Monday, May 4, 2009

Observations of New York

I got to visit my old hometown, New York, for a few days. There, I was surprised to hear a liberal friend of mine make a critical comment about the present administration, though without mentioning its leader by name. [Almost all of my friends, relatives and acquaintances suffer from the affliction of liberalism]. She made the point that instead of dishing out the hundreds of thousands of dollars for the recent frightening NYC flyover by an Air Force One jet, the administration could have had some kid use a photo software program to produce the desired publicity shot. But then, as is their wont, why would Obamanites spend fifty bucks when a third of a million will do?

An observation about New York and a certain WSJ columnist - The city is not in the throes of a depressive funk from which it will never emerge. This writer (initials, P. N.) describes sparsely filled streets with the listless few staring morosely into space. A couple of examples.

A moment last Monday, just after noon, in Manhattan. It's slightly overcast, not cold, a good day for walking. I'm in the 90s on Fifth heading south, enjoying the broad avenue, the trees, the wide cobblestone walkway that rings Central Park. Suddenly I realize: Something's odd here. Something's strange. It's quiet. I can hear each car go by. The traffic's not an indistinct roar. The sidewalks aren't full, as they normally are. It's like a holiday, but it's not, it's the middle of a business day in February. I thought back to two weeks before when a friend and I zoomed down Park Avenue at evening rush hour in what should have been bumper-to-bumper traffic.
This is New York five months into hard times. One senses it, for the first time: a shift in energy. Something new has taken hold, a new air of peace, perhaps, or tentativeness. The old hustle and bustle, the wild and daily assertion of dynamism, is calmed.


In New York some signs of that future are obvious: fewer cars, less traffic, less of the old busy hum of the economic beehive. New York will, literally, get dimmer. Its magical bright-light nighttime skyline will glitter less as fewer companies inhabit the skyscrapers and put on the lights that make the city glow.

Not so. The skyline still glows brightly at night. Traffic still snarls Manhattan's streets and people still crowd its sidewalks. Union Square and Greenwich Village were packed on Saturday evening with strollers, shoppers, diners. No lack of energy there. The Long Island Distressway - the world's longest parking lot - still deserves its name. Something's getting those motorists on the road during rush hour. Nonexistent jobs perhaps. P. N. must be inhabiting a different universe. Or maybe she's practicing an affected writing style that she hopes will snag a Pulitzer. I vote for number two.

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