Category Archive 'New York'
10 May 2017

Last Confederate Town

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Knowledge Nuts informs us that Lee and Johnson may have surrendered in 1865, but the last Confederate stronghold, Town Line, New York, which seceded and joined the Confederacy in 1861, held out without rejoining the Union until 1946.

Unusually for a town so near the Canadian border, Town Line, New York voted to secede from the Union in 1861 and join the Confederacy. While the circumstances surrounding the treasonous act is shrouded in urban legend, the secession—ignored by the Union government—remains a curious aberration. Town Line was the only Northern town to turn rebel during the Civil War, and didn’t rejoin the US until 1946, making it the last stronghold of the Confederacy.

Town Line in Erie County, New York is only a few miles from the Canadian border. Go to the local fire station and until recently, you might have seen the personnel wearing shoulder patches reading “Last of the Rebels 1861–1946.” During Civil War celebrations, townsfolk display the Confederate flag and wear the Confederate gray. Any visitor would be baffled. It is well-known that the loyalty of towns farther south, near the Mason-Dixon Line, wavered along the divide between North and South during the war. But in upstate New York a few minutes from Canada? In a town populated in the 1860s by first- and second-generation German immigrants with no kinship ties to the South?

Nobody really knows the reason why, in late 1861, the men of Town Line gathered in a schoolhouse and voted 85–40 (or by some accounts 80–45) to leave the Union and join the Confederacy. They clearly supported Abraham Lincoln in the previous election. Among other provocations, perhaps the most likely was President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 men, to which the German farming community refused to comply.

The secession was largely symbolic, as the government did not recognize it. It never sent troops in to compel the town to return to the US, the Post Office continued its business and taxes were still duly paid. That didn’t mean, though, that the entire thing was a sham. There were real rebels in the town, and a few even left to actually enlist in the Confederate army. On the other hand, some of the men also fought for the Union. By 1864, as the tide of war turned against the South, the town’s secessionists were being harassed, forcing some to flee to Canada.

Things settled back to normal at the end of the war. The secession was conveniently forgotten until 1945. In a wave of patriotism accompanying American victory in World War II, residents realized that they were technically not part of the US. Returning veterans were chagrined and infuriated that they were not American. A special committee wrote to President Harry Truman about the situation. Truman responded good-naturedly, “Why don’t you run down the fattest calf in Erie County, barbecue it and serve it with fixins, and sort out your problems.”

The matter was once again put to the vote. Incredibly, the first vote held on December 1945 still failed to secure unity. The town had by now become national news, and the next attempt at reunion was attended by celebrities like movie actor Cesar “the Joker” Romero. Finally, on January 26, 1946, Town Line officially voted to be readmitted into the Union. (Still, 23 rebels decided against the measure—truly the town’s last Confederates.) The rebel flag that had flown for 85 years was hauled down, and the residents took the oath of allegiance.

RTWT

29 Aug 2016

Restaurant Damon Baehrel

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BaehrelMeal
A Baehrel tasting menu.

One of the World’s Top 50 Restaurants, perhaps the most difficult venue to obtain a reservation for in America, is apparently operated by one man out of a basement in a village (Earlton, New York) half an hour south of Albany. Servings are reputedly fully booked up through 2020, or possibly 2025.

Nick Paumgarten, in the New Yorker, reports:

[T]he place was now simply called Damon Baehrel, after its presiding wizard and host, who served as forager, farmer, butcher, chef, sous-chef, sommelier, waiter, busboy, dishwasher, and mopper. Baehrel derived his ingredients, except meat, fish, and dairy, from his twelve acres of yard, garden, forest, and swamp. He made his oils and flours from acorns, dandelions, and pine; incorporated barks, saps, stems, and lichen, while eschewing sugar, butter, and cream; cured his meats in pine needles; made dozens of cheeses (without rennet); and cooked on wooden planks, soil, and stone. He had christened his approach Native Harvest. The diners who got into the restaurant raved about it online. But at the time it was booked through 2020. …

The dining room was snug, seating no more than sixteen guests, with a table set up in the middle as though for a single party of six. It was tidy, not really rustic, more varnished than one might expect. The walls were painted a brushed ochre. A stained-glass panel in the wall read “Good Food” backward. Baehrel had installed it that way so you could read it in a nearby mirror. Along the back wall, a broad table was arrayed with bowls of seeds, nuts, leaves, roots, berries, and mushrooms; Mason jars of sap and flour; and vials of oil, all marked with painter’s tape describing the contents and the vintage—“Acorn oil 8/15,” “Golden Rod flour ’14.” The Native Harvest tag had been his wife’s suggestion. “I was inspired by Native Americans,” he said. “I wanted it to be based on the people who were here in this country before we were.” Supposition was his guide: he said that he had never actually read anything about Native American cuisine.

He worked through the items on display. Lily tuber, cattail stems, milkweed, bull thistle. By watching deer in the woods, he had discovered that the inner barks of certain trees have a salty taste. While chopping wood, he found that a particular lichen takes on an oniony flavor for three weeks a year. He made a cooked powder from it. “You’re gonna love it!” Baehrel relies heavily on starch and stock made from rutabagas. He uses wild-violet stems as a thickener. He inoculates fallen logs with mushroom spores. He’ll spend seven hours gathering three-quarters of a pound of clover—enough to fill a steamer trunk. “I do it at night, with a headlamp,” he said.

He had me sit at a table in the corner, a two-top, from which I couldn’t see the door to the kitchen. He wanted me to have the dining experience. He said, “Don’t worry, I’m a professional. I’m not going to kill you.” He filled my glass from a pitcher. “It’s sap. Sycamore sap.” It tasted like water, with a hint of something. A few minutes later, he came out with another pitcher. “This is sparkling maple sap, with dried lemon verbena. I have lemon trees in containers, but I don’t get many lemons. Just the leaves.” He said he harvests about a dozen saps: maple, birch, sycamore, hickory, walnut, butternut, beech, hardwood cherry. “Sycamore sap, when concentrated, is a little salty. You can brine things in it. Hickory sap is very briny and salty. Good for long cooking. I’ll brine a pork shoulder in hickory sap and pine needles for nineteen days. Cherry sap is salty and sweet, bitter, with herb hints like marjoram and lavender.

“My biggest challenge is creating enough flour,” he went on. “I make it from cattails, pine—the inner bark—dandelions, clover, goldenrod, beechnut, hickory nuts, acorns. A huge part of my life is making flour. It takes one to one and a half years to make acorn flour. Acorns from the red oak have bitter tannins. White oak is more like a nut. In fall, I gather the acorns up in burlap sacks. Around New Year’s, I put the sacks in the stream, tied up. I leave them there all winter, under the ice. By spring, the tannic bitterness is gone.”

I asked him how he’d figured this out.

“Soaking didn’t work. I tried a circulation tank, and that didn’t work, either. I press them by hand, in a vise, or with stones. No machines.”

The first course was served on a slab of sawed wood. It was a small rectangle of what looked like salami atop a curled cracker. He said, “It takes me sixteen to eighteen months to make cedar flour. I use a pull knife, a two-handled grater, to shave off some cedar under the bark. The shavings are bitter, tannic—inedible. I soak them in water. Every four to six weeks, I soak them. After a year or a year and a half, I can grind it into cedar flour. So the crisp is made from cedar flour, with a little hickory-nut oil, duck-egg-white powder, water, sea salt, which I sometimes render.” He produced a jar of sea salt from the sample table. “I made the batter and baked the crisp today.” The rectangle of meat, he said, was blue-foot chicken cured in pine-needle juice, pulp, and powder for eighteen months.

The morsel was delicious, though it was difficult—and would continue to be, during the next four hours—for an amateur and glutton like me (in fact, for anyone who is being honest with himself) to tell whether my appreciation, fervent as it often became, had been enhanced by the description of the work and the ingredients that had gone into it. The tongue is suggestible. New words register as new flavors. As numerous blind wine tastings over the years have demonstrated, you taste what you want to taste.

He cleared the slab and arrived with a plate with a spoon on it, and in the spoon a piece of fish with a chip on top.

“I wanted to show you the power of the sycamore sap,” he said. It was Scottish salmon, which had been brined for thirty-nine days. The chip was a slice of black burdock root. “I peel off the fibrous outside of the root, slice the inside, and bake it.” A drizzle of sauce bisected the plate and spoon. It consisted, he said, of pickerel-weed seeds and unripened green strawberries stored in homemade vinegar of a low acidity, then blanched in water in a stone bowl. “With another stone, I mashed them into a paste. Added homemade green-strawberry vinegar and wild-sorrel vinegar and grapeseed oil. That’s the paste. The copper-colored powder is the ground leaves of wild marsh marigold.” Of course. Every milligram seemed hard won. …

Over the next several hours, as he brought in course after course, he appeared and disappeared (“I’ll get you some more sap!”) like a character in a resort-hotel farce. But the dishes were a dizzying array of tastes and textures. Oyster mushrooms, palate-cleansing ices (one was made of wild carrot juice, stevia tea syrup, pickled baby maple-leaf powder, violet leaves, and lichen powder), cured turkey leg, mahogany clams, lobster, prawns, swordfish ham, brined pork with goat sausage—all of it subjected to a jumble of verbs and nouns, many of them new to me. Bull-thistle stem, chopped barberry root, ostrich fern. I deployed an index finger to dab up every woodland fleck. The platings were whimsical and inspired. The sprigs and needles that adorned the mid-meal platter of cheese and cured meat brought to mind Saul Steinberg or Paul Klee.

The fifteenth, and final, course was something he called Earlton Chocolate. It consisted of the fermented leftovers of his “coffee,” which he makes in the autumn from hickory nuts and acorns. (He does not serve actual coffee.) The nut dregs become a kind of paste. “It gets gloppy after three months, then it relaxes.”

Read the whole thing.

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Black Book was pretty enthusiastic.

Chef Baehrel’s autumnal “Native Harvest” menu was heavenly. His lifelong obsession with food and nature pours out of every dish. The plates he served were developed, well-composed, and thought-provoking. The meal consisted of about 14 courses plus several extras, some of which Baehrel had been perfecting for decades and some of which were invented that day. In fact, many of the ingredients were seasonal and picked from his gardens that very morning, while a variety of ingredients had been preserved for years, waiting to be utilized at just the perfect time in their aging process.

One of Baehrel’s new concoctions on the day we visited was a bowl of clams, warm pressed with wild hickory nut oil infused with spruce needles and “cooked” in a sauce made from ostrich ferns and topped with burdock root chips. Later, we sampled a dish that Baehrel has been continually refining: chicken thigh brined in staghorn sumac powder, then cooked in a blend of concentrated sycamore sap and Baehrel’s fresh grapeseed oil, surrounded by a sauce of rutabaga cooked in the soil it was grown in.

Baehrel does not use butter in his dishes, nor does he use flour in his sauces. Instead, his sauces are often thickened with rutabaga. The buttery quality of a mouthwatering lobster dish served was deceivingly cooked instead in white oak acorn oil that was roasted with fresh white oak acorn, giving it a rich flavor.

Inevitably, the process of creating each dish is the daily manifestation of a lifetime dedicated to food, nature, and self-sustainability. Damon Baehrel remains open even through the cold New York winter months, and Chef Baehrel manages to source most ingredients from his own property. To accomplish this, five to seven foot deep cold frames are dug around his property and filled with compost that ferments during the winter, helping to prevent the cold frames from freezing. In the extreme cold, Baehrel utilizes a form of radiant heat from a 10-watt solar panel connected to heating rods in water containers about 4-5 feet underground. Baehrel actually claims that with the sunshine, fermentation, and radiant heat that warms up the cold frames, “winter in Earlton, New York is the best time of year for root vegetables.”

Each and every dish we ate that evening told a story.

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Restaurant homepage

05 Sep 2014

Attacked and Eaten by a $4000 Jacket in Tribeca

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MaryKChoi

It happens. You walk into Griffin & Howe (or the real Abercrombie & Fitch decades ago) without the slightest intention of buying anything, and you wind up leaving with some English shotgun or Payne fly rod you couldn’t possibly afford, but which has suddenly become a cherished and essential component of your personal existence on the planet.

Women’s clothes work on women, we all understand, the same way best grade London shotguns work on men. Mary H. K. Choi, in New York magazine, delivers a quite amusing account of how it happened that an impecunious struggling writer (herself) wandered into a posh designer boutique and wound up buying a $4000 leather coat. (My God! woman, you can get a pretty decent grouse gun for that kind of money.)

I have no idea what possessed me to walk into the Rick Owens store. To call this flagship a store is hysterical. It’s a miniature fortress of solitude constrained by New York proportions that shrewdly offsets the stark, jagged cave-witch clothes inside. To the uninitiated, it’s uninviting and faintly hospital-ish. Entering is akin to arriving at the cafeteria of a new high school, where said high school is populated entirely by clones of Rihanna. It’s terrifying. You worry you might wet yourself a little.

The mystique of the store has mostly to do with the designer. Rick Owens is a tall, sinewy man with a thin nose, Old World teeth, and fantastic hair. He resembles an Egon Schiele subject and lives in a five-story Parisian mansion with his muse and business partner, Michèle Lamy. (Lamy doubles as Owens’s much older, pygmy-size, polyamorous goth wife.) Together they make $800 shirts that look like lice-infested shrouds worn by medieval serfs.

Their coats appear rough-hewn, essentially untreated hides cut into fascinating shapes of seemingly extraterrestrial origin. The moment you throw one on, however, the weight falls into a mysterious, life-affirming silhouette. The black suede, fur-lined Rick Owens motorcycle jacket I selected made me feel thinner, taller, and infinitely more interesting. I looked as if I were in on a secret. The coat was the distillation of everything I’ve ever found seductive about not only living in New York but the prospect of belonging there, too. …

I dared myself to buy that coat and then dared that coat to rebuke me. I wanted to prove that I could visit the apex of cool-rich-people New York (as opposed to the tacky, evil, overwrought rich-people New York), buy a souvenir, and not turn into a hobo. I know native New Yorkers complain all the time about how anesthetized the City is now. Still, I’ve always found living in New York deeply scary. Without a trust fund or famous parent (and even then, sometimes you need both), the odds of success are ludicrous. It’s not just the fact that you don’t have any money. It’s that money no longer makes sense. This is the part that took me forever to figure out.

Read the whole thing, which is apparently an excerpt from the young lady’s “How-I-Came-to-My-Senses-an-Got-the-Hell-Out-of-NYC” memoir (published as a quite inexpensive eBook).

10 Jun 2014

Little Old New York

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BanditsRoost
Jacob Riis, Bandits’ Roost — 59 1/2 Mulberry Street, 1888.

I wouldn’t go in there, if I were you.

24 Mar 2014

New York Doesn’t Love You

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John DeVore has a great rant expressing his love/hate relationship with the world’s financial center city which just elected a communist mayor by a 73% margin.

New York isn’t your fantasy. You’re the fantasy in New York’s imagination. One day the fever will break and every New Yorker will immediately cease to be.

If New York were a cat, it would eat your face after you collapsed in the kitchen from a heart attack.

New York is Galactus. New York is Cthulhu. New York doesn’t change; it mutates. Evolves. In two hundred years it will have a hundred thousand centipede legs and the entire mass will migrate south for the winter.

When did you think you were the center of New York’s universe? Why did you think that? Shame on you. Your Instagrams aren’t that great.

No one “wins” New York. Ha, ha.

You will lose. Everyone loses. The point is losing in the most unexpected, poignant way possible for as long as you can.

Jay Z and Beyonce are doing okay.

Struggle, motherfucker. Hustle. Fail, fail again, fail until you forget what succeeding is, and then, on your deathbed, as you’re full of rotten phlegm and regret, you can look back and crack a smile that you won a couple, and survived everything else.

Hell, maybe your kin will survive the apocalypse and sing mighty ballads of your tragic battles by a roaring bonfire.

But until then — accept that your umbrellas will turn themselves inside out. That your rent is a tumor in the guts of your bank account. Complain that you deserve a raise, that the N train never, ever, ever runs when you need it to run (and that it’s probably personal,) and that New York is a giant meat grinder extruding tons of chewed up dreams.

Complaining is the only right you have as a New Yorker. Whining is what children do. To complain is to tell the truth. People who refuse to complain, and insist on having a positive outlook, are monsters. Their optimism is a poison. If given the chance they will sell you out.

New York will kick you in the hole, but it will never stab you in the back. It will, however, stab you multiple times right in your face.

02 Feb 2014

The Saddest Super Bowl

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Joshua M. Brown, aka The Reformed Broker, at Business Insider, deplores the judgement of whoever decided on this year’s Super Bowl location.

This Sunday, Super Bowl XLVIII (48) will be played in an open-air stadium, built atop a New Jersey swamp, in 2 degree weather, while pretending it’s actually taking place in New York.

I don’t know what confederacy of dunces within the NFL thought this was a good idea. It might be the worst idea. It’s shaping up to be the saddest Super Bowl ever.

For starters, it’s certainly going to be the coldest. Weather guys are talking about 2 to 7 degrees. Ticket prices are dropping by thousands of dollars. People are trying to get rid of their seats rather than sit through the pain of a sub-arctic February night outdoors. Not to mention the shlep. If it snows that day, the highways and byways between NY and NJ will become so impassable you’ll need to leave your family permanently and start a new one somewhere around Teaneck Township off of the I-80.

As far as the pre-game festivities, if there were ever a city that couldn’t give a f*** about something the rest of the country is excited about, it’s New York City. Specifically Manhattan. When the Super Bowl hits other cities, like Miami or New Orleans, all the stops are pulled out and the week-long party literally takes over the town. The locals get into the spirit, businesses play it up and people from around the country (along with their tourism dollars) are welcomed warmly. …

The two main focal points for the [“New York”] pre-game “party” are located at Times Square and Herald Square. There are two places in Manhattan that no native New Yorker will ever set foot in, for any reason, ever: Times Square and Herald Square. I know people who’ve quit jobs or broken up relationships because their route involved traipsing through either of these places. Times Square is essentially a petting zoo New Yorkers have set up so that they can see real-live Americans up-close in a protected environment and maybe feed them something. Herald Square, the triangle anchored by Macy*s, is what your town’s main strip mall would look like if they were to airlift unnavigable crowds and an aggressive traffic snarl right smack in front of it and slather the pavement in a gauzy layer of perma-grime and chewed gum.

Read the whole thing.

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And it’s not only the weather, the characteristic obnoxia of New Yorkers, and the lack of suitable locations to party in Manhattan that represent unpleasant aspects of the situation. If you choose to attend, you are going to have the endemic chickenshit fascism of rustbucket Northeastern governments to put up with as well.

CNS Sports
warns:

It doesn’t matter if you’ve dropped thousands of dollars on tickets. It doesn’t matter if you’ve traveled 3,000 miles to get there. And it doesn’t matter if you offer to shovel the snow that’s sure to come to the Meadowlands.

You will not be allowed to tailgate at Super Bowl XLVIII. Unless you literally stay inside your car while you do it.

“You will be allowed to have food in your car and have drink in your car,” game committee CEO Al Kelly said during a Monday news conference. “And provided you’re in the boundaries of a single parking space, you’ll be able to eat or drink right next to your car. However, you’re not going to be able to take out a lounge chair, you’re not going to be able to take out a grill, and you’re not going to be able to take up more than one parking space. And it’ll all be watched very carefully.” …

Don’t even think about hiring a taxi or limo to drop you off at the front gates. If a car doesn’t have a parking pass, it won’t get near the stadium.

“Nobody’s going to be dropped off by black car,” Kelly said. “You can have a black car, a green car, a white car, a red car as long as you have parking, and the car needs to stay on the premises the entire time.”

Oh and by the way, there are only 13,000 parking spots for the use of fans.

Don’t even think about walking to the Super Bowl either.

“You can get your hotel to drop you off at one of the New Jersey Transit locations or get the shuttle to take you to a Fan Express location, but you cannot walk,” Smith said.

-Here’s one thing you can do. Take public transportation, or as ESPN New York explains, you can take a charter bus called the Fan Express, “which will cost $51 and pick up and drop off passengers at nine locations around the region.”

If it snows, it’s every man for himself. Hunger Games style.

16 Dec 2013

Veteran & Cop Addresses the New York State “Safe Act” in Duchess County

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Hat tip to Christopher Buckley.

11 Dec 2013

New York Snow, 1899

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07 Nov 2013

Back to the Future

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NYC voted to go back to the 1970s, back to grafitti, squeegee men, and muggings. Dan Greenfield has some words of congratulation for NYC voters.

Do you miss the old New York City? Remember when subway trains were covered in graffiti, a news hour began with six shootings and everyone who lived in the city had been mugged at least once?

Remember when Times Square had more strip clubs than theaters and when you could afford an apartment in the village because it was a drug infested mess?

Remember when the city and everyone living in it were on the verge of bankruptcy and the only people who had money lived upstate or in a small cluster of Manhattan?

Remember when everything was grimy and had a layer of filth, when people moved to the city because they wanted to slum, when nothing worked and no one cared and the only difference between New York and Chicago was that it had taller buildings?

If you miss that classic New York, there’s good news because Bill de Blasio is bringing it back.

The muggers are coming back. The squeegee men are coming back. The crazy people randomly stabbing you on the subway, the gangs shooting each other over turf, the race rioters marching through neighborhoods and shouting, “Whose streets, our streets”– they’re all coming back.

Because the polls have spoken. And it’s De Blasio time now.

No more fascist cops hassling “innocent” people. Bill de Blasio won’t put up with any of that. De Blasio will put the cops in their place, inside a Dunkin Donuts and away from people. They’ll still get paid. They’re in a union. They just won’t lift a finger to help you because they’ll have more special monitors and civilian complaint review boards on their necks than they can handle.

And next time one of the innocent victims of Stop and Frisk is pounding your face into the sidewalk with one hand while digging through your pockets with the other, wave to the pair of beat cops sitting in the window of the coffee shop. And they’ll wave back without getting up. Because you voted for this. And you’re getting what you deserve.

Read the whole thing.

07 Sep 2013

Images of Old New York

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03 May 2013

Alfred Stieglitz, Winter, Fifth Avenue, 1893

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16 Jan 2013

Sad Story

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As the New York Post reports:

“It was his time to go.”

04 Nov 2012

New York Magazine Cover

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10 Sep 2012

New Yorkers Renovating Philly

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W.C. Fields (1880-1946) desired his tombstone epitaph to read: “On the whole, I would rather be in Philadelphia.”

Susan Gregory Thomas describes the latest neighborhood experiencing gentrification at the hands of desperate New York urbanistas seeking affordable living space: Philadeliphia.

We had a one-bedroom apartment, and our son lived in the dining room.” “Our window looked out onto a concrete courtyard of trash cans and roaches, and a rat came out of our toilet.” “We could only afford to live in Queens—why the hell would we move to Queens? For Indian food?” “Who cares about the Met, off-Broadway and the new ‘It’ restaurant if you can’t afford it, especially with young kids?”

Now, the responses to moving to Philadelphia: “We got a five-bedroom house with a yard and a pool for less than our cruddy apartment!” “Brooklyn says it’s diverse, but neighborhood by neighborhood, it’s not. In our neighborhood in Mount Airy, there are black kids, white kids, mixed kids, lesbian couples, mixed couples—it’s nirvana!” “We can do our work anywhere, so long as we’re within spitting distance of New York and D.C.—why the hell didn’t we come here earlier?”

It’s a haunting question. I, for one, felt that New York had become the protagonist in my life, entering as Holly Golightly-meets-Horatio Alger and, by the third act, morphing into Richard III. My kingdom, horse—all sacked by the Big Apple. This might explain why so many of us have the dazed look of returning veterans, though our battle was of the bourg-y socioeconomic variety. We lost it in New York, but we see hope in Philly.

You’ve seen us on playgrounds in Chestnut Hill and West Mount Airy, all in black, clutching espressos, waxing ecstatically about how “cheap!” and “pretty!” everything is here, while our Ramones-clad little ones run around giddily. We may look and sound insufferable, but the truth is, we’re stunned. Everything is so much nicer—the houses, the people, the landscape—that it can take months for post-traumatic effects to wane. To wit, on the first night in my new house, I stayed up all night unpacking kitchen boxes. At around 4 a.m., I heard a rattling sound. Oh, God, I thought. Rats. It was the automatic ice-cube-maker. I burst into tears.

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