I was walking down Broadway. My father and mother had taken me and my brother Andy to see the Easter show matinee at Radio City Music Hall, and then on our way back to Port Authority to catch the bus back to Paterson, New Jersey, we stopped at the old Lindy’s for a cheesecake before leaving town.
We had a waiter named Scotty who spoke with a thick burr. When he overheard our conversation about the difference between New York cheesecake and Italian cheesecake, he told us his last name: Di Felice! He was born in Edinburgh of Italian immigrant parents, and migrated to New York just after World War II. I still have the little green cream pitcher he gave me as a souvenir.
I remember what I was wearing — a blue and white hound’s tooth check coat over a dress my mother had made, black patent leather marjanes with white socks that turned down at the tops and were trimmed with lace, and a little straw hat decorated with navy blue velvet ribbon and silk flowers. After we left the restaurant and continued down Broadway toward 42nd Street and the bus terminal, evening had fallen on the Great White Way. Holding my mother’s hand (we were both wearing white gloves), I looked up at her and said, “Mommy, when I grow up, I am going to live here.”
“Yes, dear,” she said, but I could tell she didn’t believe me.
But I had no doubts whatsoever. I was already in love. With New York.
I still am.
I understand patriotism as a concept. The United States is a great country. Its Constitution is a sacred text. But my heart does not swell when I hear “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It does when I hear “New York, New York.”
Here is the beginning of Woody Allen’s movie “Manhattan.” It describes exactly what it means to be head over heels for this place.