2009-10-07

Everyone is not your friend, sir, now please get down from there.


Had the good fortune, time, and obligation to go to the west coast over the weekend, so I stopped off in New York for a few days. I'd been meaning to since several people I like converged on there, and the weekend was as good a time as any. Clicky the image for some random images from there.

NYC was for one thing quite impressive to go to, but for another quite an anticlimax. Media has presented it as the standard generic city in most fiction -- the Gotham, the Metropolis, with Yellow cabs, city blocks, giant skyscrapers, etc. All these things are so buried in the pysche of anyone exposed to mass media, that to actually be there, get honked at by yellow cabs, walk among giant buildings, etc, didn't even register in my brain.

The subway system also takes away a bit of a city's character, too. Maybe it's just living in Dublin, but other cities with well-developed subway train systems I've been to (London, Barcelona, etc.) all seem to be somewhat robbed of a bit of character, if you can step into one street and emerge unaffected on another, with an indeterminate distance and volume of interest between stops. It feels like cheating when exploring a city, I think. Of course, it was pissing rain most of saturday, so it was mostly spent in two excellent museums, the American Museum of Natural History, and The Met.

All this may seem a bit negative, of course. The city is, however, amazing.

I love how Central Park is slapped right in the middle of it, and seems basically undisturbed.

I love how (as Rob pointed out) New Yorkers seem to think differently about space. To them, the city is an amenity, there to be used and enjoyed. In the AMNH, there were people hanging around the exhibits that clearly were New Yorkers, and this was a place they used and enjoyed often. Same with Central Park, same with The Met.

It's easy for the Irish Psyche to imagine wanting to stay away from tourist-type areas, but New Yorkers didn't seem to be surrendering their interesting parts to the tourists -- there's still a great sense of ownership, and pride.

On Sunday, I took the subway out to Brooklyn to visit T and J, and my cheating-sense was again tingled by getting onto a subway at 50th street, and getting off in a leafy suburb, with the Manhattan skyline off in the relative distance. Brooklyn is from sesame street, it seems to me like a lovely place. People were actually using the parks and amenities, there were people out running, a farmer's market. There were till smallish shops, unbranded. Local coffee shops and bagel places instead of Starbucks and Subway (I'm not usually a mad anti-homogenisation head, but it seemed appropriate in my brain). Their place is amazing, certainly for this city. In contrast to Manhattan proper, its somewhere I'd be actually happy to live. Making a home like that must be exciting.

I spent the Sunday afternoon wandering around the train station (where the last station, Rockaway Park, made me think of an old Ramones song). Hopped on a plane to Seattle, where I've been doing solid meetings for a few days now. Hopefully this weekend I'll get to explore a bit of Seattle.

2 comments:

  1. I agree that using a metro system gives a completely different (and odd) view of a city than exploring it above ground...and I love that. I love being able to learn the city in little chunks around one station here and one station there, and to combine that teleportation-like experience with travelling by foot and by bus, to let my mental image of the place come together like a jigsaw puzzle, with little bits coming together here and separate bits coming together there, and eventually they are connected! Wow!

    And yes, I do know I'm a freak.

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  2. I love Brooklyn and yeah New York kinda turns into a big blur when you live here. Not sure what you mean about the Subways, sure you can get on at Connolly station and end up in howth. Kinda the same thing. As for being unchained, it's something New Yorkers are passionate about which can only be a good thing. You should check it out again when it's not pissing.

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