New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Look at Them Go

Please click and play audio link to accompany your reading.

One of the most startling differences between New York City and most other places is the life at night. It is late at night, you are alone, and perhaps you are in need of some human companionship. Step out into the streets of New York City and see signs of activity everywhere.

My family loves the city and has visited on a regular basis. At one time, they would camp out in my living room. My mother was fascinated with all the activity. She would stand, stare out my window and exclaim - "Look at them go. They don't stop going. They go all night." As if it was one person or one group with insomnia who patrol the city 24/7, perhaps to die of exhaustion. The city never sleeps, however, individuals do - but why tell her that when she was having so much fun?

Visiting my family in Bristol, CT, and driving the streets on a Sunday or especially on a Saturday evening before returning home, I was astounded as to how dead this suburban town of over 60,000 could be - it was a virtual ghost town with nary a person in sight.
Two hours later and back home, particularly in the summer, I would find Manhattan mobbed. In the Village, I would encounter bumper to bumper traffic jams. Reflecting back on the town I had just left, it was impossible to fathom - after every trip I would question my memory of the town I had left.
Of course, I realize that it is unfair to compare the two places, but nonetheless, it was the extreme contrast that to this day still astounds me. Driving through that suburban town where almost no one walks the streets, there are no cafes and no signs of life at all at night, less perhaps a gas station or all night convenience store. That is why the discovery of the Tangerine Dream coffee house in high school was nothing short of a miracle - see here.

I was once discussing all these matters with a friend, now living in the city, who for a time lived in a neighboring town in CT. He can be rather caustic and blunt with his opinions - in this case his response was that the "suburbs are death." Dislike of the suburbs is one of the most commonly shared feelings you will find in this city.

If you are a visitor, you may never be privy to this sentiment. A polite person will show due respect, and a reasonable person is aware that there are different strokes for different folks and that the city is not to everyone's liking. And, admittedly, there are tremendous conveniences of living in the suburbs. See my story of Dwanna here.

My parents no longer live in Bristol, but from time to time I still like to pass through for nostalgic reasons. On a bleak winter night I am intrigued by the deadly quiet. Soon I will be home, where if I want to see human activity, I will only need to step out onto to the streets or even just peer out my window and any time, day or night, I can Look at Them Go...

Photo Note: The photos were taken at 10 PM at Union Square - a major subway hub, a nexus of streets and a major shopping district. The area is active day and night. The lower photo is of the mezzanine cafe at Whole Foods Market.


Judit said...

I'm so gealous!
I know someday I will be one of them but now I just can¡t wait and dream, and try to see Barcelona like NY!
Do you think is difficult to live in NY being Eurpoean?

PS. I always read your posts and I LOVE THEM!

Nathalie said...

So true ! Whenever i'm having to travel i'm often surprised to find the streets and even coffee shops / bars so quiet on Sunday...

@ Judit: No real difficulties for Europeans to live in NY... i'm one of them !
But to be honnest, our main concern is the food (true for myself and for all my European friends here). Enjoy Ham and tasty fruits/vegies before to come here as they are more difficult to find and way more expensive than in Europe.

Horse Badorties said...

It's a very specific and limited demographic that you describe, not representative of the city in any general sense.

Brian Dubé said...

Horse Badorties - If by that you mean the Village, certainly it is much more active than say Borough Park Brooklyn on the Sabbath. And the Upper East Side on a hot summer weekend day can feel like a ghost town. Nonetheless, just approaching the city limits from out of town, one can feel the energy. And countless neighborhoods throughout the 5 boroughs have pockets of commerce and activity unlike anything I have seen in some of the suburbs - Bay Ridge, Williamsburg, Rockaway, Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights, Chelsea, Little Italy, Chinatown, Jackson Heights, Harlem, Dumbo, et. al.

Terry B, Blue Kitchen said...

Brian--I live in Chicago, not exactly a burg, and I know exactly what you mean about NYC. Whenever I'm there, everything just seems so much more alive, with people everywhere. And even in the quieter neighborhoods like Midtown, there is still some activity--there's certainly no ghost town feel to it.

Kathy said...

Love this post (and the music) - living in a town where the sidewalks are rolled up every night - I long for this kind of activity!

Someday I would love to live in NYC - for now I just have to visit your blog for my daily dose!

Will Hennessy said...

I can very much relate to this...and your friend's opinion that "suburbs are death." I think of moving to NYC every single day of my life. Unfortunately, doing so will require a nice chunk of $ for the initial move (first & last month rent, security deposit, etc), and oh by the way, the job market isn't so great!

I've managed to move to a 'downtown' area in SoFLA, but it's still very suburban--which is quite frankly, torture for me to live in.

Caity Bierman said...

I find it funny because it is so quiet at night in most parts of DC and on the weekends. I can walk down Pennsylvania avenue on a Saturday with no cars in site. Besides the tourists on the mall, it's a dead city on the weekend...and it's not even a suburb like the one in CT you talked about. This quietness was so hard for me to get used to. I miss the busy nights of NYC...

p.s I love the music choice.

rochelle said...

I don't live in the States, but I agree that sometimes like my semester break now, when I come back to my hometown, it just feels quiet. And very less activity around. It's actually a small town, but they still want to call it a city. I have no idea why. I'm living in Kuala Lumpur on other days; and never in my entire life had I imagine that I liked it. Sometimes when I feel homesick or just in need to be in a crowd or among people of all sorts, I have this weird thing about going on trains. NYC is my dream/goal.