Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Ainsley Ayers (Post 111), her friend Alec and I sit in an East Village Bar. Because it’s Sunday in America we’re watching the Chargers-Patriots game, anticipating the start of the Packers-Giants game. And we’re snacking on a deep fried selection of wings, nachos and fries soaked in ketchup. I’ll work out tomorrow.

Ainsley changes topics again. She might actually be the first person I’ve met who talks more than I do. What impresses me is Alec’s ability to tune her out. That skill must stem from their fifteen-year friendship.

“I went to college on a debate scholarship,” Alec says. “That’s where I met Ainsley. Where did you go?” I reply, “Wash U.” He flashes a mean smirk and says, “Where the wanna-be Harvards go.” His comment is offensive on so many levels. I mean sure, I found my architecture program deeply flawed, but I enjoyed everything else about my alma mater --- the campus, the people, the experience. I also find it off-putting that he assumes I wanted to attend Harvard, because I didn’t. And shoot, I’m lucky to have gotten in when I did and I doubt I’d get in now if I applied.

To diffuse my irritation, I take note of our surroundings. A cozy corner booth set against dark paneled walls. Behind the bar on glass shelves a delightful collection of vodka, rum, tequila, and gin calls my name. Maybe I should order a drink the size of my head to quell my bubbling desire to bite Alec around the ankles.

“When Alec and I were in college we went to an execution party,” Ainsley says. For a moment I think she must SURELY be joking. I’m from Minnesota and we don’t execute criminals. But Alec nods. “Yep. My fraternity buddies would fill flat bed trucks with beer and we’d head off to the prison and wait out the execution.” What is the proper response to a comment about beer and lethal injections? “Yea, one year I went with my sorority sisters and we ended up on CNN in our letters.” Wow. I am fairly sure if my sorority sisters and I ended up on the cable news at an execution in our letters, we’d either be removed from the sisterhood or cause the chapter’s closing.

The television flashes from Foxborough, Massachusetts to Green Bay, Wisconsin where the ambient air temperature will be -3 degrees Fahrenheit at kick off. “Damn,” Alec drawls. “That is cold.” No joke. And it is dangerous. At -3 degrees Fahrenheit your skin can frost bite in 10 minutes; the air cuts through your jeans and stings your skin red; and drawing air into your lungs actually hurts. Ainsley cringes and says, “Y’all that’s just wrong.” And three ex-pats to Manhattan nod.

Actually surviving the transition to Manhattan is something, regardless of where we came from or what we do in the City; ex-pats have in common. Most of us agree it takes about a year to feel fully confident you can survive anything Manhattan throws at you. And this Manhattan adjustment creates solidarity amongst transplants. It’s why when ex-pats to Manhattan ask, “How long have you lived in NYC?” And a newcomer responds with an amount of time less than two years, we generally reply with, “and how are you doing?” Empathy amongst ex-pats.

E.B. White’s quote actually sums it up best: “There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter - the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in search of something . . . Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion.”

I like knowing I bring passion to this City.

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