I guess what I really just wanted to say though is how happy I was to come back to Albany at the end of it. New York City made me feel after a weekend just like I had felt after 4 and a half years - that it was dirty, expensive, and crowded.
A few weeks on the radio I heard Kristi talking about what she liked most about the Capital Region. She was trying to defend the photo of Sheridan Avenue on Jeopardy where the associated question was "What is city plight?". But instead of coming up with ways we could help people in that neighborhood, all she could come up with were things that were totally unrelated and not even necessarily good things about the region itself. In case you don't want to go listen to the piece, her good things about Albany are: a country singer got married in Altamont, and two Hollywood movies got filmed here where they pretended it was New York City. Then, Brian Cody kept saying "Is that all you got? That is it?" Everyone I have told about this radio spot has been able to come up with a whole handful of actual things that are good about this area without much effort at all: access to good local ingredients, good independent restaurants, interesting art scene, a good movie theater, easy access to interesting places like Boston, New York City, and Montreal but also the Berkshires, the Catskills and Adirondacks, some interesting architecture, a relatively stable economy due to the government and universities, affordable cost of living but still a good amount of things to do, and a size that is small enough where people know each other, but big enough where you can actually meet new people. It is medium sized, livable, and on the edge of a rural area which supplies delicious local foods.
I would characterize Albany as a girl who wears brown ballet flats and a fleece jacket. She is a little shy, but once you get to know her wants to invite you over for a farm fresh dinner, introduce you to all her friends, and talk about some artsy project or indie movie she saw recently. What's not to love? It was weird Kristi couldn't come up with any reasons (perhaps she needs to go live in a few more places and come back?), but it was also weird she didn't take the opportunity to use her influence to talk about how her listeners/readers could help the people in that neighborhood. That picture is "city plight", and talking about a country star getting married in Altamont (which looks nothing like Arbor Hill), doesn't stop the buildings from falling down.
Anyways, of course I love New York. Of course I love our friends there. But if I were to characterize New York City as a person she would be a skinny girl who wears all black with knee high shiny black boots, who wants to go out for $18 margaritas, talk about you behind your back, and still manages to be pretty much be the most fun ever. You'll always love her and always miss her despite her not have treated you all that nicely.
Of course in both places it depends on what neighborhood you are in, what you are doing there, who you are, and who you know. It is so hard to compare really and people bring their own issues wherever they go. I think what I have realized is that a lot of my ambivalence about the place (discussed at the end of this post) is related to the stage of life I was in then and the stage of life I am in now. I am happy here in this city, but it is hard not to compare things. For me, this great passage from Amor Towles's book Rules of Civility sums it all up (it is a great book and captures a lot of the great things about NYC):