Back in the bellybutton after an incredible adventure in NYC! What a totally crazy place!
Nobody in their right mind would choose to live in Manhattan, which tells you something about the millions of people who would never leave – most of them very nice people. But their unwillingness to make a run for it remains a total mystery to any rational person.
Not to say New York isn’t a wonderful place in many ways, not to mention exciting, dazzling, inspirational and grandiose. But… still not livable by any reasonable measure. Everything in New York is a struggle. Its a struggle to walk the dog. Its a struggle to buy groceries or do the laundry. Its a struggle to get from here to there. And it doesn’t matter how rich you are. Its still a struggle. Money can mitigate the struggle to a certain extent. In fact, it takes about a quarter of a million a year not to be a victim in NYC! But even that can’t save you from the relentless assault on your person, physically, mentally and spiritually. Its a dystopian nightmare, not amenable to a civilized life.
To paraphrase Jackie Mason, lets take physical. I have an iphone app called Decibel 10th, one of many free apps that can turn your phone into a device to measure sound levels. The loudness or volume of sound is measured in decibels. Normal conversation takes place at a decibel level of about 60db. Hearing damage starts to occur when the level of sound is about 80db. Tissue damage occurs at 90db, etc.
There is almost nowhere you can stand in Manhattan where the sound levels are lower than 80db, and that includes most restaurants. You don’t have to take my word for it. You can (and should) download one of these apps and check for yourself. A subway train comes in at about 100db – certain to cause tissue damage.
Of course riding the subway (as millions must) subjects a person to a lot more than just the damage to hearing. It is almost impossible to get on a subway in NYC without encountering a panhandler in some form. Sometimes it is a busker with a guitar singing Beatles songs. (I often give them a dollar, hoping they might stop, or move on) Sometimes it is a person with a bible. Sometimes it is a war veteran. Sometimes it is a psychopath with bad teeth covered in tattoos.
So if you were planning to leave your wildly overpriced efficiency apartment to have an overpriced lunch with an old friend, or are hurrying off to work or a business meeting, you have to factor in the intervening assault on your concentration, focus, direction, thoughts. And if you are lucky enough to catch a subway sans panhandlers, your thoughts can wander to the other passengers crowding up against you, wildly speculating as to which of them might actually be a crazed jihadist on his/her way to paradise. With you.
Reaching your destination allows you to emerge from the cacophonous subterranean purgatory to an asphalt wasteland (this is true of every single subway exit in Manhattan – I checked.) where every person you see is scurrying. No matter where you are in Manhattan, people are scurrying. Except for the panhandlers, buskers and security forces. Manhattan is now occupied by security forces, which are paradoxically reassuring and frightening at the same time. Massively grouped at strategic points like the Port Authority Bus Terminal and major corporate media headquarters on 6th Avenue, and spread thinner throughout the borough, they are never out of sight. This is reassuring. At the same time, totally scary. Why am I walking past a team of 20 special forces militia fully outfitted in camo and loaded from head to toe with automatic weapons from some x rated video game? I’m unarmed. All I have is a backpack with my laptop in it. What if hostilities break out? And why would these guys be here armed to the teeth if that isn’t what they were expecting???
My friends who love Manhattan sing the praises of what a visual spectacle it is. Spectacle, yes. Pleasing? I tell them that in Italy, or in my home town of Okemos, there is almost nowhere you can stand where you can’t see a garden growing, or flowers, trees or natural beauty in some form. In Manhattan, there is nowhere you can stand where you can’t see – garbage. Usually stacked from one end of the block to the other, about chin high.
Yet Manhattan is still a great place to visit, as the cliche goes. Exciting and filled with energy and spectacle and wonderful things, most of which are inaccessible to anyone but the very rich. The sign at the city limits should say: WELCOME TO MANHATTAN! WE HOPE YOU BROUGHT MONEY! Because if you didn’t, your experience here is going to be like extended experimental chemotherapy, 100% guaranteed not to work.
I can’t wait to get back!
To be continued…