Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Nation's Capital vs. The Nation's Cultural Capital

Today marks my unofficial two month anniversary in New York City. I am not sold on the place yet, but I hear it takes time. It has until next December (when I complete my master's) to grow on me... Or for me to grow on it... Or some such thing.

Just a skip and a hop from the political mecca that is D.C., New York's character is utterly different. I've traded the banks of the Potomac for those of the Hudson. (Though the East River is my more frequent haunt-- I've put in quite a few miles on its shores during morning runs). At this point, I must admit that I kind of miss the old swampland of D.C.

A few differences between the places:

1. There are lots of crazies in NYC. At the last two panel events that I've attended (the Taibbi-Herzberg event and a "Future of Journalism" panel with Dan Rather, the New York Times' Jill Abramson, and AP's Tom Curley), the first people to approach the mike during Q&A use the opportunity as a platform to attack the speakers and air extreme views. In D.C., people tend to be more subdued and less confrontational. New York is not a place for subtlety.

2. New York media events are cooler. In D.C., most media events are held in the basement ballrooms of grand, but aging, hotels. You can usually count on an open bar, three-course meal featuring tilapia or sea bass, and a few recognizable political faces. I had the chance to attend Atlantic Magazine's relaunch party in New York earlier this month. It was at an art gallery. There were Flavin-esque flourescent light installations keyed to past Atlantic feature stories. There was popcorn and a screening room with film shorts created for the launch, posing Atlantic questions to people on New York's streets. Party attendees were encouraged to draw graffiti on blown up Atlantic photos on the walls. It was cool. D.C. is many things, but it's not very cool.

3. New York is professionally schizophrenic. In D.C., the city revolves around politics and the federal government. Almost everyone you meet is linked into politics in some way-- whether working on the Hill, for a law or lobbying firm, for a non-profit, in media, etc. That common thread does not exist in New York. Journalists, artists, bankers, lawyers, doctors, PR folks... there are tons of professional worlds here, with little overlap. It's harder to learn the "language of the city," since you really have to develop fluency in several languages if you want to move between groups.

Between Above The Law, working at The Week, grad school, and social engagements, life has been busy, busy, busy. I've been doing lots of fact-checking at The Week, and research for the Consumer and Arts pages. I wrote the copy for this little gem: Last-minute travel deals.

The highlight of last week was speaking with David Lat at Columbia Law School: ""Will Review Documents for Food: Law and the Economy." Even if it is depressing to talk about the economy right now...

No comments: