0 Julia Gorin
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Jewish World Review Dec. 21, 1999 /12 Teves, 5760

Julia Gorin

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The Sport of Sitting

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
As my fellow New Yorkers do their best to avoid the cumbersome crowds that congest our celebrated port this holiday seasonóeither by staying home or by frequenting those little-known spots that become havens for the natives this time of yearóIíll hit midtown and thrust myself into the mainstream: the crush of Broadway, the color of Rockefeller Center, the noise of busy coffee shops, and especially the lounges of the grand hotels.

Forsaking the company of other city dwellers at Off-Broadway or Theater Row productions, Iíll head straight to Broadway to sit among the invaders, and watch shows like "The Scarlet Pimpernel" and "Jeckyll and Hyde." Afterwards, Iíll follow them to sit at the rotating bar at Marriott Marquis in Times Square, or perhaps to the Plaza Hotelís Palm Court--my favorite place to sit.

Iím not sure what it is that appeals to me so much about sitting in hotel lounges and being waited on by cocktail waitresses who look about as New York as the guests they serve. Maybe itís because being around transientsópeople from that vast wilderness of Not New Yorkómakes me feel like Iím traveling too.

While the indigenous inhabitants plow indignantly through the out-of-towners on the sidewalk, I live vicariously through them, and pretend to be experiencing for the first time the marvel of the strangest place in the world. To fool myself further, I go for strolls through the lower concourse at Grand Central Station, where recent renovations have given a 1930s flavor to the hustle and bustle of travel. This underground piazza, complete with restaurants, cafeterias, and waiting areas with leather armchairs, is positively transcending. If I concentrate really hard, I can trick myself into believing Iím part of an older, more civil and sophisticated New Yorkóthe one Iíd imagined when the city was still just a faint dream in my young suburbaniteís mind.

Seeking out the company of tourists also provides a good opportunity to step out of the cloistered mindset of our city existence and find out what the rest of the country is thinking and talking aboutóespecially what their verdict is on our little province. (Although that doesnít usually extend beyond: "Great place to visit, but I could never live here.")

Being a typically car-less Manhattanite, I donít leave the city very often, or get a chance to see much green aside from that huge square patch in the middle of the concrete--Central Park--which doesnít count because itís too surreal to feel like part of Godís green earth. Anyway, I just canít seem to find the peace of mind there that I can in a hotel lobby. Besides, given what the rest of the city offers, natureís just not that entertaining.

Which brings me to another difference between me and my fellow townsmen, that is most discernable this time of year: Theyíre always seeking out the natural, the outdoors--the physically challenging. In desperate measures to get away from the winter influx, many leave the city altogether to get their fill of the diametrical opposite of what their urban lives offer. Either they go to some exotic place, or they do something life-threatening like skiing, hiking, hand-gliding, or climbing. These activities seem to fulfill some kind of need for the unfamiliar and the dangerous. But it's always confounded me: I mean, why bother a mountain? Arenít there enough natural disasters that come to us?

Swim with the dolphins? Nah. I say sit with the tourists! None of that physical stuff for me, thank you. Especially as a Jewish girl, I try to keep my parts intact. Why expose myself to more risk than is necessary in a single lifetime?

Recreation doesnít have to involve so much trouble and energy. What ever happened to sitting? Sitting is underrated. Itís an activity that everyone has a lot of stamina for. Why be jumping off of cliffs and swinging through bushes when you can sit comfortably and observe the most exciting place on earth?

And thereís sport in that too. Because this is a city where you can spend the whole day hikingófrom one seat to anotheróand life finds you.



JWR contributor Julia Gorin is a journalist and stand-up comic residing in Manhattan. Send your comments to her by clicking here.

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©1999, Julia Gorin