The Greatest City in the World

This column was written just 11/28/01 after the 9/11 tragedy in 2001. It is dedicated to all the family and friends of the victims in New York City, Washington DC, Pennsylvania and beyond.

“Sorry about that,” a guy in a tuxedo and white scarf said after he bumped into me outside Caroline’s comedy club.

“This IS New York, right?” I asked our next cabbie.

“Yes, mon,” he said, smiling beneath a shock of dreads, showing two rows of gold and silver teeth, “the greatest city in the world.”

Some people made a mistake when they decided to terrorize our country. You should never pick on New York. New Yorkers are the toughest people on the planet. Every single day of their lives they have to fight. To get a cab. To get on the train. To get a table. To get home so they can get up and fight again.

And now they are fighting on a different front. Fighting to keep the tears back. Fighting to keep their spirits up. Fighting the grief and pain and anger. Fighting to heal.

And they are doing it by helping each other. On the subway you see youngsters helping old people through the turnstiles. At the magazine counter the clerk tells a Japanese man, “thanks and have a nice trip home.” People wave to each other on the street and smile.

Yes, in New York.

I didn’t expect all this cheer. I traveled across the country for one reason. A girl. At the end of the day, isn’t everything a guy ever does for a girl.

My friend and I stepped out of our cab at 39th and Broadway. It was 10 o’clock at night. But the bright lights made it seem like midday. I’ve never seen so many lights. Not in Atlantic City. Not in Vegas. Not even on the Webster’s house at Christmas.

When I was in 5th grade I walked by skinny Wilkie Webster’s house on the way home from school. Every year Mr. Webster had the biggest Christmas display in his yard than any house in Edmonton, Alberta. He had giant silver and red trees, two teddy bears kissing under some mistletoe, a soldier firing a cannon, a nativity scene with life-size characters, angels, a jack in the box that sprang up every thirty seconds.

There were Santa’s everywhere- Santa sitting in a ’57 Chevy convertible, Santa on a motorcycle, Santa on the roof with a full sleigh and eight reindeers, including Rudolph with a red nose the size of a baseball.

As a kid, the Webster’s crazy Christmas display always made me happy. Big, noisy, bright, fun. My trip to New York made me feel the same way.

I read in the New York Times that people are avoiding New York this Christmas. If that describes you, I’m telling you to go. Go to New York, look up at the lights in Times Square and smile. Then look around at all the New Yorkers grinning at each other.

Then ask your cabbie, “This is NEW YORK CITY, isn’t it?”

“Yes, mon,” he’ll say, smiling, “the greatest city in the world.”

About Joe Ditzel

Joe Ditzel is a keynote speaker, humor writer, and really bad golfer. You can reach him via email at [email protected] as well as Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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