventually took to the North Carolina piedmont quite nicely.
And though Billy Joel’s “New York State of Mind” is one of my favorite songs ever, it is important for New Yorkers to understand that this state of mind isn’t always a good thing. There is a reason why New Yorkers are leaving New York after all.
What Okrent described a decade ago goes beyond just The New York Times. Every single person living in what New Yorkers sneeringly call “flyover country” has to deal with nonstop jokes, jabs, and attacks from the East Coast-based media that their way of life, their hobbies, their faith, their politics, and everything about them is backwards, oppressive, anti-woman, anti-gay, contrary to real American values, and just plain uncultured. From Family Guy to the nightly news toGirls to NPR to Glee to Jon Stewart, every Middle American has been told a thousand times how they are nothing but a dumb hick or a pathetic repressed suburbanite.
Southerners and Westerners and Midwesterners have spent their entire lives shrugging off these affronts. But as soon as one personinsinuates that something’s rotten in the Big Apple, the same people who guffawed along to all those NASCAR and country music jokes are aghast. Please.