Thursday, August 22, 2013

Shrug In The City Part V - Among the People

This week, I decided to quit hiding out in my hotel room after work and go see for myself what’s changed in the Big Apple since I was here last.  Truth is, I haven’t been hiding out.  Those who know me know I don’t hide from anything.  The reality is I’ve been working long, late hours and have just been too tired to feel like getting out.  I’ve acclimated to the pace now, so I’m hitting the streets after work.

Manhattan is full if impatient people and I suppose I am one of them.  I'm sure they have their share of not so impatient people, but from what I've seen, the cab drivers are the worst. They will lay on the horns and scream out the windows seemingly for no reason.  When I was here years ago and got clipped by the cab in front of the Apple store, the driver screamed out "fucking tourist!"  Gotta love the compassion.  For some reason, the pedestrian lights are awkwardly timed with the traffic signals so it's common to see people winding around cabs and limos that are attempting to turn as people are in the crosswalk with the pedestrian light on their side.  Just Tuesday night here in Manhattan, a cab ran over a tourist during a road rage incident with a bike messenger.  But I digress.

I haven't learned to roll with the horns yet and when I know they're directed at me, I usually silently mouth "fuck you" and keep walking.  Admittedly, that's probably not smart anywhere, but especially not smart in a place like Manhattan where I have no equalizer in my pocket.  Yesterday on my daily half mile walk to work, I crossed 51st street at Lexington just as the pedestrian light started flashing "Don't Walk".  As I stepped on the curb on the other side, I heard a loud, long honk.  I was the only one in the crosswalk, so I know it was directed at me.  I silently mouthed "Fuck you", but this time turned my head to the right and in an example of micro give-a-shit attitude, added a scornfully sarcastic look at the driver...who just happened to be a cop.  He was parked in the right lane in front of some construction equipment.  Our eyes locked on each other for an instant before I sheepishly turned away, turtle tucked my head, and dragged my computer bag up the curb.  I could hear his car door opening and slamming shut as I ducked into a Duane Reade store and dashed down the cosmetic/feminine hygiene aisle, which wasthe last place I figured he would look for me. Fortunately, the store was in its morning rush and I was able to see him at the back of the store as I bailed out and onto Lexington without incident.  Lesson learned.  Make sure the driver to whom I direct expletives is not a cop.

I walk everywhere here.  So far, the only cabs I've taken are to and from Laguardia Airport.  Manhattan has some cool bikes for rent with little pickup and return stations scattered all over the city.  You dip a credit card and ride the bike wherever you want and then drop it off at another station.  People tell me I'm crazy for riding a motorcycle in Dallas or alone to the Arctic Circle.  I can attest that nothing is as dangerous as riding the streets of Manhattan.  You truly need a swivel neck.  It's clear to me that if there's one thing cab drivers hate more than pedestrians, it's bicyclists.  Maybe it's because we're getting around without paying them.  The coolest part of my bike experience was riding all over Manhattan late at night when the streets are pretty much empty.  For the most part, all I encountered was other bikes and cops.

Being a biker, I often notice Harley Davidson stores in tourist cities.  The irony is they usually have no bikes.  They're basically t-shirt shops selling Harley related swag.  It appears Manhattan has topped Harley.  There's probably a Harley souvenir shop here that I'll eventually run into, but it can't compare to the Ferrari store.  For the most part, all this store sells is shirts, hats, belts, coffee mugs, and shot glasses all emblazoned with the famous Ferrari horse logo, but there are a few Ferrari cars on the floor.  Many Harley riders make it a point to collect Harley shirts from dealers across the country and even around the world.  Most have never been to these shops, much less actually ridden to them.  Still, it makes me wonder why someone who can afford a $500,000.00 automobile needs to wear a shirt or hat telling the world about it.  The first time I walked by the Ferrari store, I wondered what the business model for a store like this looked like.  How many shirts and belt buckles must they sell to pay the rent on Park Avenue?  Maybe the joke is on my because there was a yellow Modena on the floor when I first walked by that was gone yesterday, replaced by the red one in the photo above.  Perhaps the guy I saw purchasing a $145,000.00 watch in the Tiffany Patek Philippe salon  bought it.

You can't experience the culture of Manhattan without hitting the museums and believe me, there are plenty to choose from.  I wandered by this one on my way to Greenwich Village.  I'll make it a point to stop in and gain some much needed culture.
I'm struck at what passes for art in this town.  I shot a few photos of what appear to be piles of scrap metal and rope.  Some "artist"  probably earned serious cash for these.  Maybe I should look for an artsy guy driving a yellow Ferrari.

This is art?

One of the best parts of walking through Manhattan is taking in the architectural oddities.  Look in any direction and this city offers you an amazing contrast in structures and composition.  One can easily spot a hundred years of architectural evolution and cultural influence in a single city block.  A great example is the Flatiron building at the intersection of 5th and Broadway.  It was built in 1902 and reeks of Renaissance styling.  I've seen it in movies and photos over the years, bet never in person.  It really looks out of place.  I have to constantly remind myself to not look up with mouth agape and stagger around like some clueless tourist Texan.  I suppose stopping to take pictures is just as bad, but at least I keep my mouth closed.

Next entry, I'm heading underground and believe me, I will not be silently mouthing anything to anyone.  Well, I'll try anyway.