For everyone, New York probably means different things. Some have to see the Statue of Liberty and eat a bagel on the street. I have heard stories about Afghan exchange students who visited New York on a trip. For one of them, Central Park was the ultimate proof that New York was real. He saw a picture of Central Park in a textbook when studied English. To him, Central Park became a vusual placeholder for America. Another exchange student was told by his professor that American freedom of speech is a propaganda they tell other countries, and it doesn’t exist. When he saw a huge library section on Shari’a law, his world was rocked. What would he say to his professor now?
To me, the real New York is the one that entered our pop culture. This is the kind of stuff that is not a central tourist attraction, like the Statue of Liberty, but subtle things that serve as a backdrop to the movies, TV shows, and books.
I didn’t realize it until I walked by the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I love the guy, but I’m not a zealous fan or anything like that. It’s just in that moment, I was connected to some far reality of show biz, of which I was always a passive observer. New York became real.