I’ve been playing around with a simple question: Why do we go to the places we go to? And, as I sit here, a mere 24 hours before leaving for a New York City weekend, I ask in this instance, why do people go to New York City? What is it that draws people?
Sure, we can say that it’s a big city, and as such, it has access to activities and products that smaller cities do not. But this is the same reason that people go to London, Paris, Mexico City, or Tokyo. So why go to New York City over these places?
There’s little doubt that there’s a mystique about the place. It has a grandiosity that comes from several variables. For one, it’s a financial heavyweight. With that, comes those displays of wealth seldom seen in other cities. For instance? The city is chock full o’ skyscrapers, whose mere existence is a result of the capital that comes into the region. Yes, every major city in America (except Washington DC), has a handful of skyscrapers. Only in New York are there several square miles of them. Walking through shadows of the Bank of America Building, The Chrysler Building, the Citigroup Center, and others of its ilk, is to be reminded on a continual basis on how small an individual can be.
The response to this reminder of insignificance is defiance, manifested through both the New York City attitude that everyone has heard about. But it also manifests itself via another New York City institution, the arts scene, represented most often by Broadway, but you can see it in every aspect of the arts, from The Ramones, to Alvin Ailey, to even Frank Sinatra, who once sang of New York ,”If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere”. And what is the artist if not the pinnacle of individualism?
Together, these two vastly different scenes create a dichotomy on a seven mile long island that exists no-where else on the planet, at least in size of their grandeur Sure, Tokyo has skyscrapers and London has the West End, but neither of them carry the mythos associated with their New York City counterparts.
It is this that separates New York City from the other cities of the United States, and even the world. Yes, it’s a huge city. But beneath it lies the dreams of wealth, glory, power, and fame. People head to New York to do things, and often end up making history in the process. It’s a city designed to NOT be the central location of federal politics, and in doing so, has come to represent America better than Washington D.C. ever could. Paris, London, and Rome have history tied at the hip to the political decisions of their respective states. What is Rome without Ceasar, Paris without Napoleon, or London without Victoria?
New York? New York has Alexander Hamilton, Babe Ruth, George and Ira Gershwin, Edith Wharton, Duke Ellington , and Grandmaster Flash. It’s the city where jazz became refined, baseball became popular, and Hip-Hop evolved from the block party traditions of the 1970′s. In the end, New York City is a place where interesting things happen in large part due to the backdrop behind it and the resources available within it. It is the perfect amalgamation of money and individualism. What possibly could represent America better?