An Endlessly Fascinating Place
I've been wondering what it is that our Mayor knows that
I might not know? He's been on the news lately suggesting
we put together survival kits, if we haven't already. Plus
we should have our backpacks ready to get out of town fast
This is a kind of talk we haven't been hearing a lot of lately.
No one has forgotten 9/11 but all around us efforts are being
made to be "normal" in a different time. We have
to deal with the realities of high unemployment, high taxes,
no smoking in restaurants, higher transit fares, constant
high alerts. But against this rather grim backdrop, the city
is attempting to get on with its rambunctious life.
Tripp noticed yesterday that people are swinging their arms
wide again as they stride through the streets, oblivious of
everyone else. Very normal New York.
We are facing a whole series of crimes that are very normal
New York - a hostage situation here, a drug killing there,
a domestic dispute that escalates.
The new AOL Time Warner building up at Columbus Circle is
a combination of offices and condos and the biggest of the
condos, about 12,000 square feet, just sold for $45,000,000
to a mysterious British banker for a price per square foot
that breaks records. That's definitely very New York.
We are facing a population that is rapidly growing, in girth.
The news this week has been filled with reports about the
size of the city's children. They seem to be getting as big
as the city itself - and that's not a good thing. In fact,
people of size are uniting and some resorts are specifically
catering to helping people of size have a comfortable time.
The news of the city is filled with all the normal kinds
of things for which New York is famous: star sightings, incredibly
expensive things [everything, it seems], and restaurants opening
and closing and moving. Subway riders are glued to Liz Smith
as the subways rock [literally] across the city.
But in addition to all of these kinds of things, these normal
beats of things, we are integrating to our lives other "normal"
things: the soldiers all around, the barricades, the mayor
chatting about the importance of escape routes, survival supplies
and backpacks for getting out of town fast.
Downtown, in Battery Park, the sphere from the old World
Trade Center sits with its eternal flame and with fresh flowers
still placed there by individuals coming to acknowledge an
event that is changing the world.
The "hole" where once stood the World Trade Center
still attracts the individuals who come to see where it all
began. People recognize that what brought down that building
started a new but still uncharted age. My friend Christine,
who lives in Golden Valley, Minnesota, intends to come to
New York, partially because she feels a need to see the place
where this new age started.
You see, almost all the important news that is going on in
the world right now has some kind of connection back to the
event that created that hole.
We are in Iraq and still chasing Saddam, not to mention Osama.
We are in Afghanistan but we hear less about this. The civic
conversation we are engaged in now is about things we weren't
thinking of two years ago. It includes polls on whether or
not the U.S. Armed Forces are stretched too thin, whether
the President misled the nation about the threat posed by
Saddam Hussein, whether the President lied to the public and,
if he did, what will be the consequences, if any? And is it
appropriate to be questioning the President? And, if it isn't,
why isn't it?
The President is in Africa, facing up to AIDS and defending
his State of the Union address. Did he need to go to Africa
to do that?
It is, at the end of the day, endlessly fascinating, to watch
this city deal with itself, to search for itself in the midst
of being the place where a new age no one imagined or wanted,