You can take the woman out of Manhattan, but you can’t take Manhattan out of the woman.

“Kavanagh said it was evident she was from Manhattan.”

Queens Gazette, March 3, 2010

You can take the woman out of Manhattan, but you can’t take Manhattan out of the woman. Despite having been killed late last year and left under the eastern end of the Queensboro Bridge, Miss Mannahatta still, in Deputy Inspector Kavanagh’s opinion, retained that je ne sais quoi that residents of New York County, alone among the five boroughs, possess.

I immediately project myself into some kind of Kavanagh-overlaid-with-Dupin persona and begin to conceptualize a physical object, curio or charm that would signify Manhattan residence. What could this signifier be? A key to Gramercy Park? A membership card for the J. Hood Wright Recreation Center? A sloppily-xeroxed weekly schedule of activities from Gouverneur Nursing Home? A half-eaten piece of kippered salmon from Russ & Daughters?

Seeking expert advice, as the next step in my relentless investigation I consulted Lauren Cerand, the mixmaster responsible for Lux Lotus, my personal lodestar of look. Surprisingly, she chose to interpret the question in a more behavioral context:

Because most people are on foot, everything is very village-y in New York and so neighborhoods tend to really reflect the perspectives and interests of their inhabitants more than other places that I’ve lived. Usually when I leave my neighborhood in downtown Manhattan and go somewhere in another borough I am struck by how pretty (more trees, you can see the sky, etc.) and how quiet it is. But I didn’t move to New York because I thought it would be pretty and quiet. And I am sure you can tell that just by looking at me.

So there we are. It wasn’t a trinket or tattoo that Deputy Inspector Kavanagh had discovered, but rather that Manhattan-specific attitude he recognized in Miss Mannahatta, even in her eternal repose.

How can one tell where you live, dear reader?

(B.H. Hellmich’s picture of the Queensboro Bridge from the New York Public Library)

Reading list 001: J. Baumbach, “You, or the Invention of Memory”

“What if I said that I did know you once, awhile back, if I did say as much, would you let me leave?”

In swift, spare strokes, in plain, unadorned language, Jonathan
Baumbach disassembles the romantic-spiritual complex that undergirds
our consumer society. One pairing—one man, one woman—is dissected,
disassembled, integrated, rejiggered, and put back together over and
over again in the course of the novel. The inevitable tragedy is that
even in the welcoming home of the reader’s imagination, the two only
combine at odd and disturbing angles that require an awkward amount of
force at an inconvenient angle to sustain.
The ‘You’ of the catchy title is the unnamed female protagonist, but
the book is more about the predicate, ‘The Invention of Memory.’ It’s
the anti-Valentine. All the clues that in romantic comedies and dime
novels lead to amatory resolution and eternal happiness are aligned in
‘You’ instead with an existential despair. ‘You, or the Invention of
Memory’ starts out traditionally, as the narrator describes his quest
for self-discovery through passionate love (shades of Plato’s
Symposium), but it ends up more cruel and more pitiless than
any love story, in an anonymous stairwell of an anonymous building,
between floors, as Baumbach makes clear that the quest for
self-discovery has gone horribly wrong.
Baumbach’s genius goes beyond poking the ripe balloon of romance. If
commonplace wisdom decrees that a fulfilled romance affirms the
lovers’ identity, both singular and whole, this book describes the
inverse, in which a failed romance has eroded not only their memories
of each other, but their identities as well. These lovers don’t
murmur, “You complete me,” but rather “You’ve erased me.”
Get your own copy; buy one here or here,
or get with ace publicist Lauren Cerand on her New You Project blog.