View From Lodi, CA: Joe To New York City – Wow!
January 10, 2003, 04:00 AM
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I returned to New York for a few days between Christmas and early January. "The City," as it is universally known, had been my home for nearly twenty years during the 1960s and 1970s.

What a place! Only in New York must you endure the $4 cup of coffee, the $8 bottle of beer, the $15 ham and cheese panini, the $50 sirloin steak, the $100 lobster, the $200 theater ticket, the $400 hotel room, the $850 (plus 18 ¼% tax) monthly garage fee and the $2,500 studio apartment.

I couldn't walk around the block without spending $20. Luckily, I stayed with friends and defrayed most of a typical tourist's expenses. But eager to be invited back, I jumped up early every morning to get the coffee, newspapers and pastry; there went $20.

Everyone who travels to New York has his horror stories about how expensive the City is. But I defy anyone to top this: I had to put down a deposit on a pot roast!

Thinking that a hearty pot roast and a plate of roasted potatoes would be great eats for the January 1st bowl games, I went to Lobel's Prime Meats on Madison Avenue. I had frequently heard Martha Stewart extol the virtues of Lobel's on the Food Television Network. The way Stewart talked it up, Lobel's is as much of a tourist attraction as the Statue of Liberty.

I placed my order to pick up the next day. But since I didn't have a Lobel's charge account, the butcher asked me to kindly leave a cash deposit. And when I returned to pick up my roast and pay off the balance, I understood.

But that's the City.

In his essay written more than 50 years ago, "Here is New York," E. B. White observed that there are three types of New Yorkers - natives, commuters, and relocated dream seekers.

I fell into the third group. As a young man fresh out of college, I went to New York knowing that is where the action is. And I knew that if you could make it in the City, you could make it anywhere.

[Guzzardi note to VDARE.COM readers: As we all know, the smoke shops, delis, newspaper stands and taxis are now dominated by Third World immigrants. But in something of a new low, a waiter at the internationally-famous Stage Deli was unable to provide the slightest bit of information when asked, "What exactly is pastrami?"]

During my two decades in New York, the City went through several different phases. When I first hit town, New York was almost quaint. For loose change, a young bank trainee and his date could eat a decent dinner in Horn and Hardart's and then walk home through Central Park.

But that atmosphere vanished by the early 1970s. Crime suddenly became New Yorker's main concern. Guardian Angels patrolled the subways and once above ground, New Yorkers walked briskly, eyes down, into their apartments where the doors were dead-bolted behind them.

By the end of the decade, the City was in bankruptcy. Municipal services were spotty, at best. And garbage collection was hit and miss—mostly miss judging by the piles of brown plastic bags stacked up 6 feet high along the streets.

Like many other City dwellers, I couldn't wait to get out. I took a job as far away from New York as possible. When I landed in Seattle, I remember that the first thought I had was, "Where is everyone?"

But ironically my work for the Seattle First National Bank took me back to the City once a month. And during those trips, I watched the gradual transformation of New York back to a vibrant, thriving city.

I'll confess. New York is a tough place to get out of your system. As White wrote, "the city makes up for its hazards and deficiencies by supplying its citizens with massive doses of a supplementary vitamin — the sense of belonging to something unique, cosmopolitan, mighty and unparalleled."

Even in the post-9/11 New York, the City bursts with energy. No matter if you were uptown, downtown or midtown, people crowded the streets and filled the stores.

Pedestrian traffic overflowed from the sidewalk into the street. Inside Tiffany's shoppers couldn't turn around. Bargain seekers lined up to get into Saks.

The City and New York State are in deep financial crisis but you would never guess it.

My Christmas trip to New York was my third since 9/11. And I again chose not to visit the site.

I watched the World Trade Centers being built. And eventually, I worked across the street from the Towers. I was in and out of those buildings thousands of times.

Lower Manhattan holds a lot of fond memories for me.

I want to preserve them.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.