Keeping New York at Bay

New York is perhaps the most pretentious city in the world. This may not be directly obvious, given that the vast majority of its people are far from snobbish, but it is has this attitude about itself. It fancies itself the best city in the world.

I came here reluctantly. I stay here, as I keep telling myself, temporarily. I try to let the city not get too much under my skin. But still, it is hard to keep it out. For one its noise permeates everything. It feels like you are permanently stuck in traffic, in an idling car. You can even feel the vibration on the road. Only in an idling car you are capable of listening to, and having a conversation with your five-year old son. Here it is not always possible.

My son is quite happy here. Six months into my exile here, he started saying that New York is the “bestest city in the world” – Africa already seems to him exotic and far. He sometimes imitates me by saying he wants to go back to Africa. Mostly when it is terribly cold outside. Still, I think he gets too much American “culture” – I sometimes wonder whether it has anything going for it other than Thanksgiving,  Fourth of July fireworks and Halloween. Even those if you think closely were thanks to non-American elements. I mean Halloween is an imported feast, Thanksgiving was due to the natives misguided generosity and the Fourth of July, well, it is just when these haphazard immigrants decided they have what it takes to become a nation, but do they really? It is another story.

I am always at pains to find the genuine heart of America, the soul of America, if you will. But perhaps New York is the wrong place to look. Because here they built shrines for the mighty greenback, and in my opinion the whole structure is going to crumble around their ears very soon. Apart from the greenback there is nothing much left here that is American. All is made in China, even my highly touted iPhone.

Greed seems to be the machinery that fuels everything in New York. Those people rushing and jostling on the bus or train or subway are perhaps rushing to close some deal. Wall Street is the place where people dream of making a fast buck, and where so many already watched their wealth evaporate literally into thin air.  The city lives on hype and lies. In fact hype might have been invented in New York first before Hollywood took over manufacturing it. How many people followed the illusion of wealth this city represented only to end up in a gutter. How many people believed its golden lies?

I refuse to be swallowed by the city and all it stands for. I hide on Roosevelt Island, where I can watch the city at a safe distance. And like my island, I still refuse to let the big city take me over. For how long? Only time will tell.

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