Is New York The Greatest City To Walk In?

22 August 2008

With its vast canyons, its toppling arching skyscrapers, its mythic cinema appeal, its glorious brownstone houses and its Gotham gargoyles, its streaming traffic and the lushness of Central Park, I am increasingly thinking that I love the most to walk around Manhattan. It?s a much safer city now to walk around in than it was; you can safely walk through the City of Lights at midnight, its diners and delis still open, girls in tank tops walking their Chihuahuas, old geezers with wiry grey hair on the chests waving in the cool of the night, waiters smoking on the sidewalks, and the neon flashing gargantuan and regardless above our heads like the Gods on Mount Olympus.

This is why Manhattan is the best city to walk in the world; it is much more beautiful and expansive than London, less crabby and twisty and gloomy. It?s also much smaller. And while it doesn?t have the phenomenal beauty of Paris, it is less prissy, it?s not precious, it?s beauty is self-made, buried amidst the hustle and bustle and the flow of capital and traffic. It?s far better organised than Rome and doesn?t have the horrible historical undertones of Berlin or Vienna. And it is new! It?s not freighted down with the impossible weight of history, it is still emerging, still full of hope and without the cynicism, the embedded narcissism and nihilism of post-war Europe.
If you took the whole day, you could walk down Manhattan, from the top of the island to the bottom in the shade, following the python stretch of Broadway from the Cloisters, through Columbia Heights, Harlem, the Upper West Side, through Midtown and into the Villages, right to Wall Street and the Battery. Above all, there would be this amazing sense of a great mythic voyage being undertaken; the differing sides of the American Dream are embodied in the huge walk. I?ve done in stage during the sixteen years I?ve been visiting New York, but I?ve never done it in one day. Now that would be an experience!

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