When I fist visited New York City from my hometown of Portland, Oregon, at the age of 18, it was as though I found the source of gravity that had been affecting my life from afar all those years -- here were the offices of The New Yorker, the magazine which I had struggled to understand in my middle school library; here were the museums and hotels and news networks I had heard of so many times. Even Theater 80 St. Marks, which caused me to stop dead in the street upon seeing in person for the first time, because it was always the first listing in the film revivals section of The New Yorker. So famous, in my mind, and yet they kept it right there on the street, and the seemingly unknowing citizens just passed it by.
These day, I think the cultural gravity of New York City may be so strong that it risks becoming -- not a black hole, where nothing can get out -- but another kind of overgrown astral body, perhaps a planet with gravity so intense that regular mortals find it impossible to do more than struggle along the ground most days.
Recently, Portland residents have noticed that The New York Times has become fascinated with our city: coffee culture, carts that sell everything from Bangkok street food to fine crepes stuffed with artisanal ham, automated public restrooms, art fairs. The Times observes that no book store in New York compares with Powell's here in little Portland, Oregon, and sighs.
It makes me think that New York is envious of a city where the gravity is so light that new culture can actually form like bubbles and rise to the sky. How long has it been since a cultural phenomenon began and grew in New York? There are hip-hop, gay balls, punk rock -- but those famously began in the outer boroughs, not Manhattan. Has New York's gravity become so heavy that nothing new can grow?
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