Open Letter to My Friends in Iceland (I mean, Inwood)

A few years ago my wife Victoria and I moved from Thayer Street in Inwood to Hell's Kitchen in Midtown Manhattan, or Clinton as some people call it. More accurately, we moved from Washington Heights, as Thayer Street is technically 199th Street, and Inwood officially begins at Dyckman (200th Street), at least according to maps. (New Yorkers become experts on where one neighborhood ends and another begins, which can quite literally change from block to block.) Depending on the day and which section was deemed hipper in a given conversation, we would often change neighborhoods. As an aside, no one in Hell's kitchen that I know calls where we live "Clinton," which Manhattan realtors prefer. Sorry, it just doesn't sound as cool as Hell's Kitchen; it doesn't have that scrappy ring to it. Besides: with it's former Westies history, mix of cultures, car exhaust and asphalt as far as you can see, it really is more like hell in some ways than sissy-sounding Clinton. Actually, I'm being hard on my new neighborhood: we have some great neighbors, excellent restaurants and we're pretty close to the waterfront and Central Park, so it is not so bad.

When we moved, we inevitably lost a few friends, mostly musicians. Washington Heights and Inwood are packed with artist types, at least these days, and you pretty much can't throw a chunk of rosin or a drumstick without hitting a musician. Not that we're not still friends with our former neighbors, but there is a strange phenomenon in NYC: when you move from one neighborhood to another, you are often treated like you have moved to another town, or another city, or even another country, like Iceland.

Admittedly, when we lived there and a few of our friends moved to Brooklyn, or shock of shocks, Queens, we often jokingly said, "it was so nice to know you. We'll visit someday, we promise, if we can find a cheap flight or cruise liner deal." Then we would give them a big hug and a Manhattan-style pseudo air kiss and wave goodbye. We treated these defectors as if they moved to Papa New Guinea or some other far off land. There is truth in that after they moved, we almost never saw them again, as both Brooklyn and Queens have their own distinct and wonderful artistic cultures, and residents of these boroughs are often very proud and entrench themselves in their newfound homeland.

One time, when we lived on Thayer, I tried ordering a few cases of paper from an office supply store in lower Manhattan. The office supply guy said "We can deliver in Manhattan, no problem. Where do you live?" "Thayer Street" "Thayer? where's that? I've never heard of it." Mumbling, anticipating what might be coming, I said, "It's up near Dyckman, 200th street." "200th Street? What are you, NUTS? We can't deliver up there, that's God's country! We'll ship it to you, FedEx."

I kid you not. This is what he said—as if we lived in Alaska.

One side issue I have with my fellow New Yorkers is how they always call anything above New York City "upstate." Can we stop that, right here, right now? New York Cityites are so full of themselves sometimes. Just because NYC is on the absolute lowest tip of New York State does not make everything else "upstate." Upstate should be anywhere north of Syracuse, then there should be Midstate and downstate and the exurbs of New York City (we can call that, for lack of a better term, Greater New York City), with a distinction for Western New York as well since it kind of juts out. That's that, case closed.

But anyway, back to our friends, I just want to say that we love and miss you, and you are always welcome down here in Havana, I mean Hell's Kitchen. In turn, the next time we can find a cheap flight, we will schedule a vacation and visit you Northerners.