By Gabriel Palmer
I don’t really like New York City. I will pause here to allow people a chance to express their disbelief and anger. Don’t get me wrong, I can recognize how much New City has to offer and there is no doubt that it has the best Indian food this side of the Ganges (sorry London), but it has a kind of illusory quality that I have always felt is similar to that cloying Coke commercial from 1980’s where people of all different ethnicities were all singing together. Sure everyone in the commercial looked happy but you knew that when they grew up the Israeli and Arab kids wouldn’t be able to play together because of a border fence, the Chinese and Japanese kids would fight over a tiny island somewhere in the South China Sea that you can’t find on a map, and the Russian and American kids would keep trying to reveal each other secrets even though the cold war is over. Sure, New York appears amazing on the outside, but when you go a bit deeper what you find is a play on reality.
Interestingly, and much to the inevitable disdain of New Yorkers for my making the comparison, New York is many ways quite similar to Disney World (minus the happiness and fun rides). They are both overpriced, overcrowded, wholly artificial environments that are largely disembedded from any kind of historical reality. To be fair, this works fairly well for Disney World. While you are in Disney, nothing else exists but the wonderful Disneyfied reality, where everything from the balloons to the ice cream are in the shape of a Mickey Mouse head, lines have been designed by psychologists to minimize the sense of waiting and psychological distress, and garbage cans are strategically placed so that you never have to go more than 20 steps to find one. The thing about Disney World, though, is that at the end of the day you leave (unless of course you are staying at one of the Disney resort hotels, in which case the experience is even more complete and perhaps terrifying, but eventually everyone still leaves). With New York, the longer you stay the less likely you are to leave.
On my recent trip to visit friends in New York, I was talking to one of them about how they find actually living in the city. The reaction, while not surprising, was at least vaguely disturbing.
Me: “So do you actually like living here?”
Friend: “What do you mean?”
Me: “New York, do you like living in New York.”
Friend: “Where else would I live?”
Me: “I don’t know, anywhere.”
Friend: “Come on there is no place like New York – it’s the center of the world.”
Me: “I am fairly sure that the Earth’s core is the center of the world. If New York was the center of the world I think the planet would spin off its axis and kill us all.”
Me: “No, really, you actually think New York is the center of the world.”
Friend: “Yeah of course. Everything you need is right here. I don’t think I have even left in like 2 years.”
Me: (blank stare of amazement and horror)
Herein lies the fundamental problem of New York City, the illusion and myth of the place become so pervasive that they have actually supplanted reality. When you go to a bad neighborhood, people tell you it isn’t dangerous, it’s up-and-coming. When you look for an apartment it isn’t as small as a shoe box on the 7th floor of a walk up building, it’s a cozy flat with a stairmaster included. And when you go to Brooklyn it isn’t filled with depressive 20 somethings who would look homeless were it not for the fact that their clothes cost more than the GDP of a small African nation, it’s filled with “hipsters.” Now, I recognize that reality is somewhat flexible but New Yorkers take to a whole new level.
So, I have a proposal. Since New York and Disney World already share so much in common, and since Disney already owns much of 42nd St., I suggest that entirety of New York be turned into one giant Disney theme park. And, it doesn’t have to stop there. Since Jackson Heights in Queens is home to more ethnic groups than pretty much any place else on earth, it can become a new Epcot Center. Who knows, maybe we can even find something useful to do with New Jersey…