Sunday, August 15, 2004

Urban clichés

The "City" section has a great article by Jennifer Steinhauer, "Caught in the Act of Being a New Yorker."

She begins: "It hits me occasionally, as I'm standing on a traffic island on the Upper West Side, trapped by my inability to get across Broadway before the light changes, that I have officially become a walking urban cliché."

This happened to me once. I was walking up (not across) Broadway on the Upper West Side, wearing all black, and eating a bagel. I all of a sudden became aware that I was...wearing all black and eating a bagel on the Upper West Side, but it was the fact that I hadn't self-consciously thought about doing either of these things that made my sudden realization of its implications--that I am, as Steinhauer would put it, an "urban cliché"--so jarring.

Steinhauer continues: "None of [my peers] would most likely appreciate being reduced to a cultural stereotype, the way Allison Portchnik, one of Woody Allen's wives in his film 'Annie Hall,' complained he was doing to her when he ticked off identifying markers of her life, like years spent at Socialist summer camps. And I, despising conformity, disdaining the notion of community and believing that the Gap was a conspiracy to create a national costume, had never wanted to be part of any world. Yet, just as you swear you'll never turn into your mother, here I am, yelling at the butcher and pushing the bangs out of my children's eyes."

So true. But Steinhauer neglects to mention one thing: comparing one's life to any scene from "Annie Hall" is a sign that one has, in fact, become an urban cliché. I am currently interning at a magazine that Woody Allen mentioned* in "Annie Hall"--does that make it any less clichéd for me to compare aspects of my life to scenes of that movie?

The best part of Steinhauer's article:

"Here is my own version of the urban cliché checklist, the markers that tell me that I've been nearly swallowed by the entire West 80's:

1. Spend a prodigious amount of time comparing the size of my apartment to that of everyone I know. Read Real Estate section. Throw out Real Estate section. Never move.

2. Stand in line at Harry's Shoes on Broadway and 83rd Street each fall, listening to conversations almost as inane as the one I have with my 5-year-old about the relative merits of metallic-colored sandals versus Keds. Remind 5-year-old not to lose the balloon doled out by salesman. Stop at small candy store on the way home to replace lost balloon with Gummi Bears. Repeat entire transaction each summer.

3. Lament that there is no place in the neighborhood to get a decent hamburger/salad/pastry, then eat in the same four places anyway."

"I've been nearly swallowed by the entire West 80's." Dude, so have I, and I don't even live there! OK, not the stuff about taking kids to Harry's Shoes, since I neither have kids nor babysit anyone else's, but I am fully aware that the Upper West Side culture, no less than the Upper East Side culture, has a way of sucking you in if you spend too much time in those parts. My family shops at the Fairway, the subway I took to school required me to go across town twice a day, and pretty much everyone I knew in high school who lived uptown lived West, not East. All these factors have combined to make me an Upper West Side cliché who lives, as Steinhauer put it, "on the exact same block on the other side of Central Park."

*"They move through the rooms, Robin holding a drink in one hand, her arm draped in Alvy's; the crowd mills around them.

ALVY (Taking Robin's hand) I'm so tired of spending evenings making fake insights with people who work for Dysentery.

ROBIN Commentary.

ALVY Oh, really, I heard that Commentary and Dissent had merged and formed Dysentery."

1 comment:

Viagra Online without prescription said...

continually I visited your blog looking for some news about this, and thanks to your wonderful work all the time I find just I need to know.