27 September 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Autumn in New York: Advising a Japanese Friend about NYC

This conversation took place between me and a student in a cafe in Yokohama:

Student: So, I have some news.

Me: What is it?

Student: My company is sending me to New York at the end of October!

Me: Really? That’s great news!

Student: Is it?

Me: Well, yeah. Aren’t you excited?

Student: A little…but I’m worried too.

Me: About English?

Student: Yeah, my English not good.

Me: Don’t worry, half the people in New York are not native speakers.

Student: Really?

Me: Maybe more. Many can’t speak English at all. So, no one is gonna freak out if you confuse “A” and “The”. Don’t worry.

Student: Well, I’m also worried about…eeeto ne…

Me: What?

Student: Well, they give you too much food in America. I am Japanese. In Japan we have small portions but in America everything is so much bigger.

Me: You’re worried about too much food?

Student: Chotto ne (A little)

Me: Well…that’s an easy one, too. When you go out, if they give you too much food, then eat til you are full and tell the staff to put the rest in a Doggy Bag.

Student: Doggy Bag???

Me: Yeah…it’s like take away. You can eat the leftovers for lunch the next day. Or, you can even give it to your dog. Hence, doggy bag. You’ll actually be saving money. Too much food is good news.

Student: I see…

Me: Any other concerns? This is fun…

Student: Well, safety. I don’t know which areas are safe and which are dangerous.

Me: Hmmmm…

Student: Muzukashii deshou? (difficult, right?)

Me: Yes, that’s a difficult one. New York is a totally different environment from Yokohama. Totally. All I can say is you need to learn to be alert without being paranoid, to embrace the risk as part of the experience. If not, you’ll wind up hiding in some Japanese enclave in New Jersey and it’ll be like you never let Japan.

Student: Enclave?

Me: Picture Chinatown, with Japanese, and a kinokuniya.

Student: Ah, sokka. But I don’t know…

Me: Listen, you gonna have to do basically the same thing foreigners here have to do in order to have a fulfilling experience: make friends. Native friends, or at least Japanese who’ve been in NY a long time and speak English and haven’t retired to the enclave. If you have trouble meeting people, let me know. I’ll hook you up. I got a bunch of friends in New York who’d probably get a kick outta hanging with you and showing you the ropes.

Student: The ropes?

Me: Like a navigator through life in New York.

Student: Really? You’ll do that for me?

Me: Of course, why not? You’re a good guy! But, you gotta leave your presumptions and preconceptions here in Japan. Everything you think you know about Americans, or New Yorkers, is probably wrong. Matter of fact I can guarantee most of them are wrong. So, don’t bring that crap to New York. Just open your mind and see what there is to see. And I’m sure my people will like you.

Student: ok

Me: Try to think of New York like….like a roller coaster. But not like a typical roller coaster where you know that 2 minutes later you’ll be safely back at the station. More like a roller coaster that sometimes switches tracks, and sometimes doesn’t go back to the same station, but takes you to another station somewhere on the other side of the theme park, or maybe even outside the park…

Student: Eeee!

Me: New York can be unpredictable, is my point. But, the unpredictability is part of what makes it so exciting. You just never know what’s gonna happen. Unless you’re a native like me. We’ve been there done that, so it’s not so much of an adventure for us anymore. But, for you? Mannnnn, I envy you!

Student: Really?

Me: Yeah, I can never experience New York the way you’re going to experience New York. All wide-eyed and bushy tailed, naive and whatnot. You’re gonna have the time of your life, if you let it happen.

Student: You really think so?

Me: I know so! And you’re going the perfect time of year, too! End of October, you’ll miss the heatwave of summer and be just in time for Fall. Autumn in New York is the best time, my favorite time. It’s so…beautiful.

Student:  You ok?

Me: Yeah. I’m fine. I was just thinking about Billie Holiday…

Student: Who’s that? Your friend?

Me: You could say that…

Student: You sure you ok?

Me: Autumn in New York…is often mingled with pain…

Autumn in New York, why does it seem so inviting?
Autumn in New York, it spells the thrill of first-nighting
Glittering crowds and shimmering clouds in canyons of steel
They’re making me feel I’m home
It’s autumn in New York that brings the promise of new love
Autumn in New York is often mingled with pain
Dreamers with empty hands may sigh for exotic lands
It’s autumn in New York
It’s good to live it again
Autumn in New York, the gleaming rooftops at sundown
Autumn in New York, it lifts you up when you’re let down
Jaded roués and gay divorcees who lunch at the Ritz
Will tell you that it’s divine
This autumn in New York transforms the slums into Mayfair
Autumn in New York, you’ll need no castle in Spain
Lovers that bless the dark
On benches in Central Park
Greet autumn in New York
It’s good to live it again

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