What does it say about a city when people are secretive about watching a guy juggling on the sidewalk?
I lived in New York City for most of the first 24 years of my life. On a recent (and fun) visit I was on the phone with a friend and caught myself saying that New York City was boring.
The vibrancy of New York City contrasts starkly with that of Austin. The sensation of energy and life in New York seems to be driven largely by materialism and I get the impression that many peoples’ public and private lives are radically different. Gentrification and skyrocketing housing prices have muted the bohemian nature of the city and the hustle of city life feels more like a busyness than a verve. New York’s art and cultural institutions haven’t gone anywhere but its residents are no longer the colorful characters who gave Greenwich Village its 1960’s reputation.
Austin’s energy feels friendly and personal. Its residents seem happy in themselves and share that spark with others. Pretentiousness isn’t tolerated and weirdness is not only accepted but embraced and encouraged. The city is robust and happening while being manageable and accessible.
I spent a large part of my time in New York walking around and juggling. People watched me, took photos and shot video but most tried to pretend that they weren’t looking. I juggle for my enjoyment and for the enjoyment of others. I like it when people have fun and interact. Juggling around Austin sparks constant conversation. People want to try it out, ask questions, say “sweet trick!” or point out the funny-looking guy to their toddlers. The keep-to-yourself nature of New York City fosters an environment of discomfort and fuels the urban loneliness that many bemoan.
Manhattan needs to chill out. Normal New Yorkers, you should move here. Bring your air conditioners.
ps – To my friends in New York, I think you are cool.