There was a time in New York City when the heart was Southern, and if your didn’t have Southern blood like Truman Capote, Harper Lee or Willa Carther, you were probably not that good. It was a golden age for magazines with Mississippi’s Willie Morris at Harper’s, North Carolina’s Harold T.P. Hays at Esquire and Howell Raines at the New York Times. In his comment Bloomberg, who grew up in a tribal Boston suburb where everyone was identified by their ethnicity; Jewish, Irish, Italian, WASP, shows all the sophistication of the current batch of provincials at the New York Times who see “Jesus land” as a boiling pot of fascism, and like Ilsa in “Casablanca,” long for Paris. But – jut, alors! – the train has left the station. Even the English today ditch the accent when they move to Hollywood, otherwise it will mean low theater like Dancing with the Stars or Fox news. A successful New York or Chicago politician would in the formal model of “Miller’s Crossing,” hook up with an Irish sidekick to enter the native world of intuition. Bloomberg’s got one. We’re supposed to have that primordial nature thing although we couldn’t organize a cat fight.
New York City is, as Bloomberg says, the greatest city in the world. But it is an American city and any New Yorker who doesn’t’ understand that is provincial and locked in the nostalgia of the Grand Tour. It is sometimes a condition of us Boston ethnics, last to arrive at the table and late for dinner. Sociologists say we look back for three generations to Ireland, Poland, Germany, China or wherever we came from. Then we become Americans. In this regard, Italian New Yorker Rudy Giuliani, who was not that long ago married in Graceland I have heard, the capital of Jesus land, is the more American, the less provincial of New York’s recent mayors. New York is closer to Nashville than it is to Paris. It must be.
Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg’s Irish sidekick, might present for the mayor and his helpers a kind of cultural sensitivity training, for those stuck in this shadow of history. Bring them against their will to watch a few Toby Keith videos (“I love this bar,” Wayman’s Song), and sit in on a few sermons by Pastor Hagee. Suggested reading: W.J.Cash’s “Mind of the South,” John Hope Franklin and C. Vann Woodward’s “The Burden of Southern History.” Start the session with the Taylor Swift happy dance. (Which incidently, has 40 million hits on You Tube.)
Where Bloomberg and I grew up ethnicity and prejudice formed our consciousness. We Irish were taught that Southern white people were inferior to us as they were inbred and dangerous. We Irish were taught that Jews were naturally smarter than we were and had to be watched because they would take over everything. We have found great personal success in a collective generational ego fueled by post-war dollars, but the new Rubin Museum in Chelsea aside, Mike Bloomberg’s New York City is more provincial and less fierce, less artistically driven and mature than the New York days of Pollock, Capote, Alfred Kazin, D.T. Suzuki and Kenneth Burke; than the New York of high-church lawyers who shook the world like Telford Taylor and street fighters like Norman Mailer. But they smoked in those days. The artist today might do better to follow the endless child Tintin to Tibet.
Possibly the WASPS saw us coming and just let us in when they moved to Texas, much as the Southern planters did when they handed the plantations over to the black field hands at the end of the Civil War, and headed west.
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