Thursday, August 19, 2004

A Trip To The Big City...
I've been on hiatus recently, taking a trip back to my native New York City to visit family and friends.

I'm not sure if it's me or not, but, New York has changed. Radically. Perhaps three months in the relative quiet of Charlotte, NC has changed me, and New York is the same place, albeit somewhat skewed in my eyes due to absence. Then again, maybe the character of the city has changed so much that based on my 37 years there, I no longer recognize it as my home. This is a preocess, I belive, that started soon after September 11th, and now it's coming to it's completion.
New York will be unrecognizable to it's natives within 10 years, I believe.

I no longer feel comfortable there. I felt like an alien. Everything is pretty much in the same place as it was before, but it seems subtly different, somehow. The same stores, churches, office buildings, etc., no longer have the feel of familiarity to me that should be second nature to someone who has been in them thousands of times.

The crowds are still there. A vast sea of millions of people, each living in his own little universe oblivious to everyone else, rushing headlong into an early death from stress and aggravation. However, the crowd has accoutrements now: police officers, in flak jackets armed with sub-machine guns and walking bomb-sniffing dogs. There was a time, even in New York, when such things would have drawn spectators, or at least raised an eyebrow. But now, this is part of the scenery. Just one more guy to push past on the sidewalk.

The subway has changed, somewhat for the better. I found it cleaner than I remembered it and I don't recall seeing any of the usual vermin that manage to survive there: the 4' long rats, the vagrants. But when you look at the advertisements in the station, or on the train, you'll see they're written in Spanish, Creole, Polish, Russian, Chinese, in short, usually anything but English. Did the English speakers all suddenly move away, like I did? There were not massive crowds on the trains either, like there normally are. Even places like Penn Station or Union Square stations, which are usually wall-to-wall people, seemed empty.

I was only in NYC for four days, and granted, I spent the majority of them on Staten Island which is sort of like being stranded in the desert between Phoenix and Las Vegas -- there's not much there, and it never changes. But I was amazed at how quickly I was able to pick up on the subtle changes that quickly, and even more dumbfounded by how incomprehensible I found most of them to be. It's not my New York anymore, and I'd better get used to the idea.

And by the way, still no smoking in bars. I guess one thing hasn't changed: the perpetually panty-bunched always get their way.

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