Central park is a dream, Times Square when baked less so. I must make a point of going to both places again, but timing is all.
In the park there are communities of dog walkers, as there are in most places. Here there are a wider mix, east side, cosmetically altered cougars, rented dog walkers of various non Anglo-Saxon descent and other, apparently, ordinary people.
The dogs arrive at the square by the pond where they all meet and go charging ahead round the corner as though on rails, the owners lag behind, the dogs greeting everyone before they get to do their hellos.
The park is full of Victorian style architecture, very beautiful, very English.
You sit there and you think: this is it, this is how to make a good city, benefactors and public money combining to make the world a better place, and you remember that these Americans used to know this. It is time to remember, for making greedy people richer won’t pull this stuff off and we have enough strip malls and light industrial zones anyway.
On the radio an evangelical preacher complains that his movement is fading as right wing wing nuts have tarred them all as extremists. This is another of the nuances we miss elsewhere. He remains silent on the fact that he had nothing to say when those wingnuts were in the ascendancy, but it bothers him now that everyone thinks he’s a twat too.
I bought a hat off a hat selling homeless man with a bad sales pitch and an incomprehensible black guy accent, like Bubbles got a job in Macy's. I said: “do you have anything dark and simple”, which on reflection he may have misheard as a description of his own good self. He offered me three "Hello Kitty does Manhattan" things before I took the one that I had described.
People smile, when you pass them in an isolated spot, in a park or on the shore they will often nod and smile or say hi. It’s like England in this, but nothing at all like Moscow. It is also like London in that it is a city that has grown organically driven by a mix of politics and commerce, minus the imperial roman shit which I guess is down in D.C. Moscow on the other hand is a planned city and so has a lack of retail space and public areas are all formed by a top down notion of what the “people” need. Here there has been a dialogue. There have also been philanthropists and reformers fighting to ameliorate the worst effects of the market here, and it is those spaces that make the place so pleasant, but they need more.
The impulse to retire into anonymity, so natural to the English, is lost here, people have stories ready to tell, stories they have practiced and that they would have define them. An old black lady on a bench outside K Mart invites me to join her in marveling at the insanity of passersby: she deconstructs them mercilessly. That one is wearing 3 jumpers coz his mom had him when she was already old and pa wasn’t around enough, the homeless guy with the cart shouting at walls sees something we can’t see, and who knows if he is right? Then a couple walk past with a lap dog in a kids stroller, and she says that’s the end of civilization, we’re all doomed but it doesn’t matter coz we always were.