I split myself into little pieces several years ago.
- My hands work in Columbus.
- My heart sits beside my beloved.
- My soul walks in the Negev.
- My imagination lives in New York.
- My intellect is challenged in New Haven.
It's not that I must physically stand in each place to exercise the corresponding body part. I just imagine myself there, wherever I am.
We chatted about what it means to be a New Yorker — and whether someone raised elsewhere can ever become a New Yorker.
In college, a roommate from New York City annoyed me by calling New York, "The City." (To be fair, The State Of Being Annoyed is a choice and just about everything back then annoyed me.)
Anyway, the roommate persisted on referring to The City as if it could mean only one place. I would always demand clarification by asking, "Bridgeport? Do you mean Bridgeport?" Bridgeport was a post-industrial town halfway between us and the so-called City.
He would laugh (at my mock irritation and yokel perspective) and I would continue, demanding that the "Tri-City Area" was Columbus, Newark, and Granville.
This always went nowhere.
Until years later, I moved to New York and fell in love with The City.
Who is a New Yorker here?
I asked for a show of hands at dinner last week. The college students at the table — and the working folks who had moved to the City within the past 12 months — didn't raise their hands.
Those of us who had moved there decades ago put up our hands. Including me.
"You, a New Yorker?" asked my daughter, just like a New Yorker, though she hadn't claimed the status for herself.
"Yes," I said. "I am merely on vacation in Columbus. To spawn."
"What am I? Spawn?" she blanched, just like a New Yorker. If she had replaced "spawn" with "chopped liver," she would have been a New Yorker.
I shrugged. "Whatever. So what's it going to take for the rest of you to become New Yorkers? When does someone become a New Yorker?"
What It Takes
Nothing, was the first answer. You cannot become a New Yorker. Ever. You have to be born in New York to be a New Yorker. You can't convert.
And, he added, those of his friends who were born in New York were a little goofy, so it wasn't an ideal. The tablemates who had raised children in the City argued against this slander.
Another person said, "Five years. After five years here, you can claim residency."
Another said, "Two hurricanes." The recent storm is still a crisis for many in New York.
But it was this answer that most tickled my imagination:
You are a New Yorker only after
you have had sex and been in a fight.
The answer had been offered quietly, from the end of the table. But I heard it.
And I probed. "So," I asked the person, "are you a New Yorker?"
"Not yet," was the quiet, smiling reply. "But I had a big date last night."
A better detective would have asked, "Which of the two ingredients do you still lack: the sex, the fight, or both?" But I didn't. Propriety prevented.
Plus, I already knew. Because sex in New York includes the fight that quickly follows. They come together, two for the price of one.
I know this. Because I am a New Yorker.
If you are visiting The City, here's some fun.