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The Idle American
"Makin' It in New York..."
Wednesday, July 9, 2008 • Posted July 9, 2008

Few songs in the world of music have “held on” like the theme from the movie, New York, New York. The familiar tune holds classic status thanks to a trio of vocalists. Liza Minnelli was the high-energy star in the movie, and recordings by Tony Bennett and the late Frank Sinatra also made it big.

Whatever, I want to focus on a couple of lines in the lyrics: “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”

Perhaps it is a cynical New Yorker, weary of the influx of visitors overwhelming NYC in the summer months, handing out copies of a cartoon on the subway. It reads: “If you can make it there, go back!”…

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But millions who love to visit NYC are undeterred. They keep coming.

It is a city of intrigues because so many people want it to be. The big ladle in the world’s premiere melting pot continues to stir in the midst of hundreds of dialects. Someone said it’s a city where cultures and causes co-exist. Locals bark at each other daily, sometimes without a single bite.

Walking down Broadway for blocks on end, we catch ourselves whistling New York, New York over and again. As we near Ground Zero, rumbles and rattles, honks and whistles cease. As thousands pay respects daily to victims of the carnage that was 9/11, a hush prevails. A quiet hum of Amazing Grace falls from the lips of one guest; from another, there’s Danny Boy....

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We walk for the better part of three hours with native New Yorker Milton Norman, a semi-retired attorney who, with 300 or so other volunteers, offers free tours under the banner of “Big Apple Greeters.”

A World War II veteran, he loves his city and its history, applauding laws that protect landmarks. We tour several such buildings, marveling at the restoration of Grand Central Station.

A spiritual moment reigns at St. Paul’s Chapel, directly across the street from Ground Zero. Miraculously, it sustained no damage—not even a cracked windowpane. Though some buildings crumbled or were heavily damaged blocks away, St. Paul’s was spared. Tombstones in the 242-year-old adjacent graveyard also remain 100% intact. A single sycamore tree, one of several massive trees on the premises, failed to survive….

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Soon we return to sidewalks with teeming masses where push came to shove centuries ago. Now, hustle and bustle are locked in a dead heat.

We look and listen. Many of life’s best chapters are found on these sidewalks, in the shadows instead of the spotlight.

A family accompanying a youngster with her head heavily bandaged shares laughter. I catch snippets of their conversation, but here’s the bottom line: The teen has miraculously survived massive brain surgery. Her t-shirt message explains: “I have half a brain. What’s your excuse?”…

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A city where one loses count when tallying honks and/or gestures, NYC provides many studies in contradictions. In one neighborhood, honking is discouraged by law.

In fact, dire straits might be a minimum defense for horn-blowing.

Signs warn of $350 fines for honking….

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Ads are cutting-edge and definite head-turners. A pottery shop is called “Mud, Sweat and Tears.”

A laundromat sign encourages customers to carefully schedule filling of dirty clothes hampers.

The offer? “Free detergent on Tuesdays.”…

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I’m always glad to meet folks who re-define optimism. Providing such redefinition is Adrian Greenidge, doorman at the swank Millennium Broadway Hotel since it opened 18 years ago.

He has “Good mornings/afternoons” for each of the thousands who pass his way daily. One year, he won top doorman honors in both NYC and New York State.

You may remember that back in ’06, Charles Gibson, then a Good Morning, America host, switched places with a hotel doorman for a few hours during GMA’s 30th anniversary show. Greenidge, now spotted on the Millennium’s TV ad, was that doorman….

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Adrian remembers Gibson’s pitch to make the switch. He learned that the media celebrity arrives at work daily in a limousine.

The doorman said this would be just fine for him, too. So the limo driver picked him up, long before daylight, at Adrian’s home out in New Jersey.

While Adrian interviewed TV personalities, Charlie, decked out as a doorman, welcomed hotel guests and wrestled with luggage. Gibson said his chores that day were much tougher than TV duty….

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Our reasons for traveling to NYC were two-fold. What with the gas crunch worsening, it seemed a good idea to combine two vacations on one plane ticket.

We wanted to enjoy the city AND take a Caribbean cruise. Luckily, Carnival Cruise Line’s Miracle leaves from Manhattan every eight days during warm months.

The cruise is a grand experience, beginning with close-up views of the Statue of Liberty. We sail slowly for two days in the Atlantic Ocean before spotting the incomparably blue waters of the Caribbean….

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Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. He welcomes inquiries and comments. Send email: Phone: 817-447-3872. Website:

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