Sunday, January 8, 2017

275. Diversity in New York


         Recently someone asked me what I liked about New York.  Without hesitation I said, “The intensity … and the diversity.”  For the intensity, just watch New Yorkers striding purposefully to work in the morning; these people are doers.  For the diversity, consider: my new podiatrist is from India, and her assistant is from Guyana.  My dentist is a Chinese-American from Hong Kong, and her assistant is from Ecuador.  At election time instructions come to voters in English, Spanish, Chinese, and at least one other language – Japanese? Korean? – that I can’t identify. 

         But my health insurance plan tops this, since its monthly notice of claims filed includes phone numbers for translations into Spanish, French, French Creole, Italian, Russian, Portuguese, Polish, Arabic, Chinese, Cantonese Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Korean, Hindi, and Japanese.  So it is that I now know how to say “attention” – in the sense of “pay attention” -- in multiple languages, as for example 1. paunawa, 2. chú ´y, 3. atansyon, 4. uwaga, 5. atenção.  (Can you identify these five languages?  The answers are listed at the end of this post.)  And not long ago I met a woman specializing in international equity sales who is from Indonesia. 

         So it has always been.  Back in Dutch days, New Amsterdam was inhabited by Dutch, Walloons, Norwegians, Germans, Italians, Sephardic Jews, Huguenots from France, Bohemians, Africans both free and slave, English refugees from the puritanical New England colonies, Mohawks, Munsees, Montauks, and others – a population like no other on the continent.

         Let’s fast forward to 2016 and expand the notion of diversity.  When I went to a Mexican restaurant on Hudson Street recently, I took a table in front that gave me a good view of the front half of the restaurant.  Sitting at the bar were two men, obviously partners, who were talking briskly to a woman who was clearly a close friend.  At the end of the bar was a woman with long blond hair who was hunched over her mobile device, giving no heed to anyone or anything else.  At a table to my left was a Chinese-American gentleman with a Caucasian woman.  And to my right, at a large table against the wall, were four men, a three-year-old girl, and an infant.  One of the men was cradling the infant in his arms, while a younger man beside him looked on fondly; I gradually realized that this was a gay male couple with a child.  And the other two men?  One black and one white, they were sitting with their backs to me and with the three-year-old girl between them, and here again I gradually realized that this was a second gay male couple with a child. 

         At one point the three at the bar began talking with those at the table, with appropriate oohs and aahs over the two kids.  Then a heterosexual couple came in, the man with a dark beard and the woman with long blond hair, and sat at a table at a certain distance from the other diners, seemingly oblivious of them.  On the wall I noticed two signs:

DON’T  WORRY
BE  HAPPY

DEAR  SANTA
IS  IT  TOO  LATE
TO  BE  GOOD?

         Finally the two gay couples got up to leave, with all the bustle and to-do involved in preparing young children for the rigors of a wintry day: scarves, mittens, coats, and a stroller for the infant.  As they left, one of the men turned to me and said with a smile, “West Village – all the gay guys,” and departed.  The hetero couple was still dining quietly at their table, and the woman at the end of the bar was still hunched over her mobile device.  And the menu and the waiter were Mexican.

         A propos of diversity, this blog has been invaded again by the Russians.  For a recent week there were 875 Russian page views, versus 311 for the U.S.  And for the past month, 3063 Russian versus 1363 U.S.  At intervals, this has happened before, but why?  I have no idea; ask Putin.  And here, by country, are the top page views for the past week, a rather typical one:

U.S.                     247
France                   32
United Kingdom    21
Ukraine                 17
Germany               16
Russia                   12
Australia                 7
Indonesia                7
India                       7
China                      6   


         Answers to language quiz:

1.    Tagalog
2.    Vietnamese
3.    French Creole
4.    Polish
5.    Portuguese 

     Diversity -- that's what this city and this nation are all about.  Are you listening, Mr. Donald?


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          Browder poems: 
 For my short poem “I Crackle” and a stunning photo of me, go hereFor five acceptable poems, click here and scroll down.  To avoid five terrible poems, don't click here.  For my poem "The Other," inspired by the Orlando massacre, click here.   

          BROWDERBOOKS:  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World, my selection of posts from this blog, has received these awards: the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  For the Reader Views review by Sheri Hoyte, go here.  As always, the book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), my historical novel about a young male prostitute in the late 1860s in New York who falls in love with his most difficult client, is likewise available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.







         Coming soon:  The heartland vs. New York.  But what is “the heartland”?  The Midwest, where I’m from?   Anything between the two coasts?  The region where baseball is most popular?  We shall ponder.


         ©   2017   Clifford Browder