Friday, June 19, 2009

Live from New York, it's...

I really hate those blogs/articles/reports from some heavily populated part of the world. After all, millions of people seem to live there just fine, so what exactly is newsworthy about that? Not to mention the Survivor phenomenon, where people trek to obscure places--where people have been living just fine for tens of thousands of years--and pat themselves on the back for surviving. Even the drama, I'm sure, is more intense at the village ten miles over.

None of this will stop me from blogging about New York, or from repeating the cliches about it.

This place really is Trantor writ small. The insane density means that you get everything at your doorstep. The total cosmopolitanism provides insane levels of variety and diversion. While, somehow, every square block of the city maintains its own micro-local character. A random hundred yard stretch will yield more hustle, bustle, culture, and interest than a whole neighborhood in Chicago (or, at least, some other city).

And then there's the pizza. Chicago-style pizza is fine, but in Chicago fashion, you have to hit those traditional places which sell it at a price. New York has democratized the pizza, throwing stands and tiny shops city-wide. They've done it with street food too--this place has the food quality of somewhere far poorer (go immigrants go).

It also, apparently, has a transportation system likewise. I'm mildly amused by the prevalence of rickshaws. Why are hipsters biking tourists around, rain or shine, as if they were in Calcutta-while the guy who is actually from Calcutta is driving a cab? Our generation, bereft of challenges, has apparently decided to pretend like hundreds of years of economic development never happened. This absolves them of the perennial guilt they hold--the original sin of the left-liberal--while giving them something to occupy themselves with. I hope climate change washes every last green fanatic into the sea. I laugh inside every time they complain it's too cold.

Fortunately, as far as I can tell, the hipster rebellion here is just one of a million mutinies, rather than being a social experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong and dominant. Maybe I should check out Brooklyn though. [ed-or else stop being cranky]

Fun fact: the guy who came in to fix my door assured me that New York's decline in the 70s and 60s dated back to its failure to attract container shipping, which went (along with ancillary industries) to Jersey. Sounds plausible, and would also explains why Newark crapped out a bit after New York. But then they (again, a bit later) got a mayor with national aspirations! All you budding politicians out there--find some manufacture heavy part of the country about to decline, then offer to run and fix it. The people will love you forever, or at least until you fail the Florida primary (really, what was that strategy? Step 1: Get New York expats in the South to vote for you. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Win! Send that strategist back to powerpoint school).

I guess the people are supposed to be really rude, but the first time I was walking down the street, someone said hi. Go figure.

Even the cabs are more advanced. They have these nice LCD screens in the back showing the local news, from which I confirmed that local news is consistently horrible around the country. Difference, though is that the pseudo-sexual banter between the hosts here is just about subway etiquette.

Bottom Line: Hyde Park needs to die. Seriously, I don't care what the density is, throw down some retail and food, and a hotel too. And stay up past ten. If bumfuck, IA has fast food options at three in the morning, so should a (nominal) College town. While you're at it, connect to public transport like a reasonable part of the city.

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