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Iconic New York

I was idly watching bits of ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ on TV the other night. There was one scene where Tom Hanks flies to NYC to retrieve his eight-year-old son Jonah who has himself flown to NYC to get to the top of the Empire State Bldg to meet the woman he wants his father to marry.

Tom Hanks jumps into a yellow cab at La Guardia and goes over the 59th St Bridge to get to the Empire State Bldg. A camera follows the cab from the side. You get this fantastic middle range view of the bridge, all beautifully ugly metal struts and cantilevers, and in the center of the screen the yellow taxi on the roadway moving right, seen first from the side quite close up, and then the camera pans away to the skyline of downtown East Side NYC (no Twin Towers, thank God).

Suddenly I got two dissonant but pleasant feelings: First I saw NYC as this iconic place that was all symbols and skyline, the way I thought about it before I got here, and viewed it after I arrived. And then I saw the NYC I was personally familiar with too — the place I lived in and traversed. And strangely, and quite undeservedly, I felt a flash of pride that I actually lived here.

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Serge Gainsbourg captures some of this in his song ‘New York USA’ which requires very little knowledge of French:

Jai vu New York

New York U.S.A.

Jai vu New York

New York U.S.A.

Jai jamais rien vu dau

Jai jamais rien vu daussi haut

Oh ! Cest haut, cest haut New York

New York U.S.A.

Empire States Building oh ! cest haut

Rockfeller Center oh ! cest haut

Internationnal Building oh ! cest haut

Waldorf Astoria oh ! cest haut

Panamerican Building oh ! cest haut

Bank of Manhattan oh ! cest haut

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