The city that is a goal

The city that is a goal

E.B. White outlines that there are roughly three New Yorks:

1) The New York of the man or woman who was born here
2) The New York of the commuter
3) The New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something

On the third:

[T]he greatest is the last — the city of final destination, the city that is a goal. It is this third city that accounts for New York’s high-strung disposition, its poetical deportment, its dedication to the arts, and its incomparable achievements. Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion. And whether it is a farmer arriving from Italy to set up a small grocery store in a slum, or a young girl arriving from a small town in Mississippi to escape the indignity of being observed by her neighbors, or a boy arriving from the Corn Belt with a manuscript in his suitcase and a pain in his heart, it makes no difference: each embraces New York with the intense excitement of first love, each absorbs New York with the fresh eyes of an adventurer, each generates heat and light to dwarf the Consolidated Edison Company.

I returned to visit the place I grew up this weekend to take a trip with my family. “Home” is how I’d referred to the place for years. Yet slowly there was that tension between the place you lived and the place you live, the “were” and the “is,” the past, the present, and perhaps the future. And “home” — a four-letter word of a different kind — transforms.

More than a decade ago, I arrived in New York, but never intended to stay. I might (if I may), say then there are roughly four New Yorks:

Fourth, there is the New York of the man or woman who was born somewhere else and came to New York never intending to stay. Of these four incomparable cities, it may be the fourth that is the most unflappable, the most infallible, the most loyal. You see it is she who has understood love of a city, of its natives, and its commuters, of its messy seams and its buttoned-up asphalt, of its uptown arts and its devoted downtown. And she’s been spat on and praised, she’s been carried home, and cheered on. It is she, who embraces the city, knowing she had a choice otherwise. Yet her goal is to make this her home.