"Where do you live?"

- by Michael!

We’re almost done with this season at Chautauqua – just a couple more weeks before we wrap things up. And one of the questions I’ve heard most consistently from people here - and anywhere else I travel - is, “Where do you live?”

When I tell them, “New York City,” I typically have at least a fifty-fifty shot of hearing them reply with an immediate and visceral “Oh, I hate New York City.”

Really? That’s the first thing that comes into your head when you ask someone a personal question?

I’ve tried not to take it personally. I know what they mean – some people just don’t like big cities, or public transportation, or having more than one variety of Asian cuisine readily available at all hours of the day. Manhattan is loud, and it is expensive, and it is exhausting.
But guess what? I kinda like it.

I like that I live in a city with a multi-mile bike path that I can use on days when I want to torture myself for eating street-meat the day before. And a city where I can, coincidentally, eat street-meat on almost any street I encounter.

I like that I live in a city where there is literally always something interesting happening, and where – believe it or not – there is always something interesting and free happening. It may be an hour away by subway, bus, and/or rickshaw, but it’s still out there, and it’s worth it.

I like that I live in a city where there’s a chance a couple on the subway will see the book I’m reading, strike up a conversation about it, and give me their phone number when they leave because, in their words, “I think you and your wife should be our friends!”

And more importantly, I chose it.

If it’s not for you, cool. Frankly, it’s not for me forever – I want a yard, and a grill, and so on, before too much longer. You can even say “Oh, I couldn’t live there,” because that’s a fairly objective statement with which I can identify.

But “I hate New York City”?

Seriously, how is that OK? How on Earth is that not rude? If I told you I hated where you live, or where you were born, wouldn’t you be at least a little bit defensive about it? Maybe a touch insulted? God knows, telling people I’m from Alabama has made me used to a fair amount of geographical judgment, and frankly it’s just as bad when it’s the home I’ve chosen.

I know New Yorkers can be obnoxious about it – as though living there is an accomplishment of which you should be envious. (Most Texans are the same way, but more so – by at least a factor of three.) And if I ever become such an obnoxious New Yorker, feel free to chop me down to size with some well-placed poop-on-the-subway comments. But until then, I’d like everybody to assume that yes, I do happen to like the place where I live, and no, I would rather not be told how hateful you find it.

Feel free, however, to mock the Yankees as much as you want. I’ll probably join in.