If you’ve never lived in new York, or haven’t lived here long, you might not be aware that this metropolis is made up of very distinct cultures that have their own style and identities. I’m not talking about the obvious ones, sure Times Square has a different culture than the East village. That is obvious, I’m talking about deep rooted differences in the basic cultures that these areas are based on.
Still not following me?
Take for instance Chinatown, located downtown near the governmental seat of the city, however in Chinatown you wont pay any tax on anything. Why? We don’t know. By law they have to, but somehow, someone along the way said “Screw that noise” and the guy next to him said “Yeah! Scew that noise!” and it caught on, so now they don’t. (I can’t exactly back this up with any concrete evidence, but you come up with a better explanation)
So, on Friday walking past some discarded Christmas trees on the upper east side and I noticed that one of the christmas trees had been thrown out with all it’s lights still on it. Now, I have never intentionally thrown away christmas lights. I have found huge balls of Christmas lights from the following year and thought better of unraveling them and simply replaced them. But never thrown them away. What am I made of money?
On the Upper East side, however, it didn’t phase me at all. It’s the Upper East side, I expect that if not more. I was expecting an entire decorated tree, complete with shinning star set on the curb, with a french poodle pure-breed wrapped in a Channel dog sweater politely evacuating on it. On the upper East side, you are dealing with the cultural elite, until you hit 100th street and the whole guise of good taste goes right down the drain. The upper east is the haughty front end of cultural white noise that parade in glass houses and throw tiny stones.
Find that in the tourist books.
Later that weekend I went to a fantastic dim sum place in chinatown which was like night and day to the Upper East. Chinatown, as I mentioned above, is a bizarre ecosystem that exists in it’s own little world. Where fish markets still sell fish on the sidewalk, where you can buy a fendi handbag for $10 complete with a certificate of authentisity, where you can still have lunch for $2. Chinatown is old New York, it has been largely untouched by the dysneyfication that has hit much of central New York City. This Dim Sum place was incredible. waiters and waitresses zipping by with steaming carts festooned with bamboo steamers puffing jovial tufts of delicious smelling scented steam. (eh?)
As soon as we sat down, there was a smiling man in a suit politely thrusting plates of steamed chinese broccoli and stir-fried noodles, asking us “very delicious?” (Not much of a question I know, but in the context it made perfect sense). It wasn’t the food that made me think it noteworthy, but as we delighted in the dim sum, the Chinese wait staff delighted in quarter pounders with cheeses in the kitchen… I was astonished, but then again, you eat Chinese food everyday and see what you want to eat.
The whole experience left me appreciating the little differences that cultures can have, even in such close proximity. Manhattan might be a little island, but it sure feels like its own little world at times, completely detached from the rest of America. What a frightening thought.