Thursday, February 27, 2003
In the country, you get to observe some amazing natural phenomena; in a city you get to observe some amazing human behavior. Not always good amazing, but amazing nonetheless. Out in the woods, like the Adirondack region you get a sense of the intricate machinery of the wilderness - the flow of water, the change of seasons, and the food chain of plants and animals. In an urban setting, it works the same way, but the food chain is a little different. You can see over the space of a few blocks the range of the human food chain...yes, that is what it is.
It's visible when an affluent person tosses their McDonald's bag into a trash can from the window of their SUV and a few moments later a homeless person who was standing a few feet away pulls the sack out of the dumpster and has their one meal of the day.
When a man in sunglasses, leather jacket and shiny shoes walks briskly by the flatiron corner of Broadway and Clark, tosses a half-spent cigarette on the ground - and a man in a dusty navy hoodie and jeans standing outside the Salvation Army at the same corner bends down and puts the still-smoldering butt in his mouth without missing a beat. I've seen both of these scenarios; more than once.
One person's half empty glass is another's half full one.
In the city, you can sometimes feel that you are but one corpuscle in a massive circulatory system where the only dictate is properly-paced, continuous motion: no stopping, no slowing down, and certainly no going too fast. Any of these options gathers attention from passers-by, and the authorities. If you stand still on the sidewalk without a good reason to do so, a passer-by's first assumption is that you have a problem - that you're lost, or that you'll ask them for directions or spare change, or even grab their purse.
The Loop: at night, at the busy intersection of Randolph and Wabash Streets elevated trains roll overhead, spilling occasional sparks off their elderly rails, the metallic roar oddly soothing to the downtown dweller. Buses spew their fragrant noxious exhaust all hours of the day, taxis blare their horns and dare pedestrians to cross the street in time.
Everyone needs a raison d'etre downtown, so be a good little red blood cell and keep it moving, folks: there's nothing to see. Haven't you got somewhere you need to be?