Except for my years away at college and law school, I have lived my whole life in and around New York City. I have always found the big city exciting and energizing. It's noisy and crowded, but it's home.
Once my family swapped houses for a few weeks with a family from rural Germany. Though we enjoyed the change of scenery, our guests did not. When we returned home, we found they had left us a letter in which they complained about every aspect of their visit. The thing that puzzled me most was that they complained that they had trouble sleeping because the traffic was so noisy. They admonished us to warn future visitors of the intolerable noise level. I kept thinking, "You came here to vacation in a city of eight million people, one of the most exciting places on earth, and you were surprised by the noise?"
Yes, it's noisy, but there's always something going on. For example, New York seems to be in a constant state of producing entertainment. Every day, something is being filmed on the streets. You'll know when it's coming - there will be signs posted along the side of the road warning that the usual parking rules have been suspended for a certain number of days because Law and Order or Gossip Girl or some such is being filmed. The tourists gather and gape at the catering trucks and the roadies with walkie-talkies. Those of us on our way to and from work simply step over the extension cords or walk around the action. Sometimes (but rarely) I catch a glimpse of a star. My office is just a block and a half from the Ed Sullivan Theater, where David Letterman's show is taped, and sometimes late in the afternoon, I have to weave around the lines of people waiting to get into the show. It's sort of fun, and sort of amusing, and never boring.
When I was a kid, I longed to stumble onto a movie set and get Discovered. Now, I just want to get to my office and home again with a minimum number of detours. More than once, I have noticed something unusual going on at the train station or on the street, and then later, in a movie theater, I have seen the scene again and recognized that I had been a witness to its filming.
This afternoon, Broadway in the low fifties was its usual bustle of tourists and businesspeople, hot dog vendors and joggers, motorcyclists and panhandlers. As I left my office and headed for the subway, you can imagine my surprise when I saw an alligator crawling out of the sewer, right in front of my building.
I stopped to snap a photograph.
Pretty real-looking, don't you think? But it turned out to be a fake alligator and a fake manhole cover. Both had been placed there by the lovely people at The History Channel, who were filming an episode of their series Swamp People. When I looked around, I saw the trucks, the roadies, the yellow FILMING IN PROGRESS tape, and the guy with the walkie-talkie, standing a few feet away, watching over my alligator in a protective sort of way. But there you have it: right in the middle of midtown Manhattan, at rush hour on a bright, cold spring day, there were fake reptiles crawling out of fake sewer holes, and people stepping around them, hoping not to be delayed.
I love this city. Always have.