Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Urban Hike Through New York City

Recently I participated in an “urban hike” through New York City with my brother and his scout troop. One of the scouts was turning 18 and his departing wish was such an excursion.

Given that it was the first nice day of the season, it was ridiculously crowded. We visited various historical places, including the pizza shop from “Spider-man 2”...

"What's up with you, Parker, you're always late?"

...and that one park where there’s that big arch. There were these acrobatic break-dance street performers there.

They were entertaining, but what was more entertaining were this nearby group of “Sex and the City” wannabe hangers-ons who said things like “Denim’s really in this year!” and argued about who got to be the White Queen at some stupid party that night. Very amusing.

You're probably not going to find a "People with AIDS Plaza"
anytime soon in Salt Lake City

Now I understand the infectious enthusiasm that exists in a place that gets as much attention as NYC -- I feel it to a degree in D.C. But my problem is I feel that everyone in New York is playing a character because their perception of themselves and their city is so informed by the over-saturation of pop culture on the subject. And I also feel that everyone lies to themselves about how much fun they're having while they're "doing New York." It's like that "30 Rock" where Liz Lemon says "Why would anyone want to leave New York? It's the capital of the world!" and then a homeless man spits in her mouth and she decides to move to Cleveland. (Video is here; clip starts at 5:06. Sorry I didn't embed; I had too many photos to clog this up with another image.)

Engrish = funny

Here's the thing about NYC: I can understand (to some extent) the appeal of the city, in that there’s so much there, and there’s this idea of finding “great places” that are hidden from others. It’s like the Internet: the Internet is cool because you can find a fun website that nobody else has heard about and then it’s yours; this is one reason my cousins said Homestar Runner ceased to be cool 'round about 2004: it became big and lost its fringe, alternative cache.

Oooh -- biting social commentary!

But regardless, New York is crowded and smelly. Why would I care about finding "hidden" cappuccino or pizza places in a city so over-populated and filthy that you come home with an indefinable film all over your skin? Who cares if you find the coolest banana peel in the world at the garbage dump ... you're still at the garbage dump!

Maybe that's unfair of me ... maybe I'm just not cool enough for what Washington Irving nicknamed Gotham City ... or maybe one urban hike just isn't long enough to "do" New York!


Kate said...

I am personally a fan of the place.

Benjamin Solotaire said...

I've lived here 20 years and find the comments a little offensive. It's fine not to like it, but don't insult us.

Stephanie said...

Regardless of my own opinions about NYC (and we all know I have them) - this is a funny post. And very true to Whitleypedia form. Keep up the authenticity JW!

Molly said...

I love your definition of "historical" places. Pizza place in Spiderman? Yup. "People With AIDS Plaza?" Sure. I love history.

I think the problem with New York is that the people who live there seem to really to think NYC is the capital of the world. And the country goes (from east to west) New York, Mississippi River, an island called Las Vegas, California. It's insulting to those of us in the "hinterland," and we take is out on New York. New Yorkers can thus deal with our antipathy, which is in response to their dismissal of rural areas, cities of less than 8 million, and the Republican Party.

Bryce said...

Great post! I've never been to NYC, and intend to eventually, but I predict I'll have a similar reaction as you. I just don't think I'm a big-city-folk. Although if it is half as witty and whimsical as portrayed in 30 Rock, then it may very well be an awesome place.

Whitleypedia said...

Molly, the "hinterland" is also referred to as "fly-over states." Lousy coasts!

Emily said...

I really enjoyed NYC both times I was there and didn't find it to be particularly dirty or smelly and I quite enjoyed the people. Did you go to Central Park? I love Central Park. I'm glad you made a stop at somewhere you'd seen in a movie because it makes the fact that my mom and I spent an afternoon wandering the upper West Side mostly to see places from You've Got Mail, a little less embarrassing. I hope you at at least one amazing meal there, there is just so much good food everywhere.

Ivy F. said...

Jared, of course Salt Lake City should have a People With AIDS Plaza. It affect everyone.


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