Three years ago, Mi and I visited Alice in Seattle over July 4th weekend. We had a great time. But i thought Seattle was way too homogenous comparing to SF, too clean, too new, too YUPPIE. SF was a lot more diverse and gritty than Seattle. I was very proud of our little city by the bay.
The past Sunday we landed in NYC for our first vacation with Noah. and for the first time i realized the hugh contrast between SF and NYC. SF is too homogenous, too clean, too new, too YUPPIE. Mostly it is too filled with the same kind of Silicon Valley people. But NYC, OMG. all the bibles i’ve been reading on city planning, on how to create a vibrant and energitic city. They were all written based on NYC! They are living it!
The amount of energy is contagious. So many people, so many shops, so many neighborhoods, so many stories happening, 24/7. Gui and Matthew came with us this time, too. They were equally impressed. “It is like Europe and China combined, but better”. “it is a truly urban cosmopolitan.”
London, Paris, and Rome were all once the cosmopolitan center of the world. Now they are still great urban cities where people have been enjoying urban living for centuries. But they are no longer as diverse as they used to be. Like Paul Theroux said in “The Pillars of Hercules”:
The great multiracial stewpot of the Mediterranean had been replaced by cities that were physically larger but smaller-minded…they…had sorted themselves out, and retreated to live among their own kind. I had yet to find a Mediterranean city that was polyglot and cosmopolitan.
Even under the Ottomans, Smyrna had been full of Armenians, Greeks, Jews, Circassians, Kurds, Arabs, Gypsies, whatever, and now it was just Turks; Istanbul was the same, and so were the once-important cities of the Adriatic..It was hard to imagine a black general named Othella living in Venice now, though there were any number of Senegalese peddlers hawking trinkets there.
Certainly London and Paris are better than the current port cities of the Mediterranean. But when it comes to diversity they can’t hold a candle to New York. I met a British trador on my 3 weeks Ecudor trip, and we became really good friend. She blurred out once at dinner during our trip, “i’ve never met a Chinese person outside of a Chinese restaurant while i was in Europe.” That was 2002. Things must have improved in the past 10 years. But the US have at least a few decades ahead of Europe in that respect.
Not sure if i’m crazy, but i’m seriously tempted to move to New York for a year or two. Just to experience such a great city first hand. It is amazing it takes me this long to appreciate it. I’ve visited NYC after i graduated from College. One would have thought being young, i would have loved the fast pase and the aggressiveness of the city. But it only intimidated me then. Somehow, walking the same street, watching the same fast paced city living around me, i’m no longer bothered by its aggressiveness or its fast pace. Maybe it was like swimming in treacherous river. On one hand, i’ve learned a thing or two about myself and the world, so i could navigate it better. On the other hand, i also felt more grounded that I am no longer afraid of being sweeped away by the current.
Oct. 2002, when I visited Mi in NYC for the first time, he took this photo of me in the Temple of Dendur.
Nine and half years later, May 2012, he took this photo of me and Noah at the same place in the Metropolitan Museum. 🙂