Diverse City

11 Nov

My 6:15am, early morning commute is almost all Black people and Latinos, on the subway from Brooklyn. Many working men (from conversations, and from dress, and from tool boxes and such that I often see). Many nurses (from the shoes, always the shoes give away nurses). Of course, many people who could be rich as sin, but about whom I know nothing. Almost no Wall Street types, who I am guessing take cars into work. The demographics shift as we move from Brooklyn, through lower Manhattan, to the 110th street stop where I like to get off and walk up the rest of the way to work.

Today, I had a seat, which happens often but not always at such an early time, so far out from Manhattan. A White woman, red hair, seated across the aisle, proceeded to transform herself from an obvious sleep-over, or out-all-nighter, to a more conventional presentation. 20 public minutes of foundation, cream, mascara, blush, lipstick, earrings, a fuss of a hair brushing and grooming. The Black woman next to me was spread out and full-on fake sleeping, so as to prevent another person from squeezing into the space between us. Tinny rap music from the guy on my other side, headphones in and turned up. Older Black man, distinguished graying beard, tapping his fingers to the tune in my neighbor’s ear. By the doors, a Sikh man, wearing turban, studying from a textbook, stood next to an observant Jew, wearing Kippah, studying something in Hebrew on flash cards.

By the time I get to work in Morningside Heights, I’ve heard at least three different languages. My commute is utterly banal (as a commuter), and utterly fascinating (as an observer of the world).

Sometimes we talk about leaving New York, heading for some place more livable, less expensive, easier to raise the kid that’s coming down the pike (or more specifically, coming down the canal, or else out the abdominal cavity). Things here are often a pain, there’s never enough of anything, so you are constantly fighting for space, attention, the last copy of the Onion.

But I find such pleasure in the diversity of this city. I am awash in it. And having grown up in a suburb where diverse means some Jews, some Asians, and a couple of Black people, I don’t know how we are going to be able to leave New York. I want my kid to know about this. I want this to be the normal.

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2 Responses to “Diverse City”

  1. Ivy November 11, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    Just for the record, I’d like to point out that Brooklyn is not located in the most diverse county in the United States. That distinction is held by a glorious borough to the north, which last I heard, had some pretty awesome people moving to it and quite a few lovely homes for sale.

  2. Anonymous November 23, 2010 at 10:04 pm #

    You go boy.

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