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Having grown up and lived in New York for my first 18 years, and having lived four blocks from the District line for the past 10 years, I feel that I am in a position to comment on John Cloud’s thought-provoking article, “New York Fetish” (8/1). I agree that Washington encourages blandness and homogeneity. As a result, many of us speak too correctly and politely, afraid to say what we really feel. A lot of us become socially cautious and unstylish, instead jumping on the latest conformist fad wagon. Take, for example, the trend of cigar-smoking, martini-drinking, goatee-wearing young D.C. professionals (please!).

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It’s also true that New York is full of hip, stylish, individual, bizarre people who will tell you—honestly, to your face—what they think of you. The clubs and restaurants are cooler, and stay open much later. You can get takeout at 2 a.m. New Yorkers are notoriously difficult to shock, and adopt a refreshingly detached air of nonchalance in the face of weirdness. In D.C., even an earring anywhere but on the ear lobe, or a tattoo, is considered exotic. Yes, New Yorkers laugh at Mayor Barry and are, amazingly for us, almost unanimously ecstatic about their mayor Rudy Giuliani (based on my admittedly small sampling). They actually will tell you that he has improved their lives. Can you believe it? And walking along the pristine beach in Bridgehampton (remember Gordon Gekko?) is certainly more aesthetically pleasing than, say, strolling the boardwalk in Rehoboth, stopping to play Whack-a-Mole. New York is undeniably a more exciting and cool place to visit. But to live there?

I have paid almost $15 for a stack of pancakes in New York. Some of my friends have lived in tiny, dark cells overlooking alleyways, with refrigerators no larger than the diminutive one that held my beer in college, paying higher rent than I could ever imagine. They shell out (or can’t afford to pay) $20 just to enter a plain, crowded bar not far from that beautiful Bridgehampton beach. When they visit my one-bedroom apartment, they yodel in amazement, waiting for an echo. When they see the check in a D.C. restaurant, they grin and wink, thinking they have been mistakenly undercharged. In D.C., I can bike ride and in-line skate on scenic paved paths just outside my door. In New York, I would be dodging buses on 5th Avenue, or taking the same lap around Central Park. The tall, impressive New York City skyscrapers block out the sunlight, whereas D.C.’s building-height restriction creates a truly unique open and spacious urban environment. Likewise, even with Mayor Giuliani’s improvements, the level of stress and aggression is palpably higher among Big Apple residents than in D.C., resembling the proverbial scientific experiment with too many rats in the cage. In short, while New York is a stimulating, entertaining place to visit, D.C., for all its shortcomings, is a much more livable city. As for me, I can get by just fine with a monthly Metroliner fix.

Chevy Chase, Md.

via the Internet