Reasons To Love New York

8 01 2010

Every year, New York Magazine puts out a “Reasons To Love New York” issue. Every year the reasons range from whatever cuisine is en vogue that year (this year it’s pizza) and how New York does it best to the latest and greatest in city street art.

While the stories themselves are fabulous, uplifting and entertaining on their own, their common denominator is perhaps my number one reason for loving this city. That common denominator is the nameless, nebulous quality of living in New York, that something that usually overcomes folks after only a few months in this crazy, exciting and difficult city.

The fact is that many of these reasons to love New York might seem insignificant or even banal to non-New Yorkers. So what if they are still moving forward with the Second Ave. subway? But New Yorkers understand the nuances of these things, the ups and downs surrounding this much-needed subway line in the past, the amazingness of finding a little bit of home in this strange, large potpourri of transplants, and of making new “hometown friends” too.

The number one reason to love New York, then, is just the sense of living in New York, of being a part of something big, something great, something difficult. Half the stories in the piece, especially this year, are about resilience, about making it, about survival. Because in a city where the streets are crazy and the life frenetic and the rents )and everything else) expensive, where rodents and other nastiness are commonplace, we need reminders of why we stay in this rat race, and in how strong we are for surviving it.

Which dovetails into a second common denominator, and second reason to love New York: the people. Many of the reasons to love New York have to do with people, our leaders, our celebrities, our everyday superheroes. New Yorkers, it seems, like to read about themselves. But not because we’re narcissistic.  Because when you live in a city with 9 million other people, there is a bond that can only come from knowing what it’s like to live in a city with 9 million people. We’re strong, adventurous, industrious, and for that, we celebrate each other, and our city.

It’s all of these reasons, and so many more, that (even in this frigid, miserable cold) I love New York

Sound of Music Pilgramage (and Such)

5 01 2010

My last night at home, we happened upon The Sound of Music on television. I know this is not an uncommon affair, especially around the holidays, but nevertheless when those von Trapps are on screen I can’t help but watch (and sing along). In a moment of blissful familiarity my sister, parents and I crowded around to watch, only this time we got to pass the love along to my niece Gianna (until her mean parents made her go to bed).

It took me back. To childhood, when I wanted to be Gretl and made my siblings re-enact the cuckoo clock one sunny afternoon in Tahoe (you know you’re the beloved baby sister when you can command four teen/college age siblings to be photographed popping out from behind their father).

It's a terrible travesty that the turquoise shirt on one brother and the pink plaid shorts on the other are hidden. A little imagination goes a long way though...

It also brought me back to Salzburg, which I visited with my friends during our European adventure, for the sole purpose of taking the Sound of Music Tour. After nearly a month of discussing and reminiscing, of yodeling our way through picturesque European hamlets and trying to remember the names of the of “those two other children” (they are, incidentally, Louisa and Brigitta), we found ourselves on a bus engulfed in the soundtrack and seeing the sights firsthand.

I skipped down the very same lane where Julie Andrews sang “I Have Confidence” (albeit somewhat less gracefully) and we stood in front of the gazebo of  “Sixteen Going on Seventeen” fame. The hysterical disappointment of the day was that we couldn’t enter it because some time before an elderly woman on the same tour broke a hip trying to jump the benches as Liesl did. We did, however, get our music fill for the day, and it was also a great way to see a gorgeous city. Added bonus? I got to relive my trip to the beautiful town in the Alps some years later when writing the EuroCheapo city guide to Salzburg (see it for doing Salzburg on the cheap).

Good Luck Foods and Traditions for 2010

2 01 2010

I’m back from a lovely holiday in California. It was sunny and comfortable and full of family and laughter. And food. Lots of food. Remember all those holiday cookies? Mom didn’t make those, but about a million others, and I certainly did my share of indulging. My sister Kristen made our favorite cookies (made only, oddly, at holiday time): Almond Crescents. This was a Gaga recipe, and for kicks I did a little digging, but was unable to find any information on a traditional almond crescent cookie, at least one that looked like ours.

However, since I seem to be so focused on food these days, I thought I’d share this fun little tidbit I found on Delish: Good Luck Foods for New Year’s Day. It’s a little international inspiration for starting a new year off right. My favorite is the Spanish tradition of eating 12 grapes at midnight, but mainly because it came out of a surplus of grapes one wine harvest.

Some other fun non-food traditions I found:

  • In Venezuela, it’s tradition to enact on New Year’s Eve what you want for the year. If travel is the thing, go out carrying a suitcase, or, even better, if love is what you’re after, you should wear red underwear on New Year’s Eve. Check out this Venezuelan video.
  • In Italy the red underwear is for luck (noticing a trend) and items are thrown out of windows out midnight as a sort of “out with the old…” thing. Sounds like fun, if you watch out for flying nightstands.
  • In Suriname it’s all about loud noises (think horns honking and drums banging) and the burning of effigies to symbolize a fresh start.

And here in New York we have the thrilling tradition of freezing to death and bumping into millions of strangers while we wait for a shiny ball to drop. (And then there are the smart ones of us who just find a warm place to watch thew whole fun spectacle on TV.) It seems there is a little insanity in every culture when it comes to ushering in the New year.