Tuesday, March 13, 2012

NYC History in 10 Objects

Last month I blogged about an upcoming segment on WNYC's Leonard Lopate show called The Story of New York in 10 Objects. Ten objects -- both man made and natural -- that encapsulate the history and identity of our great city. They were taking nominations from listeners and whittled them down.

On today's show they revealed the final list. You should listen to the segment but here, in short, is the list:

#10-The NYC Subway Map: the nexus for transportation in NYC, how the 8.2 million people in our town get around. Without it, we'd be stuck.

#9-The Manhattan Shist: this city wasn't built on rock'n'roll but on rocks. And rocks don't just exist underneath our city but within our buildings too. Without the rocks, we'd be on the rocks (ha ha).

#8-The Wall Street Sign: not only does it tell you where you are but this sign is the masthead for the entire American financial system and, by extension, the entire American economic system. People love Wall Street, hate Wall Street -- much like capitalism itself. Without Wall Street, a huge part of our city's identity and economy wouldn't exist. 

#7-The Brooklyn Bridge: easily the most beautiful bridge in the city, it was also the first bridge to nail the city together. (Actually, when it was first constructed in the last 19th century, it nailed two cities, NYC and Brooklyn together before they became part of the same city). After this bridge was built, making transport between the cities (now boroughs) became a lot easier and the fate of both were sealed. Without this bridge, our city wouldn't be the city as we know it today.

#6-Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems: easily the oddest thing on this list. I've never read it but the it is apparently a collection of stories about our city. Without it, well, our city's voice would be diminished.

#5-18th Century Ship Excavated from the WTC Site: this old boat was apparently used as part of the original WTC site and was uncovered during its reconstruction. It's an amazing example of our city's past and future coming together -- the past and the future always co-exist in this most dynamic of towns. Without this discovery, a part of our history would still be unknown and our city would be the lesser for it.

#4-The Oyster: before bagels, before Chinese food, before hot dogs, the oyster used to be considered the quintessential NYC food. Tourists came here to see our shows, go to our museums, and eat our oysters. For obvious reasons, the oyster is no longer NYC's main culinary selling point, but it helped pave the way to make our city the restaurant capital of America. Without the oyster, our city's food history would not quite be so sterling.

#3-The Food Cart: it was invented here! You can get a hot dog, a pretzel, some nuts, a soda, some water, a donut, some coffee, even tacos and felafel's! Food carts represent the great efficiency of NYC -- little stores on the sidewalks that feed, literally, our food needs. Without food carts, we'd all be a lot hungrier and thirstier (and that wouldn't be good).

#2-Subway Token: though they no longer exist, the token was NYC's own currency. New Yorkers loved their tokens. They were an over sized, yellow, funny looking coin that was unique to NYC and actually made people excited (somewhat) about taking the subway. Without the token, a sentimental part of NYC's identity would never have existed and wouldn't be so fondly remembered today.

#1-The Greek Coffee Cup: remember these? The gorgeously designed blue Hellenic cups that contained a good old fashioned cup o'coffee (as opposed to a latte). You used to be able to see New Yorkers from all races, all nationalities, all classes, both genders, clutching their Greek coffee cups on their work, getting their much needed caffeine fix. (Doubtless these made us all a little more neurotic). Without these Greek cups and the coffee they contained, New Yorkers, well, wouldn't be New Yorkers.  

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