The sun was just beginning to set, and the humidity lift, as I strolled along a path, coming upon a small dog park on the west side of Madison Square Park, just under the shadow of the highly-photographed Flatiron Building. The urge to people watch suddenly struck me so I plopped down on a bench and watched the pet owners come and go, all the while wondering if they would one day come to look more like their dog than they had hoped when they purchased the animal.
I sniggered at this a bit, but then the music started and quickly distracted me from my thoughts. I leaned to the left on the bench, peering around a row of bushes, and saw a deep green lawn covered in blankets and people with a stage at the far end. Apparently it was a free music night in the park and I was just in time to see the Celtic band Solas take the stage. And surrounding them was a crowd of New Yorkers intent on enjoying a beautiful night after a likely long day at work.
I slid over on my bench and gazed at the spectacle as it had drawn a sizeable audience that I had missed in my silent mocking bliss of pet owners out for an evening stroll. As I enjoyed the evening and music the thought crossed my mind how it might just be possible that I was enjoying the cliche, as I’ve read in so many articles, of doing New York like a New Yorker.
Was this possible? I mean, I’m not from New York, so can I really do New York like a New Yorker?
I balked at the idea and continued to tap my toe to the music, ultimately getting energized enough to walk the paths through the rest of the small park. As I did so I came to the conclusion that I actually was doing New York just like a New Yorker at that moment as there were obviously very few tourists in the park, the bulk still across the street taking photos of the Flatiron Building bathed in the setting sun.
As I walked I wrestled with the idea that of it being possible for me to do not just this city, but any city, like a local. After all, I don’t live and work there, so how exactly is it possible for me to cross the line from hotel guest and visitor to an actual New Yorker?
I shrugged at the question and kept on my way to the Shake Shack, a suggested snack stop while I was in the park. And when I finally found it, at the end of a line that as long as my…well, a long line, I decided to say, “Screw it, I’m not New Yorker enough to stand in that line,” and continued on my way, all the while enjoying my first night in the big city by not doing it like a New Yorker.