Living in New York City can be pretty maddening. The sprawling streets, the looming buildings, the busy people… all of these things can really throw someone for a loop. After living in the Big Apple for a year, I thought I had it all figured it out. I was dead wrong. I still have not come CLOSE to understanding the logical contradiction that is NYC’s two most famous mottos.
Back in 2001, New Yorkers bravely stood together to face our nation’s most horrific tragedy: 9/11. Our motto that year and onward became “Never Forget,” because we couldn’t let the victims be forgotten to time.
But just the other day, I was driving out of Brooklyn and saw a big sign that said “FUGHETTABOUTIT!” What is going on here?! How, logically, does a person “Never Forget” but at the same time “FUGHETTABOUTIT”? This city is a labyrinth of sayings.
I went home and tried to put aside my confusion by enjoying one of my favorite movies of all time: 2006’s World Trade Center starring Nicolas Cage as a heroic firefighter during 9/11. Sure enough, a group of mustached men traded a few “Never Forget”s back and forth and I relaxed again. But when World Trade Center ended, another movie started up on my TV: 1997’s Donnie Brasco, the Al Pacino movie about New York City gangsters. My heart stopped. First one – “forget about it!”, then – “fughet about it!”, and finally – “FUGHETTABOUTIT!” It was clear that this urge to not remember was sewn into the very fabric of New York City just as much as “Never Forget.”
How could both of those things be possible???
I ran outside. I needed to get a grip on New York City. I needed to get a grip on reality. This paradox of remembering and forgetting simultaneously was too much for me. “Never Forget” and “FUGHETTABOUTIT” are at incorrigible odds with each other! That can’t possibly be the only thing New York City is all about! There’s got to be something else.
Of course! This is “The City That Never Sleeps.”
“The City That Never Sleeps.” I started to calm down. It’s New York City’s most famous nickname. Everything was going to be okay. It was 3am on a Tuesday morning but that’s fine because New York City is The City That Never Sleeps! Hahaha!! I laughed to myself and put on my favorite song of all time: Empire State of Mind. I relaxed and let the classic NYC lyrics drift over me.
“In New York / Concrete jungle where dreams are made of”
I felt inspired. I have lots of my own dreams in this City That Never Slee–OH WAIT WHAT THE FUCK?! HOW CAN I DREAM IF I NEVER SLEEP?
WHAT IS THIS CITY?! WHY DOES IT HAVE SO MANY MOTTOS??
Jeremy Kaplowitz is a comedian in NYC and the creator of Lizard People of New York. You can find his tweets @jeremysmiles before he deletes them out of shame.