E.B. White on the miracle that is New York:
It is a miracle that New York works at all. The whole thing is implausible. Every time the residents brush their teeth, millions of gallons of water must be drawn from the Catskills and the hills of Westchester. When a young man in Manhattan writes a letter to his girl in Brooklyn, the love message gets blown to her through a pneumatic tube — pfft — just like that. The subterranean system of telephone cables, power lines, steam pipes, gas mains and sewer pipes is reason enough to abandon the island to the gods and the weevils. Every time an incision is made in the pavement, the noisy surgeons expose ganglia that are tangled beyond belief. By rights New York should have destroyed itself long ago, from panic or fire or rioting or failure of some vital supply line in its circulatory system or from some deep labyrinthine short circuit. Long ago the city should have experienced an insolible traffic snarl at some impossible bottleneck. It should have perished of hunger when food lines failed for a few days. It should have been wiped out by a plague starting in its slums or carried in by ships’ rats. It should have been overhelmed by the sea that licks at it on every side. The workers in its myriad Cells should have succumbed to nerves, from the fearful pall of smoke — fog that drifts over every days from Jersey, blotting out all light at noon and leaving the high offices suspended, men groping and depressed, and the sense of world’s end. It should have been touched in the head by the August heat and gone off its rocker.
With all due respect to E.B. White and his three New Yorks, and my aforementioned four New Yorks, an addition. His:
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
4) The New York of the man or woman who was born somewhere else and came to New York never intending to stay
I’ll add a fifth:
Fifth, there is the New York of the man or woman who looks at the city each day as a miracle. Looks at it each day as a thing we’re getting for free, something that shouldn’t be, something that might not. But is. It’s here. And we get to be in it. Get in it. Be down in it, blotting out the mess, the light, the heat, the delays, and get the surprises. Sweeping up the past, running with strangers, ducking the fairs, in silence together. Fifth, is she who sees the magic that is the city, knowing that it never should work, really. But then it does. And she chooses it as her home.