Order of the Good Write

That Magic Feeling When the Words Flow. A Blog by Debi Rotmil


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Being Civilized in Civilization

eprhoncity

I was sitting on a plane from New York JFK to Los Angeles a few weeks ago.  We were at the gate, and passengers were still boarding. There was a slight stand still in the line while people waited for those ahead of them to stow away their bags. A woman who was in waiting mode, said to the flight attendant, “Ahh, it will be good to be back in civilization again!”. The flight attendant said, “Why, do you not like New York?” The lady said,  “I’m a recovering New Yorker. It’s crazy here. Just too much chaos.” The flight attendant concurred, “Well, I guess I know what you mean. I almost got run over by a truck on 5th avenue the other day.”

Funny that chaos and potential street accidents were brought up about New York. My dog and I were almost run down crossing (with a pedestrian sign giving the okay) on 3rd street in LA a few months ago.  And I have a list of of incidents like this since moving to the land of La La.

What makes a city “civilized”?  When someone says they want to go back to “civilization”, you figure this person just spent a solitary holiday on a beach resort or floating on a cruise to Bermuda.

When I think of New York City, I think of it as the epitome of civilization. LA – the same but with better weather.

Civilization and being civilized human beings are two different things.  We human beings make civilization civilized. Civilization was created in the minds and hearts of ancient humanity to create infrastructure and laws. Being civilized is living up to the standard within those lines.

Civilization should also contain individuals who contribute kindness, consideration and aid to others.  Humanity.

As Nora Ephron wrote above, when you leave New York, things change. The city is now harsh. You are an outsider who has to pay your way in.  When you are a resident of New York, you don’t mind the crowds because that’s what you signed up for. You have the best restaurants on your speed dial. You know when to brace yourself on the 6 train when the hard turn after 42nd street pitches the subway into a hard jolt. You know what time taxis go on their break (5:00pm), and where they come into the city (east 59th street).

And you know – New York isn’t an easy place. Look deeper into Los Angeles, and you’ll find it just as difficult, except the sun always shines, drivers don’t use their turn signals, don’t stop at stop signs and don’t understand the right of way.

When I was sitting in that Jet Blue seat getting ready to head back to Los Angeles, I felt as thought I was leaving civilization to return to another one. But this time, unlike the “Recovering New Yorker”, I was willing to fall off the wagon and stay.

 

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“Moving On” Again

nora ephron

“When you give up your apartment in New York and move to another city, New York becomes the worst version of itself. Someone I know once wisely said that the expression “It’s a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there” is completely wrong where New York is concerned; the opposite is true. New York is a very livable city. But when you move away and become a visitor the city seems to turn against you. It’s much more expensive (because you have to eat all your meals out and pay for a place to sleep) and more unfriendly. Things change in New York; things change all the time. You don’t mind this when you live here; it’s part of the caffeinated romance of the city that never sleeps. But when you leave you experience change as a betrayal. You walk up Third Avenue planning to buy a brownie at a bakery you’ve always been loyal to, and the bakery’s gone. Your dry cleaner moves to Florida; your dentist retires; the lady who made the pies on West Fourth Street vanishes; the maitre d’ at P.J. Clarke’s quits , and you realize you’re going to have to start from scratch tipping your way into the heart of the cold, chic young woman now at the door. You’ve turned your back for only a moment, and suddenly everything’s different. You were an insider, a native, a subway traveler, a purveyor of tips into the good stuff, and now you’re just another frequent flyer, stuck in a taxi on the Grand Central Parkway as you wing in and out of LaGuardia. Meanwhile, you read that Manhattan rents are going up, they’re climbing higher, they’ve reached the stratosphere. It seems that the moment you left town they put up a wall around the place, and you will never manage to vault over it and get back into the city again.”

-Excerpt from ‘New Yorker’ article by Nora Ephron, “Moving On”, June 5, 2006.

Yes. Every word of it.