Disneyfication

Shake Shack began in my local park as a glorified hot dog cart. After seeing the popularity and hundred person lines, Danny Meyer opened his first shack location in Madison Square Park, and unwittingly began turning my neighborhood into a psuedo Disney for tourists- Times Square Light if you will.

Eataly came next, bringing people to my once quietish neighborhood where formerly architecture nuts would come to see the Flatiron building. Now the Flatiron building triangle is the least known thing about my area.

Lego store, whose windows impress me.

Friends Experience, which I freely admit I went to within a month of its opening.

And then the Grand Dame…The Harry Potter Store…which was so popular in the beginning you needed a ticketed number to come in and shop.

Of course, more food chains came to visit 23rd Street: Wendy’s, Dippin’ Dots, Krispy Kream…

Tourists. Tourists. More Tourists…

Which is very good for the very local economy. And not so good if you liked your neighborhood on the quiet side. You see, I’m torn as to whether or not your neighborhood becoming really popular is a good thing or a bad.

My neighborhood has always been a draw for TV and movies- many things have been filmed in my neighborhood, and while I delight in seeing my local haunts on screens both big and small, I don’t know if I want tour busses in here showing the “sights”- after all, this is the place where I live, not a Kodak moment sort of place. Sometimes having to walk Betty three blocks out of my way because they happen to be filming “Billions” could get a tad annoying. And yes, I realize how precious that sounds, my tough life of having to maneuver around film shoots, and have locals wonder if my hat and sunglasses are hiding a famous face (because seriously- the best way to spot a celeb in Manhattan is to look closely at the person in a hat and sunglasses trying to walk by unobserved) but seriously, try walking down the street and having to avoid the line to Friends and then run into a large group taking up the entire sidewalk…when you have fifteen pounds of goods from the Farmer’s Market and your little dog too, it’s not exactly the happiest moment on earth.

And every time something new and marvelous opens up within five square blocks of my little world, I begin to think how Times Square was once just hookers and drugs…and now literal costumed characters walk around, and there’s an M&M store (Ok- I think it’s still open, but I can’t guarantee it’s not a COVID casualty) Is my neighborhood going to morph into that?

I think about how Taxi Driver was filmed literal blocks from my apartment on streets that I wander every day…

And I’m glad crime is down from that era, and my biggest fear is it rising again to those levels…

But do I want it to be because we’ve become some sort of Theme Park attraction…the happiest dirty place on earth?

So I remain unsure as to how I feel about the changes in my neighborhood- first gradual now seemingly all at once. I want my local purveyors to live long and prosper, but I don’t know if I love the cost.

But I do want you to come and see the Flatiron Building, because it is wonderful. And while you’re at it, check out the view of uptown and downtown from that spot, because that is what differentiates us from other cities, other places. And then walk about eight blocks north to find the best Korean places, or northeast for some awesome Indian, south for all sorts of other ethnic cuisine…Get a doughnut from Dough. Ice Cream from Van Leeuwen. And do try the original Shake Shack- it’s clearly the best of the chain. If you want to see New York, you should see New York…as well as all that other stuff.

The Fit

We use clothes to help us fit in.

Period.

Even if we are brimming with confidence, many of us feel the need to look the part. One of my NYC friends will be attending a wedding in ruralish North Carolina this fall. When I was talking to her the other day, she was already obsessing. And the wedding isn’t till October.

“I have nothing to wear!” She whined.

“How about that cute black dress” I asked

“Gee. I won’t stand out like a New Yorker at all in that…”

And this went back and forth for awhile, her ruling out every dress she owned and me asking her to video chat her closet to me so I could talk her off the wall. She became obsessed with wanting to fit in, though she had absolutely no idea what fitting in would entail. I asked  her “what about the nice navy, just wear it with a chunky heel neutral shoe”, because I’m betting outdoors will be involved in some way. She started trolling clothing websites no matter what I said. And I could already envision her putting the new dress up for sale on her local Mom website because she was going to buy a dress she didn’t like just because of her need to be part of the group.

This is where dressing for yourself and dressing for the occasion and location collide.

Sure- we have some sort of inbred desire to be part of the group. I’m going to say it’s probably something to do with our evolutionary need to survive- fitting in is sort of like camouflage- if we blend in we won’t get hunted. And by hunted I mean talked about. No one wants to walk into a room and feel that everyone is talking about them. And if we don’t feel comfortable in what we are wearing, if we feel out of place, we’re going to think that every conversation entails people saying “Can you believe she’s wearing that?”  Every time someone looks at us we think they’re staring with disdain and derision. If we don’t feel like we’re part of the group we’re going to check the mirror about a thousand times, pull down hems, readjust sleeves….and be miserable…

I get wanting to fit in via clothes. And traveling to a different environment cements this in. I can tell a tourist in NYC by their clothes. Just like you can tell I’m a tourist when I visit someplace else. Different parts of the country have different dress codes. But how much do we accede to regional dress? If we visit the southwest do we immediately put on cowboy boots? If we go south do we wear pastels? Do we automatically shift to our environment? Change the camouflage? Seek to fit in?

I will tell anyone visiting NYC in the spring to have waterproof shoes and layers. But that’s not to fit in: that’s about being comfortable with the varied weather patterns that NYC presents. I would never tell someone to just pack black. To me fitting in means being ready for the weather.

When we visited different parts of the country last summer I did not bring “Southern” clothes or “Midwest” clothes. I brought my clothes. My collection of black, grey and olive t shirt dresses. My comfy black sandals. My white sneakers. I did bring a function over form bag that I don’t normally use at home, but that was because I really needed the function. And I didn’t care that people knew where I was from before I opened my mouth and my accent spewed out. I was OK with my way of dressing. I am OK with my way of dressing.

When you travel, you travel. The person that you are. Just wear what makes you comfortable and happy. The rest will fall into place.

Though really- there’s nothing wrong with a nice pair of cowboy boots…