One of my very good friends, who is also a coworker, loves New York City and started ribbing me for saying that “London may be the greatest city in the world”. This despite the fact I was sharing frou-frou chocolates from Harrods and plain old Cadbury’s milk chocolate from Sainsbury’s. (After tasting the Cadbury’s chocolates, I must agree that it tastes better than its American cousin and Hersheys, too.)
I ♥ NY, too — and it’s a lot closer to Boston than London — but I’m going to stick to my story here. To be fair, let’s admit that New York has the edge when it comes to tall buildings and shopping and nightlife and quirky neighborhoods. There are more museums and galleries than you can hope to visit in a month. It’s the capital of fashion and contemporary art and publishing and consumer culture. Central Park is perfect, especially when you want to escape all the great things about the city. The trains go express. Yankee Stadium is almost as much fun as Fenway. Everybody in the world lives there, the food is great, and the world’s best photography store is on 9th Avenue between 33rd and 34th. And there’s no attitude in the world quite like the ones you’ll find in the five boroughs and Jersey. New York is the best city built on a grid in the world.
But London . . . I could live in London. It adds beauty to function, gentility to urbanity, livability to opportunity. New York encompasses and influences the whole world; London integrates it. On our first train ride we heard people talking in English, Hindi, Nigerian, Russian, Chinese, Polish, German, Dutch, and others I’m probably forgetting. London has fantastic style in type, design, and dress. New York has parks; London has parks with palaces. London is quieter, cleaner. And let’s face it: Londoners are nice.
Perhaps it comes down to this: New York is built on its own money and energy, while London became great largely through empire and capitalizing on other people’s goods, land, and labor. The American part of me salutes and revels in New York despite its coarseness. The human part of me loves London despite its past.