Thursday, January 7, 2010

Before Argentina comes New York

Studying economics during a global financial meltdown in Europe made me look at New York City differently. It's a city with incredible wealth, even in a depression. It's more vibrant and free than its Euro counterparts. Most importantly, it's the city where some of my favorite people live.

I spent Christmas between Manhattan and the South Bronx, visiting Erika and Manny at their house with kids and dog and extended family. Then train down to Tisra's to meet friends for a singles Xmas with singing and guitars.

Xmas Eve involved my Uruguayan/Argentine homie Matias and good friend Elijah. We attended Heebonism in the LES, a very entertaining experience, especially with my affectionate friend playing the role of typical Argentine, PDA-ing all over the place.

There was the awkward immigration lawyer who tried to adopt us mid-kiss and then hit on me when Mati went to the bathroom. There were the women who talked to Jermaine and Elijah, asking if they were Jewish, when at any other function they wouldn't care a bit. But I've been there, like any J-event, a Heeb party includes an agenda. I advised the boys to lie.

From Buenos Aires to NYC has been weirder with each visit over the past 3 years. This time around I came from Central Europe and, well, it was a lot to try to take in. Each of the places I've spent time in are safe enough and offer a nice life. But living in each has its pluses and minuses that sort of break your heart, letting you see what one gives up in exchange for the global marketplace.

In the Paris subway, I found a spontaneous party on Saturday night.

What is clear after jumping from Argentina (where life is much like it was 50 years ago) to Europe and then to NYC is that having time in your day is the most valuable asset one can have. Italy has less than it did, last time I was there a decade ago. And it has all the problems that come with that loss. Bs As is painfully poor compared to Europe and people are caught between the benefits of not being a part of the global marketplace - having time and social dignity - and becoming increasingly impoverished as a result of falling far behind.

But I'm very unconvinced on the material front. I won't stay in Argentina forever, I think the divide of haves and have nots is going to get uglier in the coming years. And I miss old friends and family. But the people here have so much that we in the U.S. lost over the past couple of generations. They are rich on the human side, from not being scared of a stranger in the street, to having time to nurture relationships at home. They can spend hours working out a problem, until it is resolved and everyone involved is okay. Many people live three-generations to a house and they get along. Activities take place in groups and people really enjoy being together. All this in the big city they describe as stressful, fast and too modern. What would they call NYC?

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