New York of the Unexamined Life

A good time was had by two in New York City. When you haven’t got money to travel and can drive there and take the ferry over for free, and, moreover, you like walking around in a city all day, which we do, you can do it. There is no end to doing that. I do not know when I will be done with Manhattan and get on to Brooklyn. I do not know when I’ll get at last to Staten Island, though we’re figuring our way around there driving—which is not much, but something. And there is the public transportation to figure out, if walking is ever exhausted.

One of the things that becomes good when you’re doing this is a restaurant where you get free water and which has good restrooms. Let me recommend to you the Washington Square Diner where the waiters hustle, the food comes out fast, and you can even get an espresso, besides the water. Genuine: no silly tourist ethnic stuff to that place. After being outside in the cooler weather all day, it was also good to sit down to a latte made correctly and served in a ceramic cup. Nothing is less conducive to the glory of coffee that this paper cup with plastic lid. Nothing is more conducive than a day of grasping a bit of the enormity of New York with a cold wind and your face all burning. Best latte I have had. Also, note to those interested, if you find an upscale tea shop you can get a free cup of strong, hot tea as a sample. Nice in the cooler months. I may also say I really like the service I get in New York: very solicitous, very competent, never this Midwestern gushing friendliness. I have not had a bad experience in New York. I feel that they do things the way I do.

I do not go to New York to do the tourist thing. That is suitable if you are a person of inferior intelligence or incomplete understanding. I do not want to stand in line with other tourists, I do not want to be told what New Yorkers do not know, I do not want to go in places thronged with tourism, except to appreciate that this also is New York. I do not want to get my picture at some place, or gawk gormlessly without comprehension. I go to New York because it is a phenomenon, a location which draws me with its manifold interestingness. I go to New York and would happily eat at Burger King just to be served by New Yorkers, to sit among New Yorkers, to look out on New York through the windows, to get a sense of the enormity of the place. I want to watch the steam rise from the manholes and the sun slide between the buildings. I walk up and down all of its streets trying to get a sense for how each section is different, what happens there, how the people look and react, everything. I care not one fig for the statue of Liberty except that it is located in New York, that great metropolitan wonder. Were I to live there I would spend hours every day prowling through it, exploring it, making myself the master of it, knowing every throughway and alley and train and tunnel. And I want to see, in so far as I can, the lines of a greater city of which it is such a splendid manifestation, squalor and all.

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