Years ago I was in New York City and my then-boyfriend said I looked like a tourist. I wasn’t sure what he meant considering I was wearing the same clothes I always wear. Did my uniform of jeans, converse low-cuts and a T-shirt scream left coast? In hindsight, he was probably referring to the smile I was wearing. And my penchant for eye contact. And the giddy look of “I’m in Manhattan!” that was spread across my face.
It’s those same qualities that, while on a trip to New York last fall, led multiple people to ask if I would like to rent a bike or go for a carriage ride through Central Park. On the last day of my trip I took a different approach. I kept my head down and walked with more purpose than wonder. No surprise, the questions stopped.
But what fun is that? It’s not every day I get to engage with the funny, irritable or weird. In New York, I engaged with more people during one block on foot than I do in a whole day in Los Angeles (and returned with the cold to prove it). I also engaged in so much food that on my last night I had to buy the “emergency Perrier” to settled an over-stuffed, but incredibly satisfied, belly.
If I were in Los Angeles, I wouldn’t be on a street corner wondering which way to Broadway only to see Kristin Chenoweth, the star of Promises, Promises, the show we were going to see, standing on the same corner. Suffice it to say, we followed her directly to the theater. (The show is, in a word, delightful.)
Of course, this is because I was on vacation. It was all fun all the time, which is exactly how it wouldn’t be if I lived there.
If I lived in Manhattan I wouldn’t be going to high tea at the Plaza (where I felt super-posh in my nice jeans, new cons and fancy T-shirt), taking in Broadway shows (specifically musicals, because why settle for talking when you can have talking and singing?), or returning regularly to Mario Batali’s Otto (a frequent daydream is getting trapped in this restaurant). Sure, I might when I first arrive, but then the city would lose its luster and become just the place I live. In the same way that I live in Los Angeles and yet rarely go to the beach.
Which is all to say that being a tourist in the Big Apple is, for me, the way to go. I get to take in all the city has to offer, and when it’s time to leave I bid adieu to my teeny hotel room and say hello to my large-by-comparison 800-square-foot house in a city where I’m never mistaken for a tourist. But that’s probably because I’m always in my car.