View From Lodi, CA: Joe To New York City – Wow!
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.