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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Front door to freedom

I like New York. It is very different from London although they both share the same characteristics of a big city. What I like most about New York is its sense of history. The Art Deco architecture, the 1930s feel to the city, the strange effect of light in the streets that comes through the skyscrapers.

Last night I was on a yacht cruise going from New Jersey and sailing around west Manthattan, the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island all evening. As I could not talk, having lost my voice, it was time to watch the view. It was a spectacular one, beautiful and inspiring. Going around the Ellis Island, I thought about all those who saw the same sight before me. There were many people from my country (it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire then) coming to America in 19th century and one thing I am sure of is that their experience of New York was very different from mine in 21st century. Although the comparision may be rather pointless, as I am coming from London these days, the ‘going to America’ is an integral part of the Slovak history that comes to mind when seeing what to them was America’s ‘front doors to freedom’.


cross-posted from Media Influencer

12 comments to Front door to freedom

  • Tim Stevens

    Though you probably don’t want this thread to turn into a list of New York travelogues, Adriana, I’m the first to comment so I’ll indulge myself.

    New York is the greatest city on earth. I’ve visited it twice so far, in February 1995 and March 2000. The first time round I gazed upon snowflakes drifting down over the Empire State Building. The second time I was there, I strode the mean streets in sweltering heat.

    On both occasions the island swept above me, narrow and magisterial. The first time, in 1995, I was a callow 25-year-old bowled over by the party atmosphere. I cared nothing for the architecture or the history: I just loved being able to have a great evening out with friends in Greenwich Village, catching two hours’ sleep, then rising at 3 AM and hitting the streets again to find bars, restaurants and even supermarkets open. This was my rock holiday, with Lou Reed and Blondie on the Walkman headphones.

    By 2000 I was 30, settled in my career and there with a girlfriend. This was a cultural holiday. The museums, the galleries, the sellers of mediaeval and Renaissance artwork and obscure books on the streets, the funky South Carolina couple who started chatting with us in that essential American way in the bar on Canal Street, the ‘greeters’ inside the entrances of the huge bookshops who say ‘Welcome to Barnes & Noble’ and would sound insincere in London but here sound just like they mean it, the elderly Staten Island African-American gentleman on the ferry who asked us spontaneously if we were from the UK and said that he loved England and all it had given to the United States… this was Western culture in all its glory.

    I love New York, with a passion that moves me to tears as I write this. I haven’t yet been anywhere else in the US, and I know people say NYC isn’t representative of the nation, but… if the rest of the country has anything approaching the joyous spirit of Apple, then it’s paradise on earth and desrves to shout it from the rooftops.

  • Tim Stevens

    That would be ‘the’ Apple, of course.

  • veryretired

    My grandmother’s family came to the US from Bohemia in the middle 1800’s, fleeing the turmoil in eastern and central Europe during that period. They settled in Chicago, where her father had a butcher shop, and her mother had a bakery next door.

    My GM was a baker, but I got the impression she might have been a bit of a wild child as well, at least by the standards of the turn of the century. She commented many times that her parents could never have had such successful businesses in the old country, and their relatives still there suffered terribly from the wars and other social upheavals.

    She still spoke Bohemian with her sister, whom I met only a few times, but insisted that she was an Austrian Bohemian, as I asume that was higher in social standing than a garden variety Bohunk.

    I lived with my grandparents while I gew up, and I was especially close to her, although I have a very soft spot for my GF, who was a bit of a rogue. I was her helper in cookng and baking, and to this day I am most at home in my own kitchen, more than any other place.

    When my time comes, I will know if I made it to heaven when I smell her apple pie again, and hear her laugh.

    Thank you for touching off such a nice set of memories.

  • I am going to be in New York myself next month. I have been several times before, and I know the city reasonably well, but if anyone can think of anything a little offbeat that I must visit, or anything that has changed (besides the obvious) since my last visit in 2000, please do let me know.

  • J

    New York is a great city and all that – but it’s not exactly Chicago, is it? 😉

    The thing that always strikes me about New York is how small it is. London is really much more spread out, and there’s no comparison with Tokyo, which makes both places feel like medium sized towns in comparison.

    So far, I’ve visited about 45 US states, but only 5 major cities, which I feel is the right way to do it. I’ll take the eastern shore of Maryland over New York any day.

  • Felicia (Cluj-Napoca, Romania)

    A big ME TOO from a fellow Eastern European. I visited New York in July 2001 and had the good fortune to spend George Soros’ money (oh, the irony of it!) in a Manhattan hotel. It was love at first sight. I wandered the streets for days, talked to people from all over the world and just felt good to be alive and grateful to be there.

    We had a Fire Brigade just around the corner from our hotel and the predominantly female group of students did not go unnoticed with the firefighters. They took pictures and flirted with us and for the better part of our five-day stay, we’d have the big-ass firetrucks honking at us and cute firefighters waving at us everytime they saw us walking through the city. Two months later, I was sitting in front of my tv, paralyzed with grief and hot burning rage against the abject barbarians who attacked my city. Because it is my city too. It always will be. I’ve never felt more at home anywhere in the world and we love something as much as I love NYC, part of it stays with you forever.

    Thank you so much for posting this! I just got back from a seminar where I had to listen to a fuckwit Spanish professor vent about Evil Puritan Amerikkka and it’s evil, imperialistic ways, which include an inordinate love of work and dilligence and the punishment of perjury in a court of law. Boy, did he get the wrong country to preach in! Anti-Americanism is not one of Romania’s major religions.

  • Felicia (Cluj-Napoca, Romania)

    Obviously, my English has gone down the drain. That’s when you love something as much… and its evil ways… but I blame the Marxist crap I’ve had to listen to all day.

  • Yep, my great-granddad came through that gate, and assimilated furiously. So much so that one only heard a little Italian in his house, but not a word of Calabrian or Sicilian, which he and his wife spoke natively.
    Felicia, The thing that consistently makes me wonder, as somebody else who’s been on Georgie-Porgie’s payroll, is, when he comes to Budapest, he consistently picks the worst ties on earth.

    How can a man from New York wear such terrible ties?

  • bart

    Russ and Felica I took money from George for about 3 years, teaching Economics in Ukraine and Russia, he was doing good work in the fSU and East Europe in the mid 1990’s. It is too bad he lost the plot. How were you afilliated with Geroge?

  • Bohunk here (garden-variety, I suspect). Like NY a lot, but I wouldn’t live there unless the alternative were, say, Cincinnati. But really, only because it’s so intense. I prefer places like the Texas Hill Country, just for the peace of mind, but New York has it all!

    You know, after my Czech forbears got to the country, they didn’t teach the language to the kids, and almost never spoke about the old country. Like they just wanted to forget it.

  • simon

    London and New York are both fantastic cities, but London has a a much greater ‘sense of history’ for me. Old York, as in York, Yorkshire has a bigger sense of history to me than its newer namesake.

  • Felicia

    How can a man from New York wear such terrible ties?

    :O) Lefties do tend to have a terrible sense of fashion, don’t they? I’m currently working as a tour guide for a bunch of German and Spanish students (your EU taxpayers’ money at work) and I just got my anti-Che t-shirt hot off the rack. Tomorrow morning I’m going to greet them by the bus, all sweet-faced and smiling while sporting my Commies Aren’t Cool tee.

    Bart, I agree on Soros’ good track-record in Eastern Europe. The biggest irony of it is that the civil society and intellectual elites he’s been helping in Romania are predominantly liberal in the European sense of the word. Their overwhelming majority voted for a self-confessed Reagan fan (hear that Sarko? There’s hope for you too) and despise socialism.

    I had a 1yr OSI scholarship in the US. What can I say? George Soros made an even bigger America enthusiast and free-market liberal out of me. Somebody up there does have a wicked sense of humour.