Saturday, August 12, 2006


Copyright Elliot Erwit
NYC 1974

"And it was to this city, whenever I went home, that I always knew I must return, for it was mistress of one’s wildest hopes, protector of one’s deepest privacies. It was half insane with its noise, violence, and decay, but it gave one the tender security of fulfillment. Despite its difficulties, which become more obvious all the time, one was constantly put to the test by this city, which finally came down to its people; no other place in America had quite such people and they would not allow you to go stale; in the end they were its triumph and its reward."

Willie Morris

The above image by Elliot Erwitt is one of my favorites. Although the photo was taken in 1974, this captured moment could be found any time, any year, in NYC's Central Park. The inhabitants of this sinful city are the greatest and most eccentric dog lovers I have ever had the pleasure to observe. In a city that ebbs and flows, constantly, the solidity and consistency of coming home to a beloved pet is grounding.

I have missed this remarkable city over this past year. I have returned many times since living there...always finding healing, energy, and reconnection to my roots as a social worker. NYC is a social worker's observation fantasy! Whether walking the city streets, waiting for the subway, or jogging through Central Park, characters jump out at you...begging for the social worker's mind to assess and analyze. The world opens up in the most beautiful and paradoxical way. The faces of drama, sadness, happiness, and every emotion imagined, are right there. There is a raw, alive veracity that emanates from New Yorkers. They call it like they see it, and see it as they call it. It is refreshing and exhilirating...New Yorkers don't hide or mask reality...they ask you to accept it and challenge what you will do with it.

What I miss most about NYC is the strong presence and understanding of the core values of social work. It was never about just doing your job or work, it was about going to Albany and advocating for changes on bigger levels. If a "rule" needed to be bent so that a client/patient could receive the best care, it was done and supported. The creativity of a social worker's care plan was encouraged and understood. Being unconventional was celebrated.

I am fortunate in my social work in California, because I work for an agency that embraces the NYC attitude. Sadly though, we are surrounded by other agencies and entities that don't. So many find safety and comfort in rules and regulations...they prefer to follow guidelines set by the larger bureaucracy and soldier on in that straight, but very insipid line. I have always believed that a good social worker is resourceful and creative, continually pushing against the prosaic or facile mindset... a standard I look forward to practicing and upholding in my daily work. You can take the girl out of New York, but you can't take the New Yorker out of the girl...Amen!

"I was in love with New York. I do not mean "love" in any colloquial way, I mean that I was in love with the city, the way you love the first person who ever touches you and never love anyone quite that way again." - Joan Didion

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