The sad reality of coming into the city speaks volumes about amerika's current "can't do" attitude.
I read in a book some decades ago that getting to Machu Picchu from Lima by the "Inca Trail" takes longer today than it did in the 15th Century, before the Spanish depredations, rape and despoiling of the continents. I believe the same phenomenon holds in New York. It takes longer to get into Manhattan from suburbia in 2024 than it did in either 1924 or 1874.
The wheels of progress aren't supposed to roll backwards.
The whole Jeremy Bentham "greatest good for the greatest number thing" is about as passé as democracy itself. Today, it's billionaires and politicians first, all others be damned.
That's all besides the point of today, however. The point of today is that I had something all-too-rare in my adult life. I had wander-and-wonder-time atop the ancient schist that holds up our particular island in a stream. I had hours between meetings, even longer between beatings, and the rare day when some joint or appendage isn't barking about some old-timey injury. Or just plain over-use.
As the great Langston Hughes wrote as Jesse B. Semple in "Feet Live Their Own Life," on a day when Jesse felt not so spry:
“These feet have stood on every rock from the Rock of Ages to 135th and Lenox. These feet have supported everything from a cotton bale to a hongry woman. These feet have walked ten thousand miles working for white folks and another ten thousand keeping up with colored. These feet have stood at altars, crap tables, free lunches, bars, graves, kitchen doors, betting windows, hospital clinics, WPA desks, social security railings, and in all kinds of lines from soup lines to the draft. If I just had four feet, I could have stood in more places longer. As it is, I done wore out seven hundred pairs of shoes, eighty-nine tennis shoes, twelve summer sandals, also six loafers. The socks that these feet have bought could build a knitting mill. The corns I’ve cut away would dull a German razor. The bunions I forgot would make you ache from now till Judgment Day."
In short, I got to see New York as I seldom see New York. I got to see old buildings and their ornamentation. I got see cabs careening, people screaming, street vendors scheming. I got to see funny graffiti, angry graffiti, ugly graffiti, huh graffiti and a fecund crop of anti-trump graffiti. I got to see lovers, haters, skaters, even alligators down sewer graters. I got to feel the paces, see the races, look at the faces.
I saw the mortarless marble of the Morgan Library. Patience and Fortitude standing leonine guard in front of the library. I saw the aluminum beacon of the Chrysler and the glowing spires of the Empire State. It was New York, as it should be, with your neck craned and your eyes strained before your ass is en-trained.
There's a lot of repugnant bushwa about the dangers of New York, a city that is, in fact, safer than most red-state middle-schools, where people live side-by-side and collide and subway ride and elide and glide . Where illicit lovers hide, where citified beats country-side, an time and tide wait for no one.
That's the place I love.
A place I visit now yet never leave.
As I write this from the sea just two hours north.