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Your New York is Not My New York

I recently had the opportunity to fly to New York to cover a preview concert of Jennifer Higdon’s new opera Cold Mountain at the Guggenheim museum, put on by Santa Fe Opera.  I was having a drink in the bar the night before the concert with two of the publicity folks for Santa Fe and one, who had gone to school in New York, was talking about how amazed she was that her friends wanted to do completely different things while in the city than she did.

I agreed and said it’s always interesting how so many people have different ideas of fun, that your New York is not their New York.  I was reminded of this today when I got an email from a musician friend of mine who’s playing with “the best musicians in Chicago” and I didn’t recognize a single name. I don’t doubt that they’re great musicians, I was just surprised that, after so many years living here, there’s still so much more to the city than I’ll ever know.  His Chicago is not my Chicago.

I remember moving here in 1995 and being overwhelmed at first, but humans have a curious ability to break down overwhelming things and make them manageable.  First I moved to the north side of the city which cut it in half, then I settled in one neighborhood which, like so many Chicagoans, I rarely leave, and the city became manageable.  But it also became a reflection of me to a certain degree.

I cut myself off from the parts of the city that are not like me and then assume that Chicago is like me, that it’s my city.  But of course there are millions of people living only a few miles away who experience the city in a completely different way.  One of the advantages of city life should be that we seek out new parts of the city, new lifestyles and points of view, that we explore other people’s experiences of our city and don’t stay stuck within our own metaphorical city which is really a metaphor for our self-imposed ignorance.

Not saying I’ll get around to doing this of course, not during Game of Thrones season anyway. It’s just been on my mind.  Of course, your Game of Thrones is not my Game of Thrones either.

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