Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Outer Limits

New York City is big. For the uninitiated, it consists of five boroughs: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Staten Island. Each of those five boroughs is also one of the 62 counties that comprise New York state. They are named Manhattan County, Queens County, Bronx County, and – don’t get smug, it gets weird now – Kings County (Brooklyn) and Richmond County (Staten Island).

When most people think of New York, they are thinking about Manhattan. Those other four places are known as the Outer Boroughs. I’ve always found that strange. If New York has outer boroughs, shouldn’t it also have some inner boroughs? I asked some New Yorkers, and by that I mean Manhattanites, about that. A few told me that Manhattan is the inner borough, but most said that there aren’t any inner boroughs. There is The City (where they are) and there are the outer boroughs. That’s it.

Maybe New York is like one of those grid drawings that they use on the Discovery Channel to explain the Theory of Relativity. You know, the one that has a big ball rolling around on it causing it to warp like a too soft mattress. The shiny ball begins to sink into it’s own depression, spiraling downward, like water draining from the bath tub, until it disappears into a black hole. Maybe that’s what happened to the Inner Boroughs; they just disappeared into a black hole.

City dwellers (Manhattanites) dread the thought of travelling to the Outer Boroughs. Like Columbus’ sailors fearing that they would fall off the edge of the earth, people in Manhattan apparently fear getting sucked into the same black hole that swallowed the Inner Boroughs.

Not all of the Outer Boroughs are equally denigrated. Parts of Brooklyn are downright trendy. The Bronx has the distinction of sounding like the plural of something, but nobody knows what. Besides, it is the home of the Yankees, the Bronx Bombers. Queens gets less respect. During introductions in swank Manhattan bars, I’ve had people back away from me in alarm when I mention that I live in Queens. Staten Island is the purgatory of New York. Nobody admits to living there. They lie and tell people they’re from New Jersey.

So next time you’re in New York, consider something adventuresome. Take a free ferry ride to Staten Island and get a good view of the Statue of Liberty on the way. Or if you’re feeling really wild, try crossing the dark, dangerous waters of the East River and venture to the other Outer Boroughs. The pizza at Enzo’s in Park Slope, Brooklyn, is better than anything in Manhattan. For authentic Greek food, you must come to Astoria in Queens and for the best Italian head up to Arthur Street in The Bronx.

And don’t worry, for a mere $2.25 you can get back into The City before nightfall. Just try not to think about those lost Inner Boroughs as your train tunnels under the river.

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