#takeonnews: New York isn’t the Only Place

The other day I read an article in Harper’s Magazine about how New York has changed.

As New York enters the third decade of the twenty-first century, it is in imminent danger of becoming something it has never been before: unremarkable. It is approaching a state where it is no longer a significant cultural entity but the world’s largest gated community, with a few cupcake shops here and there. For the first time in its history, New York is, well, boring. — Kevin Baker

I was in New York City way back in 1969 for a religious conference I ignored for the most part to explore the urban streets I found so riveting. What else can you expect from an almost sixteen-year-old?

According to Kevin Baker, that was just before the city became a cesspool of crime, filth, cockroaches, and homeless defining its roadways, alleys, and tenements during the 1970s. Truth is, I saw the filth and homeless during my fluttering through shops and parks. You did not want to be caught in a rainstorm on those streets because the million drops of water falling from the heavens were chalked full of smog. Those were the days before there was all the hype about air quality.

Back then it was an exciting place to visit. Johnny Carson had his show live at Radio City. There were Broadway and off-Broadway shows. Visiting the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building was still an awesome experience. Visiting Macy’s was supposed to be a shopping trip you’d never forget. [Personally, I was a little disappointed.] Nowadays, the tourist attractions seem dwarfed against the skyline. Johnny Carson is gone. Macy’s has stores all over the country so the sensation of shopping at a famous store can’t be brought forth. All that is left are the hotdog stands every few blocks and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

My hometown is Denver. While growing up, going downtown was an exciting adventure. Our mother would take my brother and me at the start of the Christmas season to buy our two special ornaments for the Christmas tree that year and to pick out our present for our dad. Mom would also take us to one of the bookstores as part of her quest to keep us interested in reading. The streets looked so wide back then. It seemed to take forever to cross a street. I would get nervous wondering if the light was going to stay green long enough so I wouldn’t get run over while crossing. Somehow I always made it across before I saw the yellow light.

However, nowadays, even with 16th Street being a long wide walkway downtown, that glorious feeling I had when walking with my mom and brother has vanished and has been replaced with anxiety, annoyance, and a little fear. The bustle of yesterday has been replaced by trudging feet barely moving forward. The streets are congested with drivers ignoring the pedestrian lights, insisting on making that turn. People walking aren’t pleasant either, flipping the bird to anyone who doesn’t move out of their way.

The fun and euphoria of the big city have departed and we are left with concrete buildings and tarred roadways that seem to evoke sadness, despair, misgiving, and perplexity. Oh, and, of course, a little bit of fear.

§

Have you noticed the difference?

“Everything in modern city life is calculated to keep man from entering into himself and thinking about spiritual things. Even with the best of intentions a spiritual man finds himself exhausted and deadened and debased by the constant noise of machines and loudspeakers, the dead air and the glaring lights of offices and shops, the everlasting suggestion of advertising and propaganda.”
Thomas Merton, No Man Is an Island

 

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20 Replies to “#takeonnews: New York isn’t the Only Place”

    1. When I was in New York, I was baffled by how everyone was looking at their shoes instead of looking at the other people walking along. At that time in Denver, it was normal to say good morning or good afternoon to people as you walked. However, Denver has become like New York. Everyone is looking at their shoes or their cell phones. I understand not saying anything if you’re on the phone but that isn’t always the case. My opinion, everyone is scared out of their wits anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had the opportunity to visit New York twice, being from a small Latin American country, of course, it was very exciting for me, but I noticed the same, everybody seemed enthralled in their own stuff, specifically their cell phones. I really thought that if I were given the chance, I wouldn’t live there. I still prefer the Good mornings of my hometown whenever you board the public transportation. Great post Glynis!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d love to visit NYC again. I want to see for myself if it’s a boring place now. But live there? No, I don’t think I could ever do that. I went to Brooklyn too when I was there. The only thing I thought was a little peculiar was the fenced yards didn’t have any lawn, just dirt.

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  1. I lived in New York for a little over a year beginning in the summer of 1977. It was not a nice place, but there were things you could do there that no other city offered – good things. I stayed away after moving back east, but in the late 90s, my daughter became fascinated with the city. We went on numerous day trips and I took her with me twice, when I was at a conference in the city. It was noticeably cleaner and a visible police presence made it feel safer.

    Other than the attractions, I don’t think there has been anything there for many years that you couldn’t at least approximate somewhere else. There’s just more of it. While most cities have a couple of good steak houses, New York has 50.

    But then, I think that’s true of most cities. If you aren’t going for an attraction or 2 or 5, you’d probably be happier somewhere else. Then again, there are still attractions in New York that I’d like to see, so I wouldn’t call it boring.

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  2. I lived in New Jersey when I was a kid and we went into NYC once or twice a year. It was always a thrill but we never went to some of the most iconic places. I’ve never been to the Statue of Liberty or the top of the Empire State building.

    I’d love to live in the Big Apple for one year and do everything – see every museum (I think there are 87 in the city,) walk through a new part of Central Park every day, see every theater on and off Broadway, eat at all the best restaurants and the dives, ride the buses, the subway, and the trains, go to the UN building, and watch the Today Show being filmed as well as Good Morning America, Saturday Night Live, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, and anywhere else that will let me be in the studio audience. I’d like to visit publishers, Harlem, and Long Island, Ellis Island, Rockefeller Center, the Flatiron Building, the Chrysler Building, and Brooklyn Bridge. I want to pay my respects at Ground Zero, at Central Synagogue, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

    It’s a dream, but I’d do it if I could.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I got to the top of the Empire State building but never did get to the Statue of Liberty. I did get over to Brooklyn. It’s kind of strange over there. The houses have fenced yards but no grass, just dirt. Of course, I was at Madison Square Gardens because that’s where the conference was. I did miss a lot though. I’d like to visit the art galleries.

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  3. I thought NYC was exciting to visit, but I definitely wouldn’t want to become a native. Everything is always relative. When I was in high school, I remember how excited we would all be to get to go away for a track meet in a bigger town like Coeur d’Alene that had something as exciting as a Taco Bell.

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    1. True, it is all relative. Actually, until of late, it’s been hard for me to compare NYC to Denver because the culture was so different even though both are big cities. However, in later years, Denver has acquired numerous people from all over, making the culture more like NYC. I also think it depends on what you’re familiar with. As you stated, a small town girl going to medium-sized town can be exciting. I live in a small town now and enjoy my trips of just 45 minutes to a bigger town where there’s more variety in shopping.

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  4. I first went to NYC three years ago when my grandson was attending Seton Hall in New Jersey. He fell in love with NYC and invited us to visit him so he could show us around. We rode the train in each time we went, and his infectious spirit made us love the city as well. We saw the major local sights, including a broadway play, and had a glorious time. But I don’t think it would have been as much fun without our grandson as our tour guide.

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    1. When I went, I was with another girl from my church who had been to NYC several times with her father. She knew about a lot of the tourist sights and some other places not listed on the hip parade. Yes, having a guide who knows you helps a lot. I’m glad you had a good time. NYC is such an interesting place or at least used to be.

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  5. I haven’t been to the US and NY is one city I’d love to visit. I guess tourism is what drives people to visit and spend $$$, and this focus would alter the dynamics of a place. For a person who’s never visited NY or any other place, it would be quite exciting. For those who grew up and knew it well, will see the changes. Not all change is good.

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    1. Where is home for you? For people like me who have wanderlust, as big as the US is, we still want to visit other parts of the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been to Crete but it just whetted my appetite enough to make me yearn to see more of Europe.

      I think you’re right about how people feel about where they’ve lived for a while, at least in most cases. I spent my entire childhood in Denver, Colorado. It’s changed since then and, according to my family who still live there, not in a good way. I have no desire to see Denver again.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Home is Perth, Western Australia. We’ve the moniker of being the most remote city in the world. It’s a beautiful part of Australia and the largest state, though our population isn’t like Sydney or Melbourne. If you do ever come this way, let me know and I’ll show you around 😀

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