Monday, May 11, 2009

New York, New York

New York City is like that recurring dream you have of discovering an extra room in your house, a room you never knew was there. That expanding sense of space and possibility. You could wander New York for a long time and never run out of rooms.

It's also decrepit. Endless, sprawling decrepitude. I don't say that as a criticism, it may actually be no small part of New York's appeal.

Or maybe it's not decrepitude that I'm noticing, so much as an overwhelming sensation that it's a machine that could never be paused and restarted. Like that proverbial shark, New York must keep swimming, or die. You get a real sense of this when you start thinking about everything that's necessary to keep a city of this magnitude running.

Example: New York has the highest per-ton waste disposal costs of any city in America, mostly due to transportation costs. All five boroughs now ship their household garbage to neighboring states.

Example: There are over 700 pumps, at 280 locations, pumping water out of the subway. If all the pumps were to fail, the tracks would be submerged in less than eight hours, and the entire system flooded in less than a day.

Example: In July of 1977 the power in New York failed for a single day. Looters rioted in the streets. When I was a kid in Saint Paul, Minnesota, we once lost power for three days. Our ice cream melted.

But so what? Whatever it is that forms the "hate" part of New Yorkers' love/hate relationship with their city, it's a small price to pay for a breadth of cultural diversity unrivaled anywhere in the world.

It is, as they say, a hell of a town.


  1. <3 the pic with the old guy squinting at the book

  2. I too love the picture of the man reading the book. So much so I tried to make it my new desktop picture, but didn't look so good blown up to such a huge size. Bummer.

  3. Thanks Kasia, thanks Joe! Kasia, I'll email you the full resolution version.

  4. I do love the man reading the book, but the one with the clouds gathering ominously around the Empire State Building (or building that looks surprisingly like the Empire State Building) has a certain Ghostbusters-esque quality that I particularly appreciate. If you tilt your head just right, you can kind of see Zuul emerging from the portal. No? Just me? Alrighty then. Cool picture, nonetheless.

  5. Thanks lrk, I'm glad you like the photo. That is indeed the Empire State Building. I did not see Zuul, but did narrowly escape getting stepped on by the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

  6. oh, can i get the man blowing on the book, too? that is my favorite of this bunch. thank you, ben! :)