Friday, August 5, 2011

New York: Runs Like a Charm

It's been a week since I returned from my first visit to New York in almost 30 years. I've started this blog entry many times and deleted it almost immediately each time. I guess my problem is in trying to articulate how much my perception of the city has changed since I looked over it from atop the World Trade Centre in 1982.

I say 'my perception' because the city is still the densely populated, muscular centre of action that it was then. It's just that it makes infinitely more sense now to me than it ever did. The embodiment of what America projects to the world through the city of New York is extremely contemporary, extremely sensible, and extremely positive.

Some of us get stressed about overpopulation, myself included. But the way that this thickly populated metropolis actually functions in what seems to be an extremely efficient and creative manner is awe inspiring. The runners in Central Park are totally synchronized almost by magic; the Park itself is perfectly manicured Nature adorned by historic landmarks and statues, a buffer against the claustrophobia of the concrete jungle surrounding it. Importantly, there is no feeling of intimidation or force in this synchronization; old, young, fat, thin, fast slow... the running groups embody more of a celebration than a competition.

The taxis are plentiful and affordable. The subway is clean and reliable. Space is at a premium, but it doesn't feel tight. This is how space should be designed; none of the sprawl that generates territorial disputes on  tracts of suburban land nearly the size of this city. You want open space? Go to one of the many parks. You want to meet up with friends without the angst of figuring out who has to be the Designated Driver? No problem. New Yorkers are free to concentrate on what matters in this ultimate urban world.

Thanks to the generosity and skill of a good friend and resident New Yorker, I came to New York already armed with perfectly drawn running routes. Following these routes allowed me to see and experience the city as only runners can. For such a densely populated city, New York has some incredible running routes within very close proximity to the core of the city. In fact, the broad swath of bike path right down Broadway was beyond impressive for someone more acclimatized to the bike- and runner-hostile civic administration of Toronto... (if you're reading this, Rob Ford, I am indeed talking to you).

We encountered many other amazing people besides my friend. There was the couple we met on the subway who showed us a better route and engaged us in great conversation on the way. The hotel staff were edgy, hilarious, and capable. No wonder Letterman set up in this town; the town feels like his show.

New York has moved beyond 9/11. This city has triumphed over countless challenges many times in the past couple of centuries with a toughness and intelligence that deserves more than simple accolades. Tour Ellis Island and you'll begin to understand how the character of New York evolved. Go visit New York yourself. It really doesn't matter what you're interested in seeing or experiencing, because New York really and truly has it all. I guarantee you will be impressed.

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