- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 25, 2000

I do not understand the specialness of New York City.

There, I confess to an utter lack of sophistication.

New York is ridiculously massive, that much is certain, and its skyline is impressive, and it is the center of this or that function, and all that is well and good, and really, nothing against the civic chest-thumping there provoked by the Subway Series.

But I still do not understand.

I have been to New York a zillion times, and it always looks best in the rearview mirror of a car or from a window seat in the sky. You could say it is a nice place to visit, and you wouldn't want to live there, but that would be giving most visits the benefit of the doubt.

New York is overcrowded and overheated, if not overwhelming to a person accustomed to the almost small-town charms of the nation's capital.

I'm a native Washingtonian, my birth in a faraway state precipitated only by my late father's service in the military. We lived in the city and in the Virginia suburbs, and remained connected to the family's roots in southern Maryland, and now, years later, Washington, the area, has changed, good and bad. Washington is big enough, but it also is small enough. It is, in many ways, except for the traffic, just right. Its Southern civility is intact.

Civility is not a word you associate with New York, although I'm almost certain, beneath the gruff exterior, civility exists on some level there, perhaps among family members.

Everyone seemingly has a hand out in New York, and although it is not personal, it sure feels personal. That is how they live there, if you call that living.

New York is loud and obnoxious, dark and forbidding, too unruly to be tamed, except perhaps by the wealthy. It smells funny, too. New York is where you can feel as significant as an ant. There are just so many people, all of them in a hurry to be somewhere, all of them looking to stand apart from the oppressiveness, the ordinariness, the impersonal crush, breathing, taking up space, pretending to be part of something grand.

New York also is where the thoughts turn weird.

Isn't New York a mind-numbing overreaction to the hunting-gathering instinct?

New Yorkers swear by the postcard-perfect illusion. They don't necessarily like the traffic or the grimier parts of the city, but, hey, that's New York, too.

Frank Sinatra, who grew up on the wrong side of the Hudson in Hoboken, N.J., captured the city's spirit in a song, and the song has become an anthem of sorts.

The smugness is understandable. Ah, New York, New York. You have to get something for your dollars, especially if your dollars do not go far, and in this case, you get an imaginary ideal.

Talk to a New Yorker. New Yorkers are not bashful. They will tell you what it is that makes their dot on the map so vibrant, so unique, so wonderful. Chinese takeout at 3 in the morning? Step right up. That is about when the games are ending anyway.

I do not hate New York, much less the Yankees or the Mets. They are deserving ballclubs, and the hype notwithstanding, America is bound to survive the outcome.

Roger Clemens probably should stop trying to explain his bat-throwing actions in Game 2. His nose grows with each explanation, and this being New York, his words are only going to muddle the legend.

Mickey Owen dropped a third strike, Bobby Thomson hit a home run, and Clemens threw the remains of Mike Piazza's broken bat. You are not obligated to accept New York's definition of lore, or even the misty-eyed sentiment reserved for Ebbets Field.

That is New York's fuzzy embrace of the past, no different from Washington's recollection of old Griffith Stadium, and no better or worse.

New York is only exasperating if you permit it, if you have no choice, as most visits qualify.

From a distance, New York is no more vexing than the next place, and the next place, if you must know, is undoubtedly preferable.

Of course, not everyone feels the same way.

Hillary has moved from Washington to New York, and judging by the polls, a persuasive number of New Yorkers do not mind the insult.

Or maybe New York's celebrated street smarts are overrated, not unlike most things New York.

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