Monday, May 28, 2012

Los Angeles, NY

IMG_1995Looking north from Sycamore Cove (2006)

On hot days in New York—and after eight months here, I’ve had a few—I remember California and its beach-salt smell mixing with pollution blowing over from Los Angeles. On the hottest day in my memory—during Labor Day weekend, 2007, a dry blast of heat that for sheer Fahrenheit beat out any Philippine swelter—I hopped into my little red Civic and drove up to Sycamore Cove, a dimple in the coastline past interminable Zuma but well south of Oxnard.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Big (Green) Apple

New York has several of the tallest buildings in the world. It has the two most-visited tourist attractions on earth. It contains a single smallish island that, during the day, crams well over one percent of the entire country’s population onto its shores. Its metro system is among the busiest and most extensive anywhere. The city has more people than Switzerland.

For just those reasons, New York’s parks are all the more miraculous.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Parsnips like white elephants

New York is made out of tunnels, bridges and roads, boxy skyscrapers, green patches of park, a couple of rivers, three big islands and many smaller ones, a few bays, air thick with wireless signals and blaring horns, ringing phones, profanity, the aroma of pizza. Everything is falling apart, in an entropic sense—the brand-new floors being added to One World Trade Center are already past their prime, even as their last rivets are set. The green shoots springing up in Central Park and Flushing Meadows and even my humble Clement Moore Homestead Park have nothing in their future but autumnal amputation.

Luckily, there is an urban renewal team bent on keeping the parts of New York whole and attached. Their tools are stickers, spray cans and masticated gum. Blank surfaces are smoothed over with painted banners, hiding piecework brick behind graffiti. Plastic adhesives reinforce street signs and light poles. The city doesn’t condone these repairs, but it should be grateful for them—they distract from the ugly sameness, the brilliant glare from a billion spotless panes of glass.