(New Yorker cover, 3/29/76, by Saul Steinberg)
A friend came to visit from New York. I like talking to him because he has a lot to say about politics. As a progressive, my friend doesn’t much like America’s role in the world.
"America is like a spoiled wealthy brat, only caring about herself."
He thinks our culture is too corporate and the American people too self-absorbed, not caring at all about the cultures of other countries, particularly those in Africa and Asia.
Later in the evening, I asked him if he wanted to go to the Getty Museum on Saturday. He didn’t have much interest. As a tried-and-true New Yorker, he said the museums in New York are much better. In fact, he didn’t have much interest in doing anything in Los Angeles, including checking out some new neighborhoods. He had some family event to attend, and then he was heading back to New York City. He told me he tries to leave New York as little as possible.
"We have everything there. The best museums, the best restaurants, the best theater."
I was born in New York. New York is my favorite city. What makes it so great. The people? Maybe. Although I try to keep to the left of the political spectrum, I know the real answer is… money.
Money is the reason immigrants came to New York, and they still come. It was the robber barons of the 19th Century who built the famous museums. It was the Rockefellers who helped finance the building of the skyscrapers. It is Wall Street, the corporate center of the world, that makes Broadway, expense account restaurants, and the art world flourish. New York City may be the bluest of the blue state at heart, but a lot of people do pretty well to be able to afford those condo prices.
It’s not fair that America is so wealthy, with so much food in our supermarkets. I would like it if we would do more to share our wealth with poorer countries. I also think New York has too many famous museums. People are starving for culture in Bakersfield. Why not send something small, like the Frick Collection, over there.
As much as some New Yorkers like to think they are an island onto themselves, separate from the rest of America, I think that New York is the most American of American cities.
America: Business first
New York: Wall Street first
America: The most wealthy people in the world
New York: The most wealthy people in the country
America: Self-absorbed; only cares about America
New York: Self-absorbed; only cares about New York
America: Lack of interest in Asia and Africa
New York: Lack of interest anything in America beyond the George Washington Bridge