(Originally published March 16, 2011 on my old website)
The following commentary didn’t make it onto the Mad Atoms “Biggie vs. Tupac” page. I hope you enjoy the rejected piece. I wrote it back when temperatures were a lot lower in NYC.
Question: What do New Yorkers think of L.A.?
Answer: We don’t.
Now this may be hard for some Mad Atoms readers to accept at first. I can understand the hesitation. The Biggie vs. Tupac section lays out evidence for an ongoing beef between the East and West coasts. In their rap battles of the mid-90s, Brooklyn-born Biggie flexed some stupendous and lispy fuck-yous. And Manhattan-born Pac talked a lot of (poetic) shit. But we New Yorkers—unlike the two eponyms for this section—don’t care enough to craft comebacks or make cases for our supposed superiority.
Take “Street Cynic: New York,” where R. Will Burns writes about his first trip to New York City. Here is a man who cares so much about making “fun of the biggest city in America” that he books a flight across the country, it seems, just for that purpose. And during his trip, what’s the best takedown Burns can come up with? A guido. Burns flies all the way to New York City and meets a guido.
And how about Hillel Aron’s “Yankee Go Home!”? Another Mad Atoms contributor, Aron takes a more vitriolic approach in his rant. He doesn’t hold back when he takes impatient, car-less, “cavemen” New Yorkers to task for “this whole macho thing going on with cold weather.” Oh yeah—and according to Aron, the biggest assholes seem to be the ones who did not die on September 11,2001!
It’s 26 degrees Fahrenheit today. New York City is a cold, lip-chapping motherfucker. But the low temperatures—which always surprise New Yorkers, even though winter returns each year—aren’t the reason we don’t think about you, Los Angeles. (Hey, we don’t think about you during the warmer seasons either.) The thing is that while reflecting on the differences between L.A. and New York might fill five minutes at an open mic, the whole exercise is pretty hack. Isn’t it?
Don’t get me wrong; we don’t think about Tokyo or London or Paris either. Of course, we’ve been to those places—we’ve even been to L.A.—and we have plans to go back. But we don’t measure ourselves against other cities. I can’t imagine even a speck of my identity resting on whether my city has tastier Mexican, worse traffic, or hotter women (that other men are fucking)…
You really think about this shit?
But now that I think about it some more, New York is kind of like the father who abandoned you. You grow up wondering what you did wrong. Later, your guilt turns to hate. And you script out the encounter you want to have with the man. For years you work on this scene, rewriting it so that you’re stronger on each pass. You’ve even shown the script to your close friends, and later, to strangers. You’ve worked on it for so long that you can only accept one ending to that destined encounter: your father begs you for forgiveness.
But what you can’t imagine is that the man who abandoned you—contrary to the story you’ve crafted—hasn’t thought about you at all. No love. No hate. No regret. That motherfucker’s cold.
Yeah, New York’s kinda like that. And I don’t see it warming up anytime soon. Sorry, kid. Stock up on the ChapStick®.