“City of Angels” Summary
Alisha, a childhood friend of Sedaris’s, is a native of North Carolina but often visits New York and stays with Sedaris. He describes her as the perfect houseguest, perfectly willing to either do her own thing or follow along with others.
Before one of Alisha’s visits, she calls Sedaris to inform him that she is bringing along a friend of hers who has never left North Carolina. This friend, a woman named Bonnie, is not someone Alisha has known for very long, but Alisha assures Sedaris that she seems “sweet.” Sedaris notes that this doesn’t mean much coming from Alisha, a person who would probably describe someone who kicked her in the stomach as “semi-sweet.”
When Alisha and Bonnie arrive in New York, Sedaris recognizes Alisha’s expression as one of extreme regret, and she whispers to him, “Run for your life.” Bonnie, it turns out, is a singularly unpleasant woman who believes all of New York is inherently overpriced and criminal. On the cab ride to Sedaris’s apartment, Bonnie threatened their cab driver, who she was sure was going to swindle them. She also refused to tip him. When Sedaris asks what kind of service she was expecting, given that she has never ridden in a cab before, Bonnie replies that she expects to be “treated like an American.”
According to Sedaris, this expectation is the key problem, as New York is a city founded on an “Us versus Them” mentality, full of people who are desperate to escape Americans like Bonnie. Despite the city’s general dislike of outsiders, the mayor’s recent tourism campaigns have billed New York as a destination for families. As a result, the city is now overrun by the “Bonnies” of America, tourists who expect a level of hospitality that the city can’t offer.
Bonnie arrives with a strict itinerary filled with all the major tourist sites—places any real New Yorker knows to avoid, especially around the holidays. Sedaris’s first mistake is ignoring Bonnie’s itinerary and bringing the two women to the Chelsea flea market. Bonnie is unenthused until she decides that she can look for angels to add to her angel figurine collection. Angels, according to Bonnie, are “God’s way of saying howdy.” After shopping, however, Bonnie deems the angels at the flea market wildly overpriced and of lesser quality than the angels back home.
After the failed trip to the flea market, Bonnie continues to complain all day—about subway fares, untrustworthy transit clerks, the price of food, and the movie Sedaris suggests. Sedaris jokes that at this point, he and Alisha...
(The entire section is 671 words.)