Monday, September 15, 2008

New York, New York: Contradicting Thoughts About the City

New York is one of my three favorite cities in the world, the other two being Beirut and Cairo. I'm a city girl, I'm a total allegorical whore for the metropolis, I love the buzz and bustle of the city, I like buildings, monuments, history, I'm attracted to cosmopolitan types, I like to see evidence of human achievement and uniqueness- and what better place to survey the absurdity, tragedy and fabulousness of modern Western civilization than New York city?

In the city I feel anonymous, free, and –most importantly-entertained. I particularly love Times Square. It's loud, it's crowded, it's cliché, it's touristic, it's shallow, glittery and bright, and for its tackiness and baseness, the amount of energy it wastes and the power of blind consumerism it flaunts, but also for the diversity of the people in the street, the screams of material success and pop culture at every corner, and the looks of fascination on tourists' faces, I find Times Square oddly liberating, a phenomenon that is at once one of a kind and completely stereotypical. And there is something brilliant about that.

As a general rule I am not in love with the concept of authority, or the display of the totalitarian power of the state, or any sort of excessive order. There is nothing that displays these qualities better than the street grid system of New York City. The urban planners of New York spared no effort in making the city make sense and showing off its efficiency. Too much efficiency tends to bother me. And yet, New York's urban planning is impressive. The massive scale of order, the ostentatious display of wealth and accumulation of capital in Manhattan and even the symmetry of the streets in Harlem and the complexity and extensiveness of the subway system, I find exhilarating. In New York City, controlled structure is at once oppressive and inspiring.

I love New York because it refuses to be stifled by its own logic. Because it's chaotic and weird and surprising. Because despite the order and the power and the planning, the subway manages to smell, crazy people thrive on the streets, divas make bizarre fashion statements, and after church on Sunday, a fifteen year old African American Munaqaba waits at the bust stop in Harlem, all in a constant and un-self conscious rebellion against the status quo.

3 comments:

ticknad said...

'Times Square. It's loud, it's crowded, it's cliché, it's touristic, it's shallow, glittery and bright, and for its tackiness and baseness.....'

congrats you share a chromosome with a girl from kentucky, as we abhorently dread and steer clear of that carnival side-show.

ps i urge you to get on the double decker that departs from the empire state building and take a tour of the whole city, many out of towners laud it.....and oh yeah check out little egypt in queens it's quite entertaining.

zeinab said...

Thanks for the tip, maybe I'll drop by Queens tonight:)

Wael Abbas said...

yeah i recommend the bus tour too
50 bucks
but worth it