How Ole New York?
Ole New York fine.
This makes me laugh hysterically. Aside from my oldest friend Maryanne Zeigler nobody else would find it remotely amusing.
As any funny person will tell you, a joke is not a joke if you are required to explain it. But this requires something.
Decades ago, I’m sure it was late, we were likely drunk, and chances are we were in someone’s hot tub, (damn those were the days) Maryanne told me joke.
And it went like this…
A reporter called Carey Grant’s press agent and asked “How old is Carey Grant.” The press agent responded, “Ole Carey Grant fine.”
Admittedly it’s not funny. Especially when I type it out. If I were writing this to turn into someone who was paying me to come up with jokes, I would trash it.
But, the night she told it to me, we laughed to the point we could not breathe. Thus, the assumption some mind altering substance was involved.
To this day it’s an ongoing joke between us. One of us says Ole Carey Grant fine and we start rolling on the floor. This is why you need old friends, guys.
Thank you for putting up with that little indulgence. But I do have a point to the story.
Since New York started reopening for life and business, everyone including me, especially me, asks anyone they see who has been in New York, is in New York, was in New York, “How is New York? Is it OK?
Now that I have spent the last six months in and out of New York every other week, I can say, Ole New York fine.
It’s in fact not Ole New York, the way most of us who were born before Brittany Spears was taken into custody by her father remember it.
And fine is a relatively mediocre assessment. In our household, when I say something is “fine” anything from the way a pair of jeans fit, to a meal, a boyfriend you name it, if I respond, Fine. My kids go haywire. They say I really hate it. Why am I being passive aggressive? If I really loved something fine is not the term I would use. The word fine has taken on a huge meaning that is out of proportion to what I actually mean when I say it.
Though it does mean I am not overwhelmed. I’m not underwhelmed either. It’s just fine. Fine. OK. Humming along. Maybe coming along. But not out of sight, fantabulous. The best thing ever.
And in all honesty that is what I can say about New York in its present state.
But New York is a funny place, those of us who made our lives and created ourselves there, have a river of its sludge running through our veins. And as someone wrote to me the other day about their father and New York, “He was his best self there.”
And that is exactly how I feel. I am my best self there. Not always. Sometimes I am my cranky self there. But that can happen anywhere with me. But in New York, you wake up and you turn up. You dress better, you are on your game, you work harder. If you are a certain type of person titillated by its energy New York zaps you. Even when it’s zapless itself.
I am not my calmest self there. I am calmer in LA for sure. Out in Long Island where we’ve been for six months, I am almost comatose I am so chill.
So, one puts up with a lot of shit in New York just for the adrenaline it gives you back.
But New York has been kicked in the teeth. There are blocks and blocks and blocks of empty retail. There are not as many people around, though they are coming back. The difference between May and now is real. Real numbers. I don’t know what they are, but I feel it.
So, in the big picture parts of it are fine and parts of it suck, and parts of it feel like watching someone who is learning to swim hold on to the side of a pool to stay afloat.
Compared to LA the homelessness feels like nothing. I do love LA. But parts of it look as bad as India. And actually, many of the slums of India they have alittle houses and makeshift villages. In LA there are tent cities and filth. It’s gross. I am not seeing that in New York. You see homeless. Too many. Any is too many. But it’s not on the same scale.
Last week, I met my friend Linda downtown for lunch at Pastis. Pastis was popping, It was always popping since the day it opened up until the day it closed. Now it’s reopened and it was packed. People were table hopping or hut hopping as the case is outside. And that energy is infectious. And of course, knowing I was going somewhere where people would make an effort to dress, I actually dressed like my old self- in big girl clothes.
On the car ride into town, I was Face Timing with my friend Bruce. He said, “You look pretty.” What happened?
It sounded like he was asking Stephan Hawking he was so shocked. I said, I put on make-up and made an effort. I not wearing a sweatshirt. New York demands that of you.
After lunch we went to The Whitney to see the Jasper Johns show. Due to COVID the museums are not running at full capacity. Which frankly makes the whole experience much more enjoyable. You can see the art. Up close.
Normally, with a show like that you would be elbowing people. And getting a glimpse of a painting over rows of heads in front of you. This was magnificent. The show was and the whole experience of twenty people max in a room.
After the show Linda had to go home and I thought well, I will just walk for 20 blocks see how ole New York is really doing?
For those of you who don’t know the city – The Whitney is downtown on the way west side at 11th Street. My ultimate destination was on the east side at 61st Street. If I was going to go all the way to my hotel, I would have to go down five big blocks and up fifty normal ones. This was not my intent. I figured I would walk until my feet gave out.
Surprises of surprises I walked the whole way. I pondered a cab at a couple points. But the steps meter on my Apple watch egged me on. That and my curiosity. How was ole New York – really.
Some parts are fine and even fine plus, some parts are empty and sad and suck. It was run over by a truck and it’s recovering slower in some limbs than others.
The West Village is probably the liveliest. But it’s always been the best part of New York.
It’s too boring to break it down street by street.
Though 14th Street which has been a shit hole for much of its life, came out of it for a while, has gone fallen right back into shit hole status. I don’t know how that will return.
We believe in ole New York. We trust that it will be better than fine.
And for those of you who have been asking where are living. Where are we going to live?
I wrote that blog about The Experiment of LA back in May of 2020. Now, we are waiting for board approval on an apartment in our old neighborhood.
If we get approved, we will be back in New York as we both have that NY sludge running through our veins.
And because we are now considered two old Jews, we will need somewhere warm for the winters and will likely turn to LA for that.
With a kid on each coast, we must try and cut our lives into two pieces.
But for now, take a walk with me in Good Ole New York. Or Fine Now New York. You decide.
PS – I read Lucy the part where I talk about their reaction to my using the word fine, she said it was imperative that I tell you the tone of my voice has a lot to do with it.