I think now, more than ever, New Yorkers are proud of their city. A real New Yorker is as rabid a fan of this magical place as those weird people who make the trek to Graceland to visit Elvis's grave every year. I'm totally crazy about so many specific things here, from the Howard Johnson's in Times Square to the portrait of Eloise at The Plaza Hotel. I recently asked some certified city folk what they love about New York, New York--which, as we know, is one helluva town.

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Alexandre Proia
Alexandre Proia
Alexandre Proia
(Producer/choreographer/author of Vice-Versa, first workshop performance coming up at City Center Ballet Arts Studio on October 21)

"I love the quality of surprise that exists in New York City. The unexpected! You can see creatures on the street who belong in a framed painting. You can go to a store you've gone to forever and it has become something else overnight. The city has been laid out in such a straight-line grid, like most American cities, so geographically it entices you. You never know who or what you will see as you turn a corner. For some reason, I find that sexy. You can see as much beauty as ugliness here, and it's all intertwining. It's just a tiny island, but it feels like the center of the universe, doesn't it?

"There are also those moments of total silence that are so shocking and out of the blue, which I love. There are so many places to hide and so many places to be completely revealed to the entire world. You can absolutely shine here or be part of an unknown, underground world. New York is a place where you have to know who you are if you are involved in artistic endeavors. More than Paris or Tokyo or any other city I've ever lived in, you can live here with a heart on! It's a place where you can be sentimental, which is a very American way of being. I was trying to convince my brother and his wife to come here; I told them that the city is filled with those big beauty marks like Lincoln Center, Broadway, the Statue of Liberty--the arteries that give the juice or the pulse to the city. Then there are little veins that pump the blood into those big arteries, that bring new artists and young business people who are searching for something new to say. That's where you find art, love, and the spirituality to link them all."

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Johnny Rodgers
Johnny Rodgers
Johnny Rodgers
(Arci's Place, Mondays in October at 7pm)

"I know it sounds like the obvious answer, but the energy in New York City is the coolest thing. I think it's because it's such a pedestrian city. Everybody is out walking around! I don't want to hack off people in other cities but, when everyone is in a car, you don't feel such a connection. Here in Manhattan, when I walk out of my door, I expect to see somebody I know. Plus, all the people I know here are trying to accomplish great things. It's the hub of the world, and it's where you come to do things on a large scale.

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Shauna Hicks
Shauna Hicks
Shauna Hicks
(Shauna Hicks And Her '70s Mix at The Triad, October 12 and 19)

"I love the feeling of unity that exists in New York right now. I've lived here for 17 years and have always had a love/hate relationship with the city. A few days after I moved here, Bernard Goetz shot the youths harassing him on the subway. It was a scary, ominous place in 1984. I came to pursue musical theater and was working in restaurants at that time. The people I was working with and auditioning with were getting sick and dying very quickly. The Gay Men's Health Crisis hadn't hit its stride and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS wasn't established yet. It was an awful time. At night, I'd have to smile and recite the dinner specials to groups of investment bankers with unlimited expense accounts. They seemed to be on top of the world and loving the city. So I didn't like New York very much back then; there was so much joviality in one community and so much pain in the other. It felt very Darwinian and cold. I simply endured New York while I pursued my dream of being on Broadway.

"Now, it's been exactly 17 years since I moved to this city, and I have never loved it more. You can actually feel the loving unity. I'm so inspired and touched by the everyday heroes, from the firefighters to the members of the Broadway community. Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has grown into an amazing machine of good works, even distributing tickets to ground zero workers that were purchased by the cast and crew of Kiss Me Kate. How wonderful that people have come together to make such miracles. It seems those years of division are gone. May they never return!

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Douglas Sharon
Douglas Sharon
Finally, Sharon Douglas, a songwriter living in Little Rock, Arkansas, sent me the following lyric of a song titled "Spirit of New York":

Sittin' here in small town U.S.A.
And I'm wonderin' what to say,
And I'm wonderin' how to feel,
And I'm wondering if anything is real.
What is history telling us?
How can we endure?
There is only one thing
That I know for sure:

Spirit of New York, I'd like to thank you,
Spirit of New York, I'm by your side,
For you showed me your courage and conquered my fears,
And you showed me compassion that shines through my tears.
Spirit of New York, I'm right there with you,
Though we are a thousand miles apart.
Let your spirit lead the way, and trust me when I say
That, Spirit of New York, you are in my heart.

The whole world lives on your island so small,
The whole world, side by side.
You told us a story that we will recall
Long after your tears have dried.
Spirit of New York, I truly love you,
Spirit of New York, live long and free.
In my small town U.S.A., I'll stand right here and say
That, Spirit of New York, you stood up for me.
Spirit of New York, you stood up for me.

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Click here to visit Jim Caruso's website.