Greg Rosalsky: What’s the Difference Between a $240 Sushi Roll and a $6.95 Sushi Roll?

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Ordinary Times. Relapsed Lawyer, admitted to practice law (under his real name) in California and Oregon. On Twitter, to his frequent regret, at @burtlikko. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.

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8 Responses

  1. Kazzy says:

    “The most recent Census data shows that median household income begins to plummet once you get north of the Upper East Side, starting at 96th street.”

    While far from the cause of income inequality, wealth disparity, or general poverty in certain neighborhoods, I do think what we call things matters.

    When I was about 12, I remember looking at a map of Manhattan and wondering, “I don’t get it: Harlem and Washington Heights (two neighborhoods that were no go zones) are on the Upper West Side. Everyone loves the Upper West Side!”

    Silly Kazzy. That ain’t how it works.

    Depending on exactly who you ask, the Upper West Side runs from 59th Street to 96th Street, 110th Street, or maybe 125th Street. Well, those numbers sound pretty “upper”, no? They’re all pretty high, right? Not when you consider that the West Side of Manhattan runs up to at least 225th Street. On the East Side, things are a little better, I guess… as the article notes once you hit 96th Street (or maybe a little lower), you are considered to be in East Harlem or Spanish Harlem. Due to the geography of the island, you can only get to about 145th Street on the East Side.

    Why does any of this matter? Because it seems to me that when you take a city and label the (approximately) bottom sixth “Downtown” (14th Street to the Battery), the next sixth “Midtown” (59th to 14th), and the sixth north of that “Uptown” (let’s be somewhat generous and say 110th to 59th)… you’re sort of sending the message that, “These are the parts that matter and everything else doesn’t.”

    Now, again, renaming all the neighborhoods tomorrow probably wouldn’t change much if anything. And it is important to note that New York City neighborhoods are strictly cultural; with very few exceptions the names carry no political significance which is why the boundaries tend to be so fluid (Boroughs are what matter politically).

    But when someone with no familiarity with your city can look at the map and say, “Why do you say the “upper” part of your city ends at the halfway point? What happens north of there?” than you run the risk of labeling becoming self-fulfilling prophecies.

    This extends further: while Manhattan is undoubtedly the ‘hub’ of the city… culturally, politically, financially, whathaveyou… it is but one small section of the city (23/303 square miles of land area — last among the five boroughs; 1.6M/8.5M population — third among boroughs (highest population density of the five though). And yet, such emphasis is put on this relatively small section of the city that many simply refer to it as “New York City” or “the City”… even among residents of these other areas. “I live in Brooklyn but I’m going to head into the city this weekend.” Even the US Post Office reflects this: your address in any of the “outer boroughs” includes the name of that borough; but in Manhattan? Your address does not include Manhattan: it says “New York”.

    I realize I’ve gone a little off topic here but it seems relevant: should we really be surprised that areas of the city get treated like they barely exist when the very language and terms we use to discuss the city’s geography pretty clearly suggest they don’t exist?Report

    • KenB in reply to Kazzy says:

      I see what you’re saying, but note that if you use 110th as the cutoff, that means there’s a message that Columbia doesn’t matter…Report

      • Kim in reply to KenB says:

        Columbia only matters when they’re providing cautionary tales on “feeding illegal drugs to black children”…Report

      • Kazzy in reply to KenB says:

        Many out of towners are shocked to learn where Columbia is located.

        “Isn’t that Harlem?”
        “Yea? Sorta? Depends who you ask?”

        Morningside gentrifying is “helping” that particular issue, I suppose.

        If the question is, “Why does the “upper” part of this island stop at the halfway point?” And the answer is something resembling, “It’s the upper part of what matters,” that attitude has consequences.Report

  2. Damon says:

    You know, I don’t car anything about class, race, or geography when it comes to food. Is the more expensive roll so much better in quality vs the cheaper? Frankly, I’d be hard pressed to see an amount of improvement given those points.Report

  3. j r says:

    I read the whole article and I still don’t know the answer to the question that is the title?

    Is that on purpose or did I miss something?Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to j r says:

      The reporter is being honest here: by not reporting on what the $240 roll actually tastes like, he admits that he simply could not afford the $240 sushi roll, nor could he wheedle his editor into allowing him to comp it. So he ate a $7 roll made from the same sort of fish sold from the same supplier, and found it delicious.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to j r says:

      To add to Burt’s comment, a lot of these big price differences involve some or at lot of trickery.Report