The New York Love Story

Where Paris is the “City of Love and Light,” New York is the “City of Lighted Love Stories” – which in my opinion makes it a far more interesting place to live. Think of that old uncle or  grandparent who tells the same story over and over again. We all have one that we smile and listen patiently to at family gatherings.

In many ways, it is tiresome – You’ve heard it all before – but you just can’t help listening because each time the story is told for better or for worse – “differently.” Something changes in the story. New details emerge over the old ones (at least the ones you remember from the last time you heard the story). Different things are exaggerated – Made larger than life.

To be in love and lit from above is wonderful without a doubt but to be given the opportunity to experience the thrill of falling in love over and over again (whether with the same person or someone new) is wonderfully indescribable.

Rebecca Thorman posted a short note in the Design & Style section of her blog simply entitled: “Friday Night Movie.”  It’s not a movie review in the traditional sense (though it has great potential as a review of the movie-goer but that’s a different post). She “reviewed” New York, I Love You and it got me thinking about the quintessential “New York Love Story.” 

As a movie, I think most critics and casual reviewers like Rebecca agree it was “eh” (shoulder shrug, elbows bent, palms up). Comme ci, Comme ca… mamahuhu… It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad. However, as philosophy? ideology? something scatalogical? it is vast, deep, addicting, and potentially enlightening.

Are you familiar with a “New York Minute?” It’s fast and maybe just a little rough around the edges to a tourist or a non-native. I ask because I have always believed in the existence of a “New York Love Story.”  It’s a story that’s coincidental and dramatic in Shakespearean proportions but pervasive and common – even a little lowbrow – like sophomoric drunken philosophizing about the meaning of life – scrawl on a bathroom stall.

In New York, great things happen that are ignored for louder less impressive announcements – yearning soul mates can pass each other on the street without a second glance or thought. It is the sheer numbers that makes this happen. It is not complex, in fact, given the enormity of the masses and their impatience, New York has to be simplistic. It is a system of simplicities. It just seems complex because there are a lot of simplicities happening all at once and in quick succession.

The ingredients of a New York Love Story include but is not limited to (it is seasoned to taste):

  • New York (in the morning, noon, and night)
  • humid sticky summers
  • gray cold winters without the window dressing of snow
  • shoulder to shoulder on the subways
  • the smell of Clorox tainted with the musty smell of urine
  • doormen and supers
  • stickball in the streets, handball in the schoolyards
  • decorative cabbages
  • dog runs
  • Village Voice personals (circa 1990’s and before)
  • office jobs
  • protest rallies, marches down Broadway
  • the Strand
  • Chinatown
Annie Hall

Arthur Nersesian’s Dogrun is one of my favorite recent New York Love Stories. I know I am supposed to like his more famous book, The Fuck Up, better but I just don’t. It’s a good book but Dogrun is better in my opinion. Richard Perez’s The Loser’s Club is another good New York Love Story. (for some reason I am blanking on women writers of New York Love Stories. Suggestions?)

While it’s true, it’s also a copout to say that it’s their grittiness that makes these stories New York Love Stories. There’s tons of grit elsewhere too. It’s the chaos I think or maybe its more the frenetic rush – shoulder to shoulder, crosswalks and cabbies – the cliché of being alone in a crowded room – that makes falling in love (or just getting laid) in New York uniquely “New York.”

200 Cigarettes

In terms of movies, for me its any Woody Allen movie set in New York (I refer to Annie Hall as my relationship bible). Other New York Love Stories I have enjoyed watching are 200 Cigarettes and Sidewalks of New York. They’re set downtown on the Lower Eastside where Woody’s movies rarely travel below Union Square and if they do they are on the Westside.

And who can forget When Harry Meet Sally, Crossing Delancey, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, or Barefoot in the Park?

Perhaps Paris is that comfort and warmth in knowing you are loved but New York is that tingle you get when that someone you desire brushes up against you – New York is when you feel for good or bad you were meant to be together in between the New York Minutes.

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