I don't go to New York City very often. There has to be a special event to get me to go, and even then, I reluctantly do it. On Friday, it was a Marc Maron show at Carnegie Hall. I've seen Marc before, but I'd never been to Carnegie Hall.
I plan it like a NASA mission. Every spare minute is accounted for, so that I can get in and get out without wasting valuable resources like money - which you need a lot of if you are going to New York City.
I like cities. I love Philadelphia and Baltimore. New York City makes them look like Mayberry. The activity is relentless.
I don't drive, because it costs $15 to go through one of the tunnels, fifteen bucks on the New Jersey Turnpike, and $50 to park you car. So, you're out $80 before you leave your vehicle. I hate to sound like a frugal jerk, but that's ridiculous.
I take the train because I like trains, and I walk because I like to walk.
It's difficult to drive around the city. I got there at around 2 in the afternoon, and the traffic was crazy. It was exacerbated by pedestrians ignoring the "Don't Walk" signal and walking anyway. It backed-up cars turning right and created gridlock. It's hard to stop them, because there are thousands of pedestrians, and their attitude is, "Fuck it, I'm walking."
There is a lot of clutter. Street vendors selling all sorts of junk, piles of trash, piles of ... piles. Just things in piles. Every square inch is occupied by a store, building, vendor, or somebody trying to sell me something or hand me something. There is a sensory overload that renders everything to one large mass. Nothing stands out, which is probably why the sides of buildings have bright video screens, vying for our attention. It's difficult to get my attention when I'm spending so much time navigating the human throngs on the sidewalk.
I have never been bumped into more in my life as I was in the 10 hours I was in New York. I spent a lot of walking time randomly bumping shoulders with people walking in the opposite direction. At one point, a guy with his nose buried in his phone bumped into me so hard that I'm pretty sure I heard his cell phone hit the deck. At least that's what I'm telling myself I heard, because it would bring me great pleasure. Pick your head up and join society. On second thought, I don't want you in my society.
The cell phone thing is amazing, in general. At one point, I guessed that at least 20% of the people walking the streets had phones in their hands, and of those, 10% of them were walking face-down. That's dangerous under normal circumstances, but in New York, it's borderline suicidal. I try to figure out what they're looking at instead of what they should be looking at - where they are walking.
Eating becomes an adventure. You could poison yourself at one of the many food carts on the street, or you could try to find a restaurant. The menus are usually posted in the window. In the Midtown/Theater District area, the average price of an entrée was $40. Again, the frugal jerk comes out, but I don't need to pay $40 for a plate of food when I'm not trying to impress someone for sex. It took a while, but I managed to find a little place with regularly-priced food and drinks. I felt like Thor Heyerdahl.
After dinner, I heard explosions. That's not unusual in New York, since the place is unreasonably noisy. The noise is so constant that it becomes background noise. Steam pipes venting, car horns, ambulances, whistles, and random yelling from people who seem to be yelling at themselves.
The explosions were fireworks going off somewhere in Central Park to commemorate the New York Marathon, which runs on Saturday. From the entrance of the park, I could see them clearly. Slowly, a crowd gathered. Maybe fifty people. Rather than just watch the fireworks, about half of them took out their cell phones and started making videos and posting them on some media site, which required that they not only miss actually seeing the fireworks, but watched them on their cell phones, which is about the fifth-best way to watch fireworks. I got the idea that they would be equally satisfied to see a video of fireworks as they would the actual fireworks. That's what a part of our society has turned into.
When I go someplace, I ask myself, "Could I live here?" Most of the time, I say, "Yes." As I wandered around Midtown, I wondered if I could adapt to the sensory overload. After a lot of time in that environment, perhaps I could? Would I become one of those guerilla walkers and life-recording cell phone users? Could I build the emotional scab over myself that I would need to survive in that morass of clutter and noise?
No, I could not. As the old saying goes, "It's a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there." It's true of no place like it is of New York City.
The song says it's "the city that doesn't sleep." I think it needs to take a nap now and then. Just to clean-up and relax for a little while.