When I moved out of Minneapolis, I sorted through personal papers and it struck me that, in hundreds of pictures of me, I am not smiling in a single one. I look like a mortician with a migraine. Partly this is due to the cold. Winter is brutal and you keep your mouth shut so you won’t frost your lungs. Teachers told me that. Plus which, in Minnesota there never were many people around so what was the point of exercising personal charm? Plus which, there are strong Lutheran tendencies there, people consider humor frivolous, maybe sacrilegious. Jesus wept; He didn’t laugh.
I feel much freer in New York. I sometimes talk to myself when walking in the park, assuming I have something interesting to say. If you did this in Minnesota, there would be an intervention, you’d go into rehab for self-consciousness training. In New York, people enjoy this. It’s a looser culture. Crosswalks are ignored and “Do Not Walk” signs are considered only a suggestion.