Dear New York City

The bee flies anyway

Today’s letter comes to you on the 20th anniversary of 9/11. It is taken from the book, Letters of Note: New York.


Born in Rhode Island in 1941, Spalding Gray arrived in New York aged twenty-six, beginning a love affair that would last the rest of his life. Throughout those years in the city, he immersed himself fully in the alternative theatre scene. His first monologue, Sex and Death to the Age 14, came in 1979; many others followed, as did awards, movie roles, a family and, sadly, mental health problems which, coupled with injuries sustained in a car accident in 2001, led to him taking his own life in 2004. He wrote this letter to New York City twenty years ago, the day after the World Trade Center towers were brought crashing to the ground.


12 September 2001

Dear New York City,

For 34 years I lived with you and came to love you. I came to you because I loved theater and found theater everywhere I looked. I fled New England and came to Manhattan, that island off the coast of America, where human nature was king and everyone exuded character and had big attitude. You gave me a sense of humor because you are so absurd.

When we were kids, my mom hung a poster over our bed. It had a picture of a bumblebee, and under the picture the caption read:

“According to all aerodynamic laws, the bumblebee cannot fly because its body weight is not in the right proportion to its wingspan. But ignoring these laws, the bee flies anyway.”

That is still New York City for me.

Spalding Gray