Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tourist Vs. Resident

I had started to write this blog post last year, so the Carnegie Deli I write about below is strictly a mail order operation now.  But other than that, I totally agree with what I wrote about, and left in my drafts.

I have a sister in law who can not believe that, after growing up in New York City, I would rather not live there.  And, in fact, I haven't lived there in over 42 years.  And I try to explain to her, each time we talk about this, that visiting a place is not the same as living there.  Hence:

The Carnegie Deli, the deli in midtown Manhattan famed for its thick pastrami sandwiches, has announced it will close at the end of the year.  Several of my co-workers, aware that I grew up in New York City, asked how many times I had eaten there.  My answer:  zero times.

You see, there is a big difference between living in a big city and visiting a big city.  If I wanted a pastrami sandwich, I went to the local deli in my Bronx neighborhood.  Why would I travel 40 minutes on the subway just to have a pastrami sandwich?

Similarly, I never went to visit the Empire State Building until I was 16, and that was only because I decided, one day, to be a tourist in my home city.   I might have visited the Statue of Liberty on a school field trip (I know they made me go to the same museum each and every year, and it got boring after a while. 

Yes, boring, in the City of Awesome Museums.  I've never been to Ellis Island, either, although I would love to go.

I only visited the World Trade Center (this was back in 1973, before it officially opened) because the bank near my summer job on West Broadway had a branch in there, and that was back in the days before Direct Deposit was invented.  Imagine that, walking to the bank to deposit your paycheck.  That should be a post for another time.

Macy's in Herald Square was a place where my Dad and I went to people-watch during holiday shopping season.

I think you get the point.

When you live in a city you are commuting back and forth to and from work (or school).  You have to buy food, prepare food, shop, and do all those things that take up time.  Trust me:  most New Yorkers aren't making daily visits to any tourist attraction.

We are just trying to live our lives.

This isn't to say that residents never go to Broadway shows, or visit a museum, or eat in a famous restaurant.  But, even as an adult, if I went to "the City" I was there to visit friends or family.  If I ate out, it was most likely in an affordable restaurant or in a diner.  Or, I ate takeout from the local Chinese restaurant - something I did a lot with my late best friend from childhood and her spouse.

So, if you go to New York City, and I am there, you will sooner see me at the local diner than at the Carnegie Deli.  You'll see me walking on the street and not in a carriage ride near Central Park.

And that is the greatest part of visiting a big city - when you can visit it with the knowledge of someone who lives there, and go to where the locals go. Those are the luckiest tourists of all. 

That beats the biggest pastrami sandwich that a person can build.

Have you ever lived in a place that was a major tourist attraction?  Did you live like a tourist?

Day 24 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge.


  1. I live in Maryland in the Washington D.C. suburbs and it's the same thing. My family moved here in 1980, so we did a lot of touring at first. When I was in 6th grade, we hit most of the major tourist locations: Arlington Cemetery, Capitol Building, White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, National Archives, Library of Congress, etc. Since then, we only hit these spots when visitors are in town, and now, we sometimes don't even go at all. We give the visitors instructions on how to navigate the Metro and send them on their way. My sister lives in DC now, and I work in DC, so we tend to be in the neighborhoods at local spots, living like every day people.

    My sister and I went to Paris with friends a few years ago, and while the friends stayed near Champs-Elysees, tourist central, we stayed in a neighborhood where barely any English was spoken. We visited a friend in her French apartment, and ate in her neighborhood, where again, no English to be found. My sister and I felt like we had a more authentic experience in Paris than our friends, by avoiding the tourist centers and being among real residents. I much prefer that.

  2. I have visited many tourist attractions in Michigan. But while I have lived in my current town for 44 years, I have never eaten at the local ribs place that everyone talks about. I fid go to the Carnegie Deli but was not impressed. I do not need to eat enough pastrami for a week in one sandwich.

  3. So, I did hit Ellis, Liberty, Governors, and Staten Islands. Broadway at least weekly, and many restaurants. (Not a fan of Carnegie...it needs to be kosher.)
    Just like I did in Boston,Charlottesville, etc.

  4. I'm a Long Island girl, we played tourist in the City frequently. I ate at the Carnegie Deli when I was in the neighborhood, seeing a Broadway show or going to a museum or whatever. But you're right, I go to my local deli fir my pastrami fix.

  5. I grew up 2 miles from Disneyland. Of course, that's more of a destination thing, so when we'd go, we'd spend the day and do the tourist thing.

  6. Hm, interesting post. Lots of tourist coming here in the summer, and its true- you kind of travel away rather than being "tourist" in your own city... Even if it's just in front of our nose, we look beyond... Strange thing.... interesting read:-)

  7. I live between Buffalo and Niagara Falls. I love to visit Niagara Falls and take loads of photographs, like a tourist. Also, I like to go into Buffalo and look at the architecture. Most people don't realize how amazing Buffalo's architecture is but we have buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Henry Hobson Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Louis Sullivan. Also, there is a fantastic garden walk in Buffalo.

  8. I was raised in Chicago, and while there are a lot of tourist attractions we didn't go out of our way to visit them. Sure, we went to the museums, when we were in school, and we shopped in the stores downtown, but most of the time we stayed in the neighborhood and shopped in the stores and ate at the restaurants close to home.

  9. Alana -

    This certainly hits home - literally! I too grew up in NYC - 79th & Broadway to be exact. I was never a tourist like yourself. The most I did was when friends from college would visit. They would want to see the City, so I was the driver and we hit all the popular sites!

    Live just a few blocks from the Museum of Natural History, we frequently visited there so many times.

    Living in NJ now, I rarely go into the city unless I have to. And those times I do, I get the adrenaline rush and I feel at home!

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. I really get what you're saying. I have lived in a few cities that are tourist magnets: SF, NYC, London & Zurich. While in NYC, I never went to the Empire State Building, but I did see a B'way show, spent tons of time in Central Park, and visited the odd museum.
    Before living in London, I did tons of touristy stuff there. After moving south of the Thames, I spent a lot of my free time in South London. The London Eye and the like got very little 'screen time'.
    I'm back living in SF since June & I haven't done much more than visit the beach & the park. My neighborhood is so untourist-y it's not even funny. If I were to see a double-decker tourist bus here, I'd fall over dead.

  11. This is so true... it is only after living away from my hometown did I realize there are so many famous and interesting places that I never visited ... or bothered to visit. Now I go there as a tourist as try to visit new places :)

  12. When we went to Hong Kong, VT stayed there and I was visiting. So we think things that were touristy but we also enjoyed like locals. We look the trams, walked our way and ate at the road side joints. I even bought veggies from a local market.
    In Bangalore for 10 years and I haven't been to the palace here. So I can understand what you say about NY.
    Thought provoking post.


Thank you for visiting! Your comments mean a lot to me, and I appreciate each one. These comments are moderated, so they may not post for several hours. If you are spam, you will find your comments in my compost heap, where they will finally serve a good purpose.