“I live in New York.”
Such an innocent phrase, but one fraught with a sort of complication from the outset. When I tell people this, in response to their question of where I live, they almost always launch into their memories of the city that never sleeps. They tell me about how they visited “the Village,” or how they loved Times Square on New Year’s. Or a plethora of other tales that I inevitably have to interrupt.
“Not the city. I live upstate.”
Then they look at me as if I’ve grown two heads, or in disgust because they thought I’d deliberately misled them. When, for me, it’s simply easier for me to say New York and try to move on. Saying “Upstate” makes me sound a bit snooty. “I have an estate upstate.” So I say “I live in New York,” and steady myself for the onslaught that is likely to come from the final reveal.
I’ll admit that sometimes I wish the city was called something else, that the good people who created this great state didn’t name it the same as its largest city. It’s not like Oklahoma City, in that if I said “I’m going to Oklahoma City,” you know I don’t mean the state, and vice versa. It’s not like there weren’t about a million others names out there, but no one of significance decided this was a faux pas.
“I’m confused,” they tell me. “What do you mean upstate?”
And I have to tell them I live about halfway between Syracuse, a pretty big city in its own right, and Albany, the erstwhile state capital. “What city would I know that’s near you?” they ask, and I hem. I haw. “Well, we aren’t far from Utica.”
They give me that look again, you know, the one that says I have more than one head, that look of disgust that I’m telling them fake names. I explain to them that Utica is very much real (and was in fact mentioned in The Office). But yes, I guess Albany would be the closest city most people would have knowledge of who live outside of New York State. It’s certainly no New York City, though, capital or not.
So yes, I live in New York, but not in the center of the known universe. Somewhere a bit closer to open country, where there are cow crossings and the nearest town is half an hour away. I live in an alternate New York, a place most people have never been, and will never be, and that’s just fine with me.