Of my college friends, there is one that my mother remembers better than all the others. When she visited me freshman year one young man jovially greeted her, “Hello, Mrs. Cliché!” That was my friend Dan. The most polite, considerate person you are likely to ever meet. He fell in love with NYC long before me, but he shared his love of the city with me on several visits. He was my classmate Junior year in the phenomenal class “Urban Art in Jazz Age New York” where we learned academically about his favorite time period in the history of the city. He’s the guy everyone knew in college, he’s the perfect date for a play or afternoon museum trip, and his smile lights up a room. He’s my Other New York clichés feature!
Dan aka Mr. D. to his students
Borough and neighborhood:
Jersey City, NJ / Harlem
How are you a New York cliché?
I could say that my cliché is being a teacher but my boyfriend says that I am a cliché because I glorify this city. Like I should wear the “I Heart NY” t-shirt all the time type of person. I’d say he’s right. I’m the Ex-Suburbanite, who, for as long I can remember, wanted to know what it truly feels like to be a part of this crazy, dynamic, and enchanting place by living inside it’s walls. Growing up outside of NYC made me idolize it. Nowhere I’ve ever traveled compared to what I’ve been able to experience growing up along side the “city that never sleeps.”
I have friends in Jersey who refuse to cross the river to even visit the city, yet alone have the desire to live here. But for me, and many of my friends who I grew up with, NYC is a place to shed our suburban skin and find our roots. Most of our parents and families are from the Bronx, Queens, or Manhattan and escaped to the burbs to raise their kids. It’s our turn to return to urbanity and make it in our concrete jungle. So for myself, all my friends, and all the other suburban city dwellers, I’m deeming our cliché as the Ex-Suburbanite.
They say no one who lives in New York is actually from New York. Where are you from?
I may not have grown up on the island, but I’m pretty close to being a native New Yorker. I grew up right outside of the city in the forgotten suburban county of Rockland, NY. No, it’s not Westchester. It’s not Long Island. And it’s definitely not Jersey. It’s the smallest county on New York State that sits just north of Jersey and right across the Hudson River from Westchester – 30 minute drive to the GW Bridge and about a 45 minute bus commute. So although I’m not from the city, I grew up right next to it and practically in it for most of my adolescence. Close enough to see the Christmas Tree every winter, take advantage of the TKTS in Times Square before their prices skyrocketed, and know the Met like the back of my hand at age 17.
Bloomberg is banishing you from NYC. You have 24 hours before you have to pack up and leave for ever. How do you spend them?
This is a frightening scenario but if I must: My day would start walking over the Brooklyn Bridge toward Manhattan and watch the sunrise over the city. I’d take a stroll around City Hall and the Financial District (love it down there) Then I’d shoot up to Alice’s Teacup on the Upper West Side for breakfast, eat me some scones and tea. I’d walk through all my favorite places in Central Park specifically Cherry Hill and the Pool and probably do some sketching since I’ll never see these places again. I’ll make my way to the Met and say goodbye to my favorite works of art. While on the UES, I’ll get my last haircut in the city by David at Paul Mole on Lex and proceed to Grand Central to whisper in the Whispering Gallery in front of the Oyster Bar one last time.
I’ll be good and tired by then so I’ll cab it over to the top of the Highline, walk the entirety until I get to Gansevoort St. to meet all my friends for dinner at one of the pricey Meatpacking District restaurants like Spice Market or Pastis to gorge ourselves on awesome food and drink. After dinner I’ll stroll through the Village, grab a drink at Stonewall. If there’s time I’ll go see one more Broadway show and then spend the rest of the night partying it up in Hell’s Kitchen with drinks at Vnyl, Therapy, and all my favorite restaurants on 9th Ave. As the morning approaches, I’ll take the A train up to Harlem, visit my old neighborhood and continue up to the GW Bridge, walk across, & say goodbye.
What restaurant/bar you keep going back to, even though you’ve been meaning to try a dozen others?
If you know me then the answer is obvious. I will forever be getting Eggs Benedict for brunch at Alice’s Teacup on the UWS. I can’t get enough of that place. It may just be the combination of my love for Alice in Wonderland and for great desserts that keeps bringing me back. Their scones, crepes, cakes, and everything in between are amazing!!! Forget all those trendy cupcake shops – Alice’s is the place to be.
Hot dogs or pizza?
I tried to buy a hotdog from a street cart down by the World Trade Center and he was charging $9 a dog. That’s clearly a price only the Wall Street 1% can afford. I think those guys in Zuccotti Park should start boycotting this vendor for a change. Clearly he’s not supporting the cause. Needless to say, forget the hotdogs, I’m all about a good slice of NYC pizza.
So you live in NYC, but what’s one super-touristy thing you secretly love?
It’s not Christmas in New York City if I don’t browse the shops in Bryant Park, walk up 5th Avenue and stand in line to see the windows at Saks. I love it, love it, love it! Even though the entire world seems to be pushing their way to Rockefeller Center the minute the tree lights up, I need to get there and join in.
Ever had a run-in with a celebrity (A-D List)?
Let’s see. I ate Chinese next to Cynthia Nixon once on the UWS. I’ve seen Michael Urie and Jesse Tyler Fergusson at Blockheads in Hell’s Kitchen. I saw Hillary Swank while eating lunch outside the Museum of Natural History. I’ve seen John Lithgow around Times Square, recently coming out of the stage door for his new show on Broadway. And my favorite was when I was in the audience for Promises Promises with James Marsden. My friend June actually chased him down for a picture. Oh, and for all you Gilmore Girls fans out there, I rode the subway once with Mr. Medina, Rory’s principal/Lorelei’s boyfriend. [New York Cliché says: I was on that subway ride with him!]
You totally saw something weird on the subway or street today (you may not have registered it was weird because you are jaded), what did you see?
I was walking to the D train on Lafayette and Houston the other day when I passed a Hippie looking guy that had a full grown cat balancing on his head as he walked down the street. The cat was just sitting up there, chilling out, as his owner paraded down the sidewalk. Ridiculous. Sadly, I avoided looking like all the tourists and missed my photo-op.
What is your favorite fictionalized New York? How does it compare with reality?
I am enamored with Old New York from post-Civil War up until the 1930’s. My two favorite depictions are Fitzgerald’s depiction of New York City’s Jazz Age in The Great Gatsby and Scorsese’s depiction of Five Points in Gangs of New York. There’s something about the dark side of old New York City with it’s violence, seediness, and secrets that draw me in. I would give anything to go back in time and watch vaudeville or drink at a speak-easy. New York clearly was and still is a dramatic place. Unfortunately my current involvement is rather tame compared to the days of old.
Plug something! Be it something you are involved in, your significant other/roommate/cat is involved in, or just something you think is extra-special going on in NYC.
I’m an art lover and art teacher so I’m plugging an entire museum that people should go check out. I recently went to a professional development at the New York Historical Society on 77th St. and Central Park West. They have recently underwent huge renovations and redid and large part of their galleries. Most people wouldn’t think about the NYHS as a museum but they have a beautiful collection and fantastic artifacts from the city. I’ve been there three times now, and can honestly say it’s a great place to visit if you want to try something beside the Met or MOMA.
Thanks, Dan, for being part of my Other New York cliché feature! Can’t wait for another picnic in Central Park with you!
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