The Fantasies and The Realities

Yeah, this is a lot of blog writing of late. You know my large blog reading public, let’s not question this. Your hero has not abandoned you. Rather, she has to dwell in the world in which she makes money to keep this little bloggy blog going.

So I’m going to write about New York and my rather complex relationship with that town. In a deviation from my usual gloomy musings, this will be a funny entry. I mean I hope this will be a funny entry. I’m doing my best here.

I recently met up with a friend who recently moved to New York from Spain. We had a great conversation about my hometown, in that I even have one of those. As I have written a myriad of entries about, I have a complicated relationship with the city of New York. Oh no, I am not writing “New York City.” That always smacks of being a non native. So with my friend, we discussed the major points about living in New York — the subway, the perpetually angry people and well, you know, food. Food plays a major part in any discussion of any place. My friend told me he really liked the pastrami at Katz’s Deli, so I know he’s got his priorities straight.

We also got onto the topic of where I grew up in Manhattan. I keep a lid on these sorts of things, but now, now I can openly admit this. I grew up on the Upper East Side. Yes. THAT Upper East Side. No, we weren’t rich. Believe me. I was there. I don’t mean weren’t “weren’t rich” in the way that our summer house was smaller than our neighbors in the Hamptons and our private jet was bought used. We weren’t poor per se but we got to live there because of the giant brain at the center of our story of coming to America. When I told my friend about my well hidden past, semi heading towards New Yorker-dom, goes — you are a Gossip Girl!!!!! Gossip Girl. Look I love a good headband, I try to keep my fashions on point when I’m not wearing sweatpants and I have severe Serena Vander Woodsen hair envy. There, I said it. When my friend and I got onto the topic of Gossip Girl, I told him the biggest secret — he needed to become familiar with this absolutely genius column that ran in New York Magazine for the entirety of the show that started as a simple recap but evolved into something totally, totally genius. It was called the Fantasy-Reality index where the in house NYMag experts evaluated whether or not the things in the weekly Gossip Girl episodes were realistic in New York or were they some kind of fantasy.

Now lemme digress here for a second. Fantasy New York has a good side and a bad side. The good side is when you see the beautiful side of the city, night shots, the remnants of the old New York. And yes, the subway is as bad as people make it out to be. I wouldn’t board unless you are up to date on all of your immunizations. People do randomly yell things at no one in particular in the city. In Coming to America, where African prince Hakeem chooses to live in Queens to find his queen, he opens his windows to greet the city dwellers in the morning and he is met by a native screaming some not family friendly language. Ok that is not fantasy.

Now the bad side. Ok, so out of town trains go to Pennsylvania station, not Grand Central. For some reason, every television and cinematic production feels the need to have people arriving from Ohio de-train in Grand Central Station. So did they switch trains and take Metro North from Wassaic or New Haven? Pennsylvania Station is an ugly little rabbit warren and I get why movies don’t want to film there. But could they put in a disclaimer saying that no Amtrak trains go to Grand Central? Next, people who work regular people jobs usually live in apartments that may have bathtubs or showers in the kitchen. It is not possible to live in a palatial apartment with an amazing view of the city on an intern’s salary, never mind the salary of a person who does something like work in media. I mean it’s possible to live in an apartment in New York on a very small salary if you aren’t really stuck on having an in unit bathroom. I’m not joking. That was a recent headline in The New York Times, when discussing the residential life situation in New York — how important is an in-unit bathroom to you? Next, you don’t meet-cute a guy in the grocery store. Or anywhere else for that matter. Oh and my personal favorite. You DO NOT cross the Queensborough Bridge when entering the city from wherever. For some reason, everyone needs to cross that bridge, whether they are coming from that direction or not.

Ok, enough. Let’s get back to our main point, thesis statement, whatever. So eventually around season 2, possibly three I started watching Gossip Girl exclusively to be able to trace the week’s New York inaccuracies. Then I would compare my list with what was on the NYMag fantasy-reality index. Oh and they called the program “The Greatest Show of Our Time.” Now you gotta understand something. To quote some guy in a funny hat I saw one time in a documentary, everyone in New York, whether you are geographically there or just there in spirit, everyone in that city is some kind of an animal. Nothing much unites us, but the fantasy-reality index united us in a way nothing ever did before. Is this hyperbole? Yeah, maybe.

Now sadly the show went off the air in 2012, and Dan Humphrey was Gossip Girl the whole time, even if a lot of the show’s plot lines wouldn’t have made sense if that were true. But I mean was I really watching the show for the plot lines? No, as is obvious from the paragraphs above. I was watching it so I could read the fantasy reality index the next day. Like a normal person.

Thankfully, the fantasy-reality index lives on in digital form and no word of a lie here, I am surprised that the thing didn’t win a Pulitzer or at the least the Nobel Prize for Literature, which can be awarded for an overall body of work. The fantasy-reality index was an absolute work of genius. NYMag is a total scream but I gotta tell you NYMag if you happen upon this blog one day, about 90% of the reason I even have a subscription to your magazine is so I can re-read the fantasy-realities indexes. After the last episode of the Greatest Show of Our Time, the writers of the index got some quotes from the actors and background people on the show. These quotes describe the index better than I ever could.

Blair had a Polish maid named Dorota and I have a bone to pick with the producers of the show about their depiction of Polish people on the show but Dorota got some choice lines, got to scheme, yelled at Blair in Polish occasionally and was played by an actual Polish person. The actress Zuzanna Sadowski had this to say about the greatest index of the Greatest Show of Our Time — I have actually been known to get to the NYMag site too early on a Tuesday and to have to refresh, refresh, refresh until the recap comes up. I know perfection can’t be rushed. In one episode of the aforementioned greatest show, Serena wore this odd dress that featured a rhombus framing her décolletage. The fantasy-reality index called it a “cleavage rhombus” and yes, I have stolen this and repurposed it for humorous possibilities.

A personal favorite of mine was an episode of Gossip Girl, where Bart Bass, who was you know, dead for a while, suddenly returns and goes to a brothel in Briarcliff. Now those of you in my reading public, Briarcliff is a tidy hamlet in an area called Westchester, where cruel fate deposited me for a rather unremarkable stint as a surly teenager. I played field hockey in Briarcliff and I will tell you this much. I saw no brothels there when I was there swinging a field hockey stick. This was a personal small laugh for me, as my time in Westchester is long over, consigned to the same trash heap as my Trapper Keeper and those Guess jeans I thought were so cool as an eighth grader. I have met in the past 20 or so years, fewer than five people from Westchester so jokes about Briarcliff, field hockey and brothels, well, I had to keep them to myself. Alas though, the fantasy-reality index was good enough to mention the Briarcliff reference and I for a second felt less alone. See, again, truly great literature has the power to unite all of us.

Well anyway, you’ve read down to here and seriously, I commend you because I have gone on for a while. As a reward, here are some fantasy looking pictures I took on a recent trip to the more realistic than fantasy town so nice they named it twice:

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