As I move ever closer to my last day as a New Yorker (now only 13 days away), I have just passed my four-year anniversary in the City on August 22nd. These four years have been pretty amazing, crazy, hard, wonderful… really, all sorts of adjectives.
As I think of all I didn’t yet do, I reflect on what made my four years here what they were. Therefore, a short series on four years in New York shall commence.
On August 22, 2007, I arrived in New York, where I had previously visited for a handful of days in 2003 and for a 5-week internship in the summer of 2005. That limited experience had given me a taste of the many possibilities New York contained, and when I was looking forward to New York from the safety and familiarity of California, I felt sure I could handle most NYC had to offer. But after a night spent on Syche & Drew’s burnt orange couch, I was sitting alone in my new apartment on the only furniture I owned – a blue air mattress – feeling sad, worried, and adrift in this new City.
As, I began to explore my new surroundings, I stumbled upon a fantastic guide to my new home – the Bowery Boys.
The Bowery Boys: New York City History is a brilliant podcast created by Tom Meyers and Greg Young. Each episode the pair tells the story of a NYC landmark, person, or moment. They do so with an incredible grasp of the facts, excellent storytelling, and a wonderful humor.
The podcast began in July 2007, just before I arrived, and was an excellent companion in those early weeks, and still to this day. (I actually finished listening to the most recent podcast #128 Hoaxes and Conspiracies of 1864 just this morning).
Admittedly, being a history dork (and at that time with a spanking new BA in History), this podcast was made more for me then most people. But any podcast that can convey serious, valid information and still turn Peter Stuyvesant and Robert Moses into running jokes, is in my good book!
The podcast helped me to learn about the world I was living in (#47 covered my neighbor in Grant’s Tomb, #54/55 covered Central Park – every New Yorkers retreat, & #90 covered Columbia itself) and others encouraged me to explore parts of New York I otherwise might have missed (African Burial Ground, Gracie Mansion.)
I recommend checking the podcast out, whether you live here or not, as it is a great glimpse of a great American city. Here are some of my favorites (images taken, without permission, from the great Bowery Boys blog):
Every Halloween, the pair puts together a set of scary stories from New York’s past. I’ve loved each of them, but still think the first is the best.
Two of the tales teach us why ghost lights are so important – David Belasco still haunts his 44th street theater and Olive Thomas, a Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl, who haunts the New Amsterdam theater can still be glimpsed walking the long destroyed catwalks.
I love MOMA, both its permanent collection and special exhibits (seeing Marina Abramovic there will be its own blog post). And this podcast was a great tutorial on how a Modern museum could be birthed in the City, and a great story of a strong, important woman – Abby Aldrich Rockefeller – who battled enforced bed rest to create a cultural institution.
Possibly my very favorite of all their episodes, and their descriptions sums it up best:
We’ve never done such a saucy show — full of sex, lies, and petticoats. Meet Henry Ward Beecher, Brooklyn Heights’ most notorious resident, and find out about the fascinating and provocative history of the church that turned him into a national celebrity.
I have listened at least a half a dozen times, and I still very much want to read Beecher’s biography The Most Famous Man in America by Debby Applegate.
There are so many other great episodes – the story of the Bronx Zoo, Robert Moses, himself, movie making in New York. And each summer they have done a series of podcasts on theme – last summer the transit system that makes life possible in NYC, and this summer New York and the Civil War.
I highly, highly recommend a listen to this superb podcast. And to the Bowery Boys – thank you for being an excellent companion on my four years in New York. I will still listen long after I leave.