Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I Don't Love New York

Street Scene

I failed to fall in love with New York City or at least Manhattan. I found the streets to be claustrophobic with too little greenery, too little visible sky and far too many cars and people. Plus there was this air of hostility that I rarely feel in Chicago. I felt most at a loss the day we took a walk from the Lower East Side back to our hotel in Manhattan.

Lower East Side

Along the way, one of our hosts pointed out a park in which a number of men were playing chess. I've seen similar scenes in Chicago and my older son wanted to try out a game. He found a free table and started to play (for a fee). All was well so I wandered off in search of a coffee shop with the intent of buying a cuppa to pay for use of a washroom. I didn't find the coffee shop but took a couple of pictures and headed back to our group. As I approached the main street I witnessed the aftermath of an accident. A cyclist had been hit by a car. His face was terribly cut open and bloody. He was also accusing another man standing nearby of stealing his money. The second man did have a plastic bag through which could be seen a large quantity of cash. If I had to guess I'd say that much cash in a grocery bag wasn't come by honestly. I crossed the street to get away from gaping at the ugliness (the police and paramedics were on the scene) and went back to my chess-playing son.
I had my camera on me and had thoughts of asking if I could take a picture of the chess match when a man accosted me and started ranting about how I wasn't allowed to take pictures of the chess players. He seemed pretty crazy and more than a bit threatening. Another man approached me and started telling me how I could take his picture. I tried to back off saying I only wanted a picture of my kid when the first guy started raving about white racists (speaking of me) and using some pretty vulgar language. The fellow playing chess with my son was polite and tried to calm the situation down but the day was pretty well spoiled by this time.

Bellevue Hospital

I've dealt with the homeless and the mentally ill (and the homeless, mentally ill) before. I think I felt a bit off balance being in a strange city and fatigued from all the recent travel. I couldn't help feeling though that this situation would have played out differently in Chicago, or California, or Seattle. I wouldn't want to live in a city where I felt I had to watch my back all the time.


Kathe said...

But do you still have the bag you got to replace the stuff you lost heading to CA? :^)

(Yeah, I know. That's ME trying to get YOU to look on the bright side. Strange, isn't it?)

annie said...

the belleview shot is wonderful...and fits your scary story well!

being a native san franciscan, i felt prepared to visit nyc. there were many fine moments , but i know what you mean about the harshness and hostility. sadly, i think it's becoming more common in more cities.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I lived in Baltimore for one year and while it isn't Chicago or New York, we were fine in our neighborhood, but felt threatened when we drove or walked anywhere else. I don't like any large city in the United States for all those reasons you cited and others. I felt the best in one of the largest cities, which is Tokyo.

I did enjoy, very much, your post and read it carefully. I wish you had pictures of all those incidents but understand why you didn't get them.

Lovely post.

Glad you were not hurt.

Thanks for visiting my Rain Man post.

JL said...

I remember in NYC experiencing the rudeness and hostility and thinking of the people, "In the Midwest cities, you'd be dead. We have manners, such as they are, and we enforce them".

Rayne said...

I am sorry you had such a rough time there. I grew up in Ct. and spent a lot of time in NYC. I had many relatives that lived there, and you learn to walk in a bubble. You just sort of slide by and ignore the negatives if you can.
It sounds like you really hit a lot of rough patches all in one day, though. I know you may find that hard to believe but you had a very unusual day, it's not normally like that. I wish you could have seen the better parts and people that the city has to offer.
My cousin, Caroline, was born with many serious mental disorders and has spent most of her life in Bellevue Hospital. She's much older than me so I didn't see her often when I was a child, she's well into her 50's by now, and has been institutionalized since her early 20's. It gave me a little jolt to see the photo there, not in a bad way, just a 'wake up' kind of way.

sarala said...

Rayne, that is rough about your cousin. It is rare to hear of someone chronically institutionalized these days.

Kathiesbirds said...

I'm sorry you had such a bad experience in New York. That attack nearby your son would have scared the life out of me and put me in tiger mode to protect my kid. I, too, could not deal with the lack of greenery in New York City but my brother introduced me to Central Park, which I now love. However, I have only been there once. How clever of you to add in the shot of Bellvue at the bottom. Since you live in Chicago, have you ever visited Gossemer Tapestry blog? The writer lives and works there in Chicago and is connected with some scince/nature museum. His name is Doug and his link is on my blog. He's an entimologist extrodinaire!