Monday, June 12, 2006

A Northwesterner Visits New York

I just returned from a three-day trip with Toni and Katie to New York. The writer in me romances the Big Apple - after all, it's where our agents and our publishers and our editors reside in a magic place full of the power to bring our words to the shelves of New York postmarks herald most of our rejections. And our checks. For me, there are still more of the former than the latter. Sort of badges of honor, like walking uphill in snow. For writers, New York zip codes are tightly anchored to the bitterest of disappointments and the best of news.

But forget the emotional connection to New York for a moment. My "home" big city is Seattle. New York is overwhelming in a bad/good split, as if it were copying the rejection/acceptance gig of my stories visits.


First - .8 million people. Seattle is only a touch over 1½ a million. Sometimes it feels hard to breathe.

Central Park is the most beautiful park in the US. Perhaps it is the same dichotomy thing. I mean, I’ve been struck dumb by the Tetons, not to mention Yellowstone. But so much beauty, so many birds and dogs and horses and castles and water, all in one place in the middle of a city? And in the middle of the park, impossibleossibile quiet even while surround by 8 million people. Impossible things happen in New York.

New York is a big band event. Sirens and car horns and trash trucks and demolition blasts and air tools. People calling for taxis and playing music and buses with air brakes…

New York stinks. You can smell the sewers. They pile garbage out on their streets, in big bags, every night. There's smoke stench and stale alcohol everywhere, almost as many cigars as cigarettes. New York has smoke shops every few blocks. At home, they are every few miles.

The city is alive very late at night. You can buy socks at eleven PM. I bet you can get a hammer at 1:00 AM. And I know for sure that you can get "I *heart* New York" on anything, any time of day. Not to mention more FDNY and NYPD stuff on any one block than a whole force of the real deal could possibly need to be uniformed. Note that I've never seen SPD or SFD merchandise in a tourist shop in Seattle. Maybe it's because I'm not a tourist, but I suspect it's because we had the WTO and New York had 9/11.

New York has a subway. It's almost worth moving just to have a subway. I wonder what New Yorkers would think if they knew we actually gave some people front page celebrity status for doing without a family car for a month in Seattle. Or if New Yorkers understand that it's six times harder not to have a car in Seattle than it is to have a car. We almost had a monorail. Once. Or Twice. Maybe even three times. A side note is that New Yorkers, even with the gift of a subway, walk more than we do. I suspect that’s part of why the average body mass of a single individual in new York seemed about twenty pounds lighter. Purely a small sample observation, but still...

There are trash cans everywhere in New York (in addition to the bags of trash on the sidewalk). But almost none of them look or are labeled like recycle bins. In Seattle, we're encouraged to choose recycle bins the size of garages and trash cans that hold about a quart.

I didn't see anyone in New York get fined for:

  • Passing on the right
  • Jaywalking
  • Stopping in the middle of an intersection
  • Stopping in the middle of an intersection while passing on the right and threatening jaywalkers.
  • Excessive use of horns
  • Loud boom boxes
  • Driving without checking for pedestrians
  • Smoking within 25 feet of a public entrance to a public building – or worse yet, INSIDE a public building. For this purpose, public in Seattle is defined as any building that isn’t a detached family home with a five acre yard. I think Bill Gates could smoke if he wanted to.

That's not, by the way, a value judgment. Both systems seemed to work fine. They just yielded different results.

Our pedi-cab your driver told us Bill Gates owns TWO places in Manhattan. As far as I know, he only owns one in Seattle. But our Bill Gates house is bigger. It might not be more expensive. Or our pedi-cab fellow might have lied. Our first taxi driver lied to us. Either that, or the tolls INTO New York are over 20 dollars, and the ones OUT of New York are about two.
New York has a memorial to John Lennon and it still has Yoko Ono. We had Curt Cobain and we may still be stuck with Courtney Love.

I'm happy to be heading home as I write this. But I'll be back. If just for the subway.


At 10:23 PM, Blogger Robert said...

Hi Brenda,
I'm Robert Katz. I met you
6/20/06 at the Future Salon in
Bellevue. Thanks for a delightful
If you want to read about NYC Cab
traffic, there's a delightful Blog
by Melissa Plaut
New York Hack
I'm a transplanted New Yorker since 1966. The in-joke is: Visit New York City and experience the problems all other cities will have 30 years hence.

At 10:50 PM, Blogger Brenda Cooper said...

I enjoyed the group very much. I also emjoyed New York.

At 2:02 PM, Blogger Bill Harrison said...

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