Voix de Ville

June 14, 2010
By steezyb33zy GOLD, Ewa Beach, Hawaii
steezyb33zy GOLD, Ewa Beach, Hawaii
11 articles 0 photos 9 comments

Favorite Quote:
I have a call to literature, perhaps of a low order -- i.e. humorous. It is nothing to be proud of, but it is my strongest suit.

Dubbed unofficially as the “Greatest City in America”, the Big Apple is not only home to an estimated 9 million people, but to many pop culture phemomenons and references we know today. This city has served as an inspiration to many artists in all genres - architecture, music, painting, and more because it has been a symbol of success throughout the (thus far) short lifespan of our contry’s history culturally, and artistically. It is also a widely used pop culture phenomena in itself: MTV’s Total Request Live shot on location in Times Square, along with Paramount Studios offices and the NBC Studios Center located in the Rockefeller Center building just a few blocks away; some of the top shopping and fashion districts in America; Sex and the City; the origin of ”Hip-Hop” in the Bronx and Queens districts, which has since spurred into a music genre, dance and art form; the setting for the second “Home Alone” movie series installation; the chorus substance for Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’s chart-topper, “Empire State of Mind”; hometown of Ol’ Blue Eyes and many other famous jazz singers and the venues they’d make popular. New York City isn’t a hit t.v. show or movie, it isn’t an actress or famous painter - but it is home to hundreds of these pop culture icons. I believe Americans love New York City because it is a shining example of a city, rich in it’s historical value to America, booming in finance, variety of cultures, media, and especially entertainment.
New York City is known for it’s numerous contributions to the “Biz”, the performance and media industries of America. When one thinks of NYC, usually the first things that come to mind are Broadway plays and musicals, fashion, flashing ads on billboards, skyscrapers, A-list celebrities, and the like. Perhaps this is because it has built up an extensive collection of entertainment archives over the past century. New York City is home to the origin of many famous musicians, actors and actresses, most assumedly because the it’s inhabitants are constantly being immersed in an elaborate world revolving around showbiz, cimema, and different styles of theatrical performace - a combination of emotional dialogues, soliloquies, slapstick comedy, outrageous costumes, and beautiful vocal performances. The Palace Theater on 1564 Broadway (at 47th) in Manhattan was one of the first theaters in America to introduce Vaudevillian-style comedy - a combination of different (and often outlandish) circus acts including skits, skilled trapeze artists, freak shows, burlesque dancers, and classically trained dancers and musicians donning heavy makeup. And occasionally trained animals. Unusual and subtly exotic, these were however, in essence, light-hearted comedy routines a step above the European-influenced Shakespearean plays. From 1913 up to the time of the Great Depression, Vaudeville grew to be one of North America’s most popular performace genres, and eventually was dubbed “the heart of American show business”. With the end of the Great Depression came the Silent Film Era, which would eventually lead up to the average American’s appreciation for good cinema. The 1920’s and 30’s produced silent films; lacking recorded sound, they incorporated a few elements of Vaudevillan shows - mime and then slapstick, a physically exaggerated and often times violent (but harmless) form of comedy. And while New York City certainly did not invent the combination of theater, music, and dance, it most certainly has helped foster America’s love for musical theater.
Broadway shows are one of today’s most beloved theatrical genres, and are usually only considered true Ameican broadway theater when produced on a multi-million dollar budget, and performed in one of the many professional theaters that line the wide stretch of avenue in Manhattan’s Theater District called Broadway. Not to be confused with Ballet and Opera musicals, an actor in a Broadway musical is first obliged to his roleplay, then his singing and then choreography. New York City is up to par with the West End and London broadway shows, all of them big budget productions of classic stories and also newly woven variations of the classics, such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and it’s contemporary counterpart, Westside Story. Americans enjoy musical theater and cinema because they are often told a relatable story, a bit exaggerated and laced with comic relief and other popular entertainment pasttimes - dance and song. From Mideval minstrel shows in Europe, to Shakespearean plays, to Vaudeville, to Disney’s 2006 small screen hit, High School Musical, and most recently, NBC’s new and highest rated musical t.v. series, musical theater and Broadway has always been appreciated.
Lastly, I believe people think so highly of New York city because it is a work of art in itself. The city inhabits over 9 million people from every class and background, strewn together amidst the frequent hustle and bustle of mid-morning traffic - on both the sidewalks and roads - working hard to make end’s meet with today’s economy going awry. Over the past couple centuries, transportation has evolved, bringing people of the working class and below from countries all over the world to New York City, all with just a small amount of peronal belongings and one similar interest: high hopes of starting a new life and being able to be rewarded for hard work in America. It still happens today, and in the same sense, New York City has retained it’s popularity with not only America, but with the rest of the world as one of the top tourist attractions. The city has practically and fashionably combined it’s valued past with the most recent state-of-the-art technology: Founded in 1862, classic toy shop FAO Shwarts at 39 and 41 West 23rd Street sits nearby the newly built Apple Retail Store on the Upper West Side across the street from Central Park - a tall glass rectangle with a spiral staircase leading downwards, to the actual store one story underground. New York hosts landmarks, buildings new and old, and family-run businesses from the late 1800s, such as the oldest apothecary in America, herbal beauty and medicinal store Bigelow Apothecaries in NYC’s Upper West Side. Ellis Island and Liberty Island are open for public viewing, once a gateway for immigrants from mainly Europe during WWI and WWII. And just a few blocks away from the ferry dock is Wall Street in NYC’s Financial District (whose neighbor is the World Trade Center memorial site), boasting the U.S. stock exchange and a few of it’s original architectures from the late 1700s. In my short time spent in New York City, I saw peoples of different cultural origins and religions, some of which who would otherwise not be considered socially compatible, come together doing something as simple as standing in line at a laundromat or for a broadway musical on Broadway Street, scurrying side-by-side down Fifth Avenue on the way to the office, or buying a sauerkraut dog from one of the many snack stands that line Central Park. Chinese and Asian grocery stores sat right next to an Indian cuisine restaurant. I think Americans like how there are so many different people, not only unique by ethnic background, but by social class, personality, priority, sexual orientation, political views, verbal accents, moral fiber, religion, tastes in food and in fashion. Living in the city is expensive, and parking runs about $55.00 a day and up, $30.00 if you’re lucky. So instead of owning cars, most people carpool, take the underground subways, and walk to their everyday destinations, providing them with more time for social human interaction. In this large, blossoming city, people come together to create this massive collage showcasing the human existence, gilded with intricate architectural designs, engulfed in bright lights of the billboards, and the persistent humdrum of everyday conversation and angry people stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic. This “mural” of sorts is accented with scents of food, Indian to Filipino, Italian to Greek. Upscale restaurants and kiosks, to sidewalk vendors. Perfumes from epensive to cheap, J’adore to Chanel No. 19. The aromas of gas leaked (or siphoned) from vehicles, morning dew on smudged windows and on the leaves of the many trees lining the sidewalk. Maybe to Americans (and due to my own observations) this mural, this collage is an inadvertent display of what it means to be very much alive in this world.
We as people the small moments, like standing in the middle of Times square with thousands of people from all over the English speaking world. Or talking to a Macy’s sales associate with a funnily strong Jersey accent. Or trying to forget that you’re standing three stories below Union Square with speeding subway trains rattling the cement/ steel tracks above and beside you, so you decide to divert your attention elsewhere, such as the lovely Jamaican man playing the accordion at your feet. Especially in large cities such as New York; there are so much people, so much distractions in every direction, one wouldn’t know where to turn to next. A person could live their entire working life in the city without reaching a quotidian. We appreciate it when we can ridicule our own lives and the lives of others, watch them on the silver screen and marvel in contrast alongside humor and the slight exaggeration in movies, television shows, plays - many of which take place in, are written and produced from, or are at least widely advertised in NYC. We enjoy being grinned at by passerby on the way to work or being included in small side conversations because it makes us feel involved and part of the grandeur of New York City. When taken into account and regardless of how miniscule, all those small moments New Yorkers experience, and our lives being made laughable through observing the folly and tragedy of a fictitious but relatable life - especially in New York’s big budget productions - those all add up to create a somewhat intangible masterpiece; you can sense how alive the city and it’s people are. The ever-present energy in the air exists not only due to the thousands of billboards and lights, but because of it’s millions of often enthusiastic inhabitants. The essence of what it is to truly be human in the twenty-first centruy lies within and among the concrete jungle of New York City.

The author's comments:
This was an essay I was assigned this past school year by the same teacher. He has us write about a current pop culture phenomenon. I chose New York City.

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