Monday, October 12, 2015

Don't Blame Me - I Just Live Here!

You’ve been through all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well read It’s well known
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones? - from "Ballad of a Tin Man" - Dylan 1965 

What's-a matter you? Hey!
Gotta no respect. Hey!
What-a you t'ink you do? Hey!
Why you look-a so sad? Hey!
It's-a not so bad.
Hey! It's-a nice-a place.
Ah, shaddap-a you face! - from "Shaddap You Face" - Joe Dolce 1980
Beach, Maine, USA
"Even as I write this on gray and rainy Saturday, the glorious weather of Independence Day weekend is borne back ceaselessly into the past like Gatsby's boats against the current.

I hope this missive finds you well wherever you are, on the docks in the West Egg or in your own backyard."

This was the preamble of a letter from my attorney - I like to call him my end-of-life attorney (it's so American) - just to annoy some of the folks back home who have it in for all things USA.

Sure the USA has a lot to answer for. But it is also - for many of us living here - a very nice place. Especially New York City, where one's end-of-life-attorney references  F. Scott Fitzgerald when sending a letter reminding you to check that your last will and testament is still in order. 

I have a theory about New York - because it is so big, and in many ways by virtue of its size - somewhat impersonal - that people are very friendly and personal with people that they come across in day-to-day encounters.

Most of us live in small apartments and spend large amounts of  time at work. On a physical level our horizons are somewhat cramped. But we make up for it, because the world is our back yard. Central Park, the High Line, Prospect Park, the galleries, the theaters. The literary and music legacies.

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And so New Yorkers, seeing the whole city as their own space, will chat to complete strangers, holding whole conversations with people who they are never likely to see again.

And in customer service email - not you pro-forma "Dear Sir/Madam" -  a comment, a viewpoint can find its way into the most mundane of commercial emails.

As was the case a few weeks ago. Frustrated at not being able to find a movie that had been reviewed on "Talking Pictures on Demand" where a panel of film critics talk about the on-demand film offerings, I emailed customer service at the TV station  NY 1. In ten minutes the reply landed in my inbox.

Thanks for your email. I just checked Movies on Demand and I found it. You need to go to channel 500 (Movies) and go to the alphabetical listings. You'll find "Battle Royale" in the A-C section. I know that we have done reviews of movies in the past that might have been unavailable and we try hard to make sure that that doesn't happen.

Thanks again for the feedback and please let me know if you are having any issues finding the film. It's a weird movie....very Japanese.

Steve Paulus General Manager, NY1

As Jo Dolce sang to people putting down Australia in the 1980s - "Hey! It's-a nice-a place."

I was chatting on the phone to a friend in Australia last week, talking about the plight of refugees and how in America we call them "undocumented immigrants", and how welcoming the U.S. really is, when it comes to new arrivals. The conversation went something like this.

Me: We call them "undocumented immigrants" here.
Her: What? I think someone is at the door.
Me: Are you back? I was just saying how in America we call refugees who come here illegally, "undocumented immigrants".
Her: At least we don't have the death penalty. I couldn't live in a country that has the death penalty.

Well I suppose we all couldn't live in countries that we think do bad things. I couldn't live in a country that stoned female adulterers to death for example. Well naturally ... I would be dead.  

Maybe I wouldn't want to live in a country that turns back "boat people"; that even calls other human beings "boat people". But I have, and I no doubt will.

And in any case, it isn't a competition.

Or is it?


deborah said...

Who are you? I like your thoughts. I am an American living in Melbourne with kids in Brooklyn....what a wonderful place to live! dh

Kate said...

Deborah, I am an Australian New Yorker. Home city is Melbourne. I hope it is treating you well!

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