Stupid Tuesday questions, Frommer’s edition

The Better Half and I were on the road this past weekend to spend time with friends, with what was supposed to be an overnight stay in New York City.  However, the Critter decided that point in our travels needed extending, and thus chose to spike a fever and commence vomiting shortly after our arrival at our hotel.  Being somewhat reluctant to put a potentially vomiting child back in the car for several more hours of driving, we opted to spend an extra day in the City.

(We did eventually make it to our final destination for a lovely, if sadly foreshortened, time together.)

(Special shout-out to the incredibly gracious servers at the Brooklyn Diner on Times Square, who handled a repeat performance of preschooler emesis with aplomb and kindness.  Seriously, anyone who thinks New Yorkers aren’t nice hasn’t met our waiter there.)

(The Critter is feeling much better now, by the way.)

As I know I’ve mentioned often enough, I used to live in New York City.  Most of that time I lived on the Upper West Side, not terribly far from a certain best friend.  And like almost all good New Yorkers I avoided Times Square like the plague, because Times Square is awful.  (As I put it in a text to one of our eventual hosts, it’s got all of the vulgarity of Vegas, plus grime!)  But since the last few trips we’ve taken to the City have been in the company of our small son (whose favorite attraction in all of Manhattan is the giant hand in front of Madame Tussaud’s, visible from the lobby of our usual hotel), it’s the location where we stay because it has the most appeal to a person such as he.

It has been some years since I lived in New York City, but I think I will always consider myself a New Yorker at heart.  Thus I chafe at being confined to the one section of town that I unreservedly despise.  However, being stuck there did afford a couple of nice little reassurances that I’m still a Manhattan kind of guy in my soul.  For example, I have not lost the ability to wend my way speedily through trundling masses of people, which is a necessary skill if you need to be anywhere at all.

With that skill comes an attendant annoyance, which I believe is common to New Yorkers.  Attention, tourists — it is wonderful that you visit New York.  New York is worth visiting, and your interest (and cash) is appreciated.  Thanks for stopping by.  Yes, the buildings are tall and impressive!  And yes, the City can be disorienting.  But if you choose to stand and look up at the tall buildings or pause to consult your map/guidebook, please do not stop to do so in the middle of the sidewalk!   A great many people are trying to get around you!  It’s not called a sidestand!  Step to the side, please, and you’ll be far less likely to evoke the kind of brusque response that has given New Yorkers an unfair reputation for rudeness.  Thank you.

So that’s this week’s Question — how have you been marked by some place you’ve lived/some experience you’ve had/ etc. that links you to it for perpetuity, even if you no longer live there/participate in it?  What makes it clear that they can take you out of the place, but they can’t take the place out of you?  How do you know there’s always somewhere you can go or something you can do that will remind you that you still belong there?

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. Would unaided navigation in downtown Los Angeles count? Staples Center to Dodger Stadium in ten minutes.

  2. I speak with an accent when drunk of nervous. Which is a bit funny, because I am not a person that had a thick accent that I grew out of and mask.

    I get very, very frustrated when stuck in traffic. Which is kind of an odd thing for a city-boy, but back home I could always find alternate routes. When I lived in the Pacific Northwest and there wasn’t much in the way of alternate routes due to mountains and water, it drove me nuts.

    I get a sense of peace when near water. I don’t sail, don’t fish. But it’s like water belongs there and I feel a little bit disoriented without it.

    There is a particular format my home state uses for its roads. I can’t go into detail for privacy reasons, but I grew up thinking it was everywhere. I was extremely angry at Deseret for not having it… only to discover that the format is outside of the norm.

    I was raised in an inexpensive part of the country. My perception of what is a reasonable cost of living is skewed because of it. I loved the Pacific Northwest. It was in a way as close to home as I felt anywhere, culturally speaking. Yet if I won $500,000,000 and could retire anywhere, I don’t think I’d retire there because, even though I would be able to completely afford it, the knowing of how much it costs would just drive me insane.

  3. I’m a ‘Noo Inglander’ through and through.

    There are times when it *ahem* shines through quite clearly – especially if I’m cut off in traffic out here in Europe, etc.

    I have some co-workers that love getting me going about politics, etc., just so they can hear me go off like Dennis Leary and Sam Kinnison put together.

    • That middle paragraph, Darwy, is why I know we would be friends if we were to meet in real life. (Also that you often spare me the trouble of smacking down anti-vaccine trolls, which I appreciate immensely.)

      For several years I had a sticker on my car that proclaimed a universal welcome on behalf of the religious group with which I am affiliated. Then we moved to our present location and I took my present job, which requires frequent drives in the greater Boston area in the presence of other greater Boston drivers. Having said sticker constrained my freedom to express myself fully to some of those drivers, who lived up to the very worst stereotype of drivers in the area. (Expressing some of my less beatific emotions would not have reflected well on the advertised religious group, was my thinking.) Thankfully, I now drive a car without such a sticker, and I no longer feel constrained in that way. At all.

      • I love driving in Boston. I feel so — well, how to say this — free to be myself.

      • We were in Boston for a game at Fenway this July – and my husband was commenting on the drivers there as we did our best to cross the street (while in crosswalks) without being run down.

        I had one ‘gentleman’ in a BMW honk his horn at me while I was crossing the street during the ‘walk’ period – who yelled at me to ‘hurry the f*** up, fatass’.

        Luckily, karma was with me that day. He flipped us off and made an illegal right hand turn on red – and nearly sideswiped one of Boston’s finest, who promptly pulled him over. (This occurred near Science Park Station).

        Since we were walking past them on our way back to the station, I made sure to give the gentleman a one fingered salute on our way – which caused him to lean out the car window and start yelling again at me with a number of 4 letter words.

        The cop wasn’t as amused as I was. As we were heading up the stairs to the train, I saw him handcuffing the guy and putting him into the squad car.

  4. I have said this in other posts. But I think to exit the house in open toed shoes without a pedicure is basically a form of indecent exposure, surely a part of my Lawn Guyland, I mean, Long Island soul. And from my 12 years in Manhattan, I have retained this: I love that people in other parts of the country are chattier. But. If your business at the register has concluded, it is time for the customer to clear her things away and the clerk to atten to the next person. I will forever think it jaw-droppingly rude for purchaser and store clerk to continue a conversation while someone else is waiting. This would be unheard of in Manhattan.

    And from 30 years in the greater metro NY area and now DC, I have become well nigh obsessed with surveying traffic routes and avoiding jams.

      • Russell and Rose yes, yes, yes I went to graduate school in NYC (lived in Astoria) When I lived there I went up the Empire State building well over a dozen times but my visitors were on their own if they wanted to go to Times Square. Also people are not rude in NYC (OK some but your were standing in the middle of the sidewalk 🙂 ) when people are quiet on the subway its not cause they are aloof its because they respect the fact that EVERYONE does not want to hear the minutia of their medical history while drinking their coffee in the morning.

        • I always say, it’s just a different system of politeness that places a premium on personal space, privacy, and getting where you’re going!

  5. Boston: A near inability to be cold. Three of the five winters I spent there were supposedly the worst winters ever, each having at least one blizzard of 3+ feet. I remember one February where there wasn’t a single high above 20-degrees. This quasi-super-power draws the smiles of the Mother Earth and the ire of Zazzy when I keep the thermostat at a toasty 58-degrees in the winter.

    New York:: Hmmm… so many. The aforementioned tourist weave. Frustration and confusion at cities that lack 24-hour public transportation. Refusal to eat pizza that wasn’t made within 30 miles of Manhattan (or Italy). Frustration at any human interaction that takes longer than is absolutely necessary, particularly grocery checkout lines. But I think the REAL one would be the ability to read traffic and crosswalk signals like tea leaves to perfectly plan my walk without breaking stride. One of the most impressive things about New York City is the synchronization of the traffic signals (at least in Manhattan). Approaching an intersection on foot, if one has a view of the traffic and crosswalk signals going in each direction, he can know exactly what state the light will be in when he arrives. A small pleasure of mine is when, without any intervention or manipulation of pace of step cadence, I place my foot down on the crosswalk for the first time the exact moment that the crosswalk sign changes to “Walk”. Now, this can happen in any city, but in NY, one could easily manipulate it to make it happen, which cheapens the effect. One can also anticipate its possibility, which means you might often see me walking towards a crosswalk with a shit-eating-grin on my face as I attempt to appropriately hide my excitement. I call this “The Perfect Step”. I’ve probably had at least a dozen. They are glorious.

    Washington, DC: A hatred for all things Washington, DC.

    • Kazzy, never ever try to hit the lights in New Orleans. If you are there and at a red light, always, once the light turns green, give it two seconds and then look both ways to see if anybody else is running the light. Out of all the cities I have been in it is by far the worst for red light runners.

  6. When I lived on the Upper West Side (78th and West End) they used to have topiaries down the Green Way that divided Broadway. The one closest to me was a 5-foot-tall Tyrannosaurus Rex. For someone who never outgrew his childhood love of dinosaurs, this was important. Unfortunately, during my first year there, they removed it, because apparently they realized someone in NYC was exceedingly happy and that would kill the city’s image.

    Two questions:
    1.) Do you remember this? I’m increasingly afraid that I completely made this up to smooth my transition to a city that had previously terrified me. It would have been at 78th and West End, on the northern side of the intersection.
    2.) I do believe other topiaries remain in the neighborhood. If so, any chance of getting the critter hooked on one of these, thus facilitating an avoidance of Times Square, which I agree is the single worst neighborhood in the whole of the city? It is so bad, in fact, that I once opted to sleep on a stranger’s floor in Harlem on 145th Street than spend a night there.

      • Holler! We’ve been near-neighbors for years!

        I used to work up to my graduate school at 112th and B’way. I probably went right by you. I think I actually saw you once. Weird!

        • Probably before your time, you young whippersnapper. Was at 100 bet Bway and WEA from 1994-2000, 96th and WEA from 2000-2004.

        • I lived on 106th between Broadway and Amsterdam from 1999-2004, and then in Chelsea for a year before I departed for (literally, but not metaphorically) greener pastures.

        • I indeed missed both of you… lived at 78/B’way from ’06-’08, during which time I went to school at 112/B’way and worked at 15th/8th. Loved all those neighborhoods.

  7. ” please do not stop to do so in the middle of the sidewalk!”

    i am particularly fond of the variation of this when a group of four or more will stop in the middle of the platform of the 6 train during morning rush, blessedly oblivious to the hundreds of people trying to shove them out of the way.

    my upbringing in north jersey has left me with an inordinate fondness for diners, both gaudy and greek (or both). endless coffee and long conversations in the wee hours.

  8. Growing up in the DC area, I hate paying for admission to museums and zoos.

  9. What, there’s not an ocean or river within walking distance? How about good hiking with waterfalls, trees, and more foliage than I can name? No! How do you people live around here?! The Pacific Northwest rocks. But if I see a tourist laying down in the middle the highway to take that classic picture of the Redwood trees I may just run him over.

    • Yes, definitely. I can’t imagine living somewhere that doesn’t have an ocean- or river-side park, and some walking trails. You really can’t beat the northwest.

  10. I was raised to believe in indoor/outdoor voices. When we first moved from a vaguely WASPy flyover country to Michigan, we sat down in a restaurant and asked the waitress what kind of pop was available.

    “WHERE ARE YOU FROM?”, she asked at a volume that deserves nothing but all capital letters. “PITTSBURGH???”

    She went on to explain, in all caps, that New Yorkers say “soda” (though we found out that some call it “soder”).

    I now live in Colorado. People have indoor voices here. It’s nice.

  11. There was this time I was on jury duty, and during the selection process an older fellow with a gray ponytail was called up. The judge asked his name and occupation, and to the latter he answered “For about thirty years I was an electrical engineer, but for the past five years I’ve acted as a channeler for a spirit from the Bronze Age.” Without batting an eye, His Honor responded “I must admonish you that, should you serve on this jury, any communication you might receive from this spirit regarding the case cannot be considered as evidence.”

    How could you live anywhere else?

    • I was summoned for jury duty shortly after my knee operation.

      Nothing like going through the metal detector and knowing it’s going to go, “DING”.

      Go off into a room show them my brace and a note from my surgeon explaining what’s there. They want me to take it off. I tell them I have to have it elevated on a table so I can keep the knee straight. They tell me no. I call my surgeon’s office. He yells at them.

      I get my table, unhook all the velcro and then they wave down the bandages. “DING” – there was enough metal staples to register a response on the detector. So I have to peel back the bandages too.

      Then they all go, “EWWWWW” because it’s bloody, puffy and painful looking.” I’m like, what the hell did you expect? You see me on crutches and hopping, right?

  12. As with Jaybird, I call carbonated soft drinks “pop”. You couldn’t beat the Michigan out of me if you wanted to. Also, when I get really stressed out, my Michigan accent flares up and I start saying things like “byackpyack”, which would only make you regret the beating. Also also, of course, I quite literally cry when people talk about about the University of Michigan, and on the weekends I’m usually wearing my “Bi-Peninsular and Proud” T-shirt.

    The most DC thing I do is get a sudden rage to murder anyone who stands on the left side of an escalator.

    • Some of the Michigan that remains: “Melk” instead of “Milk”. “Pellow” instead of “Pillow”.

      Maribou makes fun of me for both of these.

        • You always felt sorry arguing the relative merits of King’s Island vs. Cedar Point in front of the kid who only got to go to Deer Park Funland.

      • “Melk” instead of “Milk”.

        You’d have been a great Giants fan until a few days ago.

    • Do you also say mit’en instead of mit-ten? My wife is traumatized by my kids’ increasing use of the really strong glottal stop.

      As a Hoosier, I used to explain to Michiganders where I was from by pointing to my wrist. They all understood me.

      • I’ll have Maribou answer this one because when I make myself say it, I can see myself saying either.

        But I remember exactly the stops you’re talking about.

    • Here’s a puzzler: what’s a “bubbler”?

      If you know the answer, that says something about your geography.

      • I always assumed that it was a drinking fountain variant. Instead of spitting to the side, it spit straight up.

        • Oh yes, I’ve heard that! I thought it was a Southern thing…

      • Hint, Burt’s got Wisconsin connections. (Yes, I cheated and googled it.)

      • That’s a Providence thing – for water fountains.

        If you know the ‘other’ meaning for: cunning (pronounced kun-nin) then that’ll narrow it down even more 😉

  13. Dude.

    Everybody in America says it now, but nobody says it right if they’re not from California.

  14. The Better Half and I

    If he’s better than you, he must be totally awesome.

    Places that have left their mark on me:
    –Indiana: My wife swears I slip into a hick accent when appropriate without even noticing. I wouldn’t know, since I never notice.

    –San Francisco: 20 years later I still stand off the curb and on the street while waiting for the light to change.

    –L.A.: Maybe it’s just because my wife’s from there, but I still refer to freeways as “the</i5, the69, which causes my fellow native Hoosiers to ask me where I’m from.

    –Oregon: Because I no longer know how to handle a 4-way stop. No, just kidding. Because nearly every day in the summer I wish I could take my boat out on the ice cold McKenzie river and experience some real current and rapids, and then I realize there’s nothing like that around here. Sigh.

    • If he’s better than you, he must be totally awesome.

      You’re very kind to say so. And yes, he is.

      My accent shifts all the time, totally involuntarily. It can go from Missouri to New York, depending on where I am and who I’m talking to.

  15. Everywhere I’ve lived – Victoria, Vancouver, Ottawa – has given me the assumption that every city should have convenient bike routes. It’s become something that I almost take for granted.

    Also, I think Ottawa (and, maybe even more, a month in Ramallah this summer) has vastly improved my range of temperatures I can tolerate. Before I moved here, I was a complete West Coaster, who defined anything between approximately 0 and 28 Celsius as “ridiculously cold” or “unbearably hot”. Now my tolerable range is more like -20 to 35.

  16. I think my hatred of suburbs stems from growing up in PEI. Until I was in my teens, PEI had country, or (very small) city, nothing in between. Even now, there’s nothing like the urban sprawl of the Front Range back there.

    Montreal taught me a lot of things, but I think mostly it pushed me to blend, to pick up enough of the local customs to appear local when traveling – because in Montreal almost every neighborhood has different local customs. Trivial example: While staying in London, I picked up the London “sorry” in a British accent (which really helps because people quit saying OHHHHHHH ARE YOU AMERRRRRRICAN at you every five seconds); I actually tried to not do it, to just say sorry in my normal voice, and I couldn’t.

  17. I’m amazed that no DCers or NYers have mentioned this particular bit of subway etiquette yet, but one important lesson that will always stick with me from DC is that, during rush hour, or on any train that is or is likely to become crowded, always, ALWAYS move as far to the center of the car as possible. There will usually be the most space there, and you will get in the way of the fewest number of people possible entering and exiting the train. Yes, this means that you will get off last when you get to your stop, but I assure you that you will still be able to get off.

    If the train is so packed that you absolutely must stand by the doors, have the common sense and decency to step off the train when it stops so that you can let people out without clogging the doorway. Bonus: when you reboard, you’ll have first crack at finding a better spot.

    Other applicable responses: (1) an absolute disdain for any pizza made more than 50 miles outside of NYC – Kazzy already covered this, but I’m extending the radius slightly so that it includes Central Jersey, a region with which Kazzy is as unfamiliar as he is with central Uzbekistan; (2) membership in the religion of Beef on Weck; (3) an absolute refusal to train my eyes more than 20 feet above street level when walking in a city for any reason other than to get my bearings; and finally (4) a refusal to consider crosswalk lights as anything more than suggestions, with one notable exception: one DOES NOT jaywalk or attempt to jaywalk on Capitol Hill unless one feels compelled to have an unpleasant discussion with a Capitol Police Officer.

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