Manhattan?


"Where do you live?"

What do you do? Where do you live? When you go to an event, those are some of the first questions people who don't know you ask you. They can be nice ice breaker questions. They open up the conversation.

Where do you live? That can also be a question asked by someone who really prides himself/herself in knowing the names of many different neighborhoods in the city. When I was new in the city, I did not realize that. I'd say I live in the city. Then I started saying I live in Brooklyn. People would say, where in Brooklyn? I'd say near Prospect Park. And people would get impressed. Wow, we have a Park Slope dude over here. I did not live west of the park, but south.

Cultural diversity is my favorite thing about this city. People from every little town on earth live here. How do I know that? People from every little town in Nepal live here. I know that. And Nepal is the poorest country on earth outside of Africa. So I am extrapolating that. People from every little town from every country must live here. I think that is true.

I had a whole bunch of audio cassettes of Hindi music with me  when I came to America late in 1996. My next door neighbor in college - Luke Payne - once asked me, "Can I ask you something? Why do you listen to the same song again and again?" And the dude was a music major.

Do all Chinese faces look the same to you? Then you must not be Chinese.

You have to have my global perspectives to see the texture of Queens. Black might be a race, but brown is not a race. It is not even a race.

When I was living in Brooklyn, I was living in Little Bangladesh. When I went grocery shopping, people would start talking to me in Bengali, which I understand a big chunk of, but can't speak back. They just assumed I was Bengali.

"Are you from India?" I have never replied to that question with a no anywhere in the US. I am half Indian, I was born in India. Wtf! It is just that I grew up in Nepal.

But in the "heartland," when you get asked that question, there is usually a follow up question.

"Are you a Patel?'

"No, I'm not."

"Are you a doctor?"

"No, I'm not, but I am very smart."

No, thank you. There is no town in America that does not have at least one Indian doctor. And Patels own motels all over the place. I once saw a huge billboard by the interstate highway in Tennessee: "Motel, run by Americans!" That does not happen all that often. My people pretty much have the motel business covered.

Where do you live?

That is sometimes a class question. Are you rich enough to live in Manhattan? Or do you live in the outer boroughs?

I have a healthy feeling about money, but money does not even begin to grasp the cultural diversity of New York City, and there Queens rules. New York City is the Amazon forest of humanity, and Queens is a big part of it.

The Dying Languages, In New York New York Times The chances of overhearing a conversation in Vlashki, a variant of Istro-Romanian, are greater in Queens than in the remote mountain villages in Croatia that immigrants now living in New York left years ago....... the languages that make New York the most linguistically diverse city in the world. ..... languages born in every corner of the globe and now more commonly heard in various corners of New York than anywhere else. ...... New York is home to as many as 800 languages — far more than the 176 spoken by students in the city’s public schools or the 138 that residents of Queens, New York’s most diverse borough, listed on their 2000 census forms.


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