In Which We Go Native
Wednesday, February 4, 2009 at 10:30AM


I New York More Than You

by Sarah Goldstein

Except for four years when I lived three hours up I-95, I’ve lived in the City. Growing up here and moving back after college is like being the precocious kid who spends his childhood looking down on his peers and then wakes up one day to find everyone’s caught up to him and actually his opinions about Sung Tongs aren’t that interesting or original at all.


Even after all these years, it takes very little for my native pride to swell. The other day I was reading a profile of the actress and fellow Upper West Sider Martha Plimpton. Interviewed for the story, Ethan Hawke recalled meeting Plimpton shortly after he’d moved to New York when they were young actors coming up together. “I remember meeting her and feeling like she had the keys to the city,” he said. That’s how I felt growing up when friends from out of town would visit; that they needed me to let them in. If kids think the world exists just for them, then I felt like it was my job to give them the tour.

Except then I graduated college and a flood of people I knew—people from places like Fresno and Akron and Cherry Hill—moved here. Some of them even moved to Bed Stuy, which was farther out than I’d ever lived and where I didn’t feel comfortable walking alone after dark. Now everyone had a copy of the key and I’d become just another recent graduate living in New York.


But it was worse because a) I lived, at least at first, with my mom to save rent. And b) Everyone around me seemed to be experiencing constant euphoria about the City, and for the first time didn’t seem so interested in hearing about when the Upper West Side was hard because…yeah right, or that I’d been eating burgers at Corner Bistro since eighth grade, or that there’s a taco truck on 96th and Broadway as good as any taco truck in East L.A., because they’d already found one out in Bushwick.


Reading this series I could feel my mouth twitching into a smirk at non-native’s writerly observations of the city. Their musing at the way the sun reflects off the Jehovah’s Witness headquarters in DUMBO so that on the train over the Manhattan Bridge it looks like maybe god really will save them first. Descriptions of post no bills signs covered up by posters for 2007 Summer Jamz bleeding through those for Coke Zero beside Shepard Fairey’s Obama. Urban detritus is crazy.


But rolling your eyes at people who find poetry in a subway car kind of misses the point, I know. Because if this City exists for any reason it’s to be discovered by others (plus all those things it says on the Statue of Liberty). Still, as a New Yorker I’d be betraying my roots if I didn’t scoff some at the greenhorns. For those of us who have been here for Rudy’s Quality of Life and the Yankees when they truly fucking sucked, it can be hard not to be a little possessive, and yeah, a little resentful of bright eyed transplants brightly taking my home as their own.

I had lunch with someone the other day who scolded me for thinking New York can’t take you by surprise anymore. He was right of course. But then, he’s from Chicago. What if everyone he knew moved to Chicago, so that his being from Chicago became like his having brown hair?


Still, I took his advice. I went on a dumpling crawl in Flushing. Even though it was inspired by the Times, bible to the urban adventurer from Fresno, Akron, Cherry Hill, and came with a map and travel guide-like tips (“to squeeze as much flavor as possible from one meal it’s best to stay on your feet”) it was still exciting. We took the 7, a train I’ve only taken to Mets games. We ate at six different places. One of us took pictures and posted them on Facebook in an album titled “Trip to Beijing.” We were giddy with foreignness. Later in the week I talked to someone else who’d followed the guide. We traded dumpling spots and talked about how only New York does that, expands for you. You know, Flushing used to be Jewish, she told me. Not being able to help myself, I said, Yeah, it’s certainly different than when my mom was growing up there.

Sarah Goldstein is a contributor to This Recording. She still lives in New York, where she works for GQ.


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Part Two (Matt Lutton)

Part Three (Brian DeLeeuw)

Part Four (Molly Young)

Part Five (Alex Carnevale)

Part Six (Rachel B. Glaser)

Part Seven (Brittany Julious)

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Part Nine (Nancy Jo Sales)


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