“There’s no life above 14th Street,” a former colleague was known to say. She is not the only lower Manhattanite I’ve heard utter those words. Perhaps they think it has a certain cool downtown cachet, but all I ever think is, How limiting.
This also applies to those who don’t leave the Upper East Side or venture past the five-block radius of their Midtown office building when meeting friends after work for dinner. I know an Upper West Sider who shuttles between home and job on the B-line. If a movie theater, store or restaurant doesn’t coincide with a stop along the way, it’ll never receive her patronage.
After leaving the Bronx, I lived in Midtown’s Tudor City, the West Village off 10th Street, the Upper West Side on Broadway and have had three different addresses on the Upper East Side. I know from whence I speak that there is life all over our borough.
So why deprive yourself? Laziness might factor in. “I have to go all the way across the park?” as though the trip requires three-day’s provisions. Manhattan isn’t really that big; you could walk just about anywhere if you had to. Maybe it’s that people think they’re being disloyal to the ’hood if they go out to eat in Chelsea or shopping in the Meat Packing District. The reality is that if you only stay in one area, the most exciting city in the world can seem like quite a bore.
Perhaps people would stop being so territorial if they knew more about Manhattan as a whole. If you already believe you do, maybe it’s time for a refresher course. The Museum of the City of New York at Fifth Avenue and East 103rd Street can help with its cinematic offering Timescapes: A Multimedia Portrait of New York.
This 25-minute film, narrated by Stanley Tucci, traces the growth of New York City from a settlement of a few hundred Europeans, Africans and Native Americans to its present status as one of the world’s great metropolises. The filmmakers use animated maps and archival photographs, prints and paintings from the museum’s collections.
One viewing will have you reaching for the local listings in New York-
centric papers and magazines so you can go exploring.
If you’d rather have more of-the-moment suggestions, there’s a new website, kreyrecommends.com, which offers free personal tips and personalized answers to questions about Manhattan. You can email or tweet the site’s proprietor and gal about town, Kathleen Reynolds, for where to go and what to do with regard to something in particular, as well as for ideas about what’s happening where. She will send you her selections in real time, via Twitter or email.
There’s also the “enjoy the journey” way to get to know New York City. For some (almost) no money fun, you could just take a bus ride. Way back when I first started to call Manhattan my home, I used to refer to them as my “Bus Rides to Nowhere.” It’s how I discovered Soho, as well as Broadway above West 86th Street and, more recently, Harlem, about which I devoted an entire column last April. You not only become acquainted with a new neighborhood, but all the locales in between your first stop and the last. When you get off the bus, all you have to do is walk around and get the feel of the place and the people—New Yorkers, just like you—who live there.
You might not want to move in, but you could discover there’s much more to life in New York City.
Lorraine Duffy Merkl’s debut novel, Fat Chick, from The Vineyard Press, is available at amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.
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