Thursday, April 19, 2018

Once again in Olde New York.

Yesterday I stumbled upon this footage of Olde New York and, thankfully, it sent me back in time. Like George Bailey in Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life," I was born old. 

Not as old, of course, as the scenes in the film above, but I've always had a fascination with the past. I guess I'm a natural historian.

I remember as a little boy walking in a weedy field and seeing beneath the weeds the rusted tracks of an abandoned rail-line. It wasn't until the dawn of the internet that I discovered that they were vestiges from the New York, Westchester and Boston railroad which was built between 1844 and 1848.

I also remember seeing beneath the worn asphalt of city streets the still gleaming tracks of bygone trolley lines which used to criss-cross the great city.

When you are getting on in years--as we all are--and you've lived in the Great City your whole life, you see not one city, you see two or three. You see what is, what was and what was before even that. Call it urban Pentimento, painted in steel and brick and concrete and soot.

"With jewels, and with pearls the great city, where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth," the Great City grows on, alive and inexorable, subsuming farm-land and fields, enveloping all that stands in its way.

The great city is Babylon-like--except it still stands. Stands after crime and terror and riots and fire and drugs and disease. The Great City is not, as the Christian Bible portends, desolate in just one hour.

Still I am missing the city I had been in. Missing its ramshackle, missing its danger, and missing its raw intensity and dirt. But of course, I love, too, the city I am in today.

The off camaraderie. The resigned humor. The polyglot of people, tongues, food and laughter.

I gotta go. I've got a trolley to catch or I'll be late for work.

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