E.B. White on New York’s diverse population from his book Here Is New York

The collision and the intermingling of these millions of foreign-born people representing so many races and creeds make New York a permanent exhibit of the phenomenon of one world. The citizens of New York are tolerant not only from disposition but from necessity. The city has to be tolerant, otherwise it would explode in a radioactive cloud of hate and rancor and bigotry. If the people were to depart even briefly from the peace of cosmopolitan intercourse, the town would blow up higher than a kite. In New York smolders every race problem there is, but the noticeable thing is not the problem but the inviolate truce.

from Here Is New York by E.B. White

A block or two west of the new City of Man in Turtle Bay there is an old willow tree that presides over an interior garden. It is a battered tree, long suffering and much climbed, held together by strands of wire but beloved of those who know it. In a way, it symbolizes the city: life under difficulties, growth against odds, sap-rise in the midst of concrete, and the steady reaching for the sun.

from Downtown (2) by Pete Hamill

The summer I was sixteen I got a job in Times Square. I worked with a man named Butler, who was heavy, growly, with a whiskey-hurt Hell’s Kitchen face. He said he was fifty-one, but he looked seventy. Our job was to change the show cards in the lobbies of movie houses. Together we would pry out staples and take down the old show cards, which were five or six feet high, four feet wide, all in color. Good-bye, Joel McCrea; so long, Yvonne De Carlo. . .Then I would hold the new show cards steady while Butler stapled them into place. Hello, Rita Hayworth; enjoy the run, Glenn Ford. Then Butler would have a nice long cigarette break before we moved to the next theater.

I loved the job. There I was, at the crossroads of the world, with the breaking news moving around the face of the Times Tower and the waterfall flowing between the giant nude statues of the spectacular Bond Clothes display and smoke rings floating perfectly out of the mouth of the guy on the Camels sign. The sidewalks were jammed with sailors, pimps, cops, streetwalkers, dancers, actors, musicians, and tourists. Where Broadway crossed Seventh Avenue, traffic was a raucous, noisy show, big yellow taxis honking their honks like staccato punctuation from Gershwin, trucks and buses bullying their way downtown, and big New York voices coming out of the din: Whyncha watch where ya goin’, ya dope! Dis ain’t Joisey!

One morning Butler and I were standing under the marquee of the Victoria Theater while he pulled deep drags on a Lucky Strike. Coming down the street was a blind man, complete with dark glasses and tin cup, but no Seeing Eye dog. People dropped coins in the cup and hurried on, too busy for thanks. Then Butler flipped his butt into the street and gestured with his head toward the blind man.

“You see dis guy?” he said. “Ya see him wit’ da cup and all? Well,” he said, his voice suddenly brimming with outrage. “I happen to know for a fact dat he’s got five percent vision in one eye!”

I thought: This life business is not going to be easy