Monday, March 29, 2010

Random Thoughts on the Town Formerly Known As Sue Nork Yitty

1. New York is an amazingly organized city.
I think that every time I've been to New York City in the past, my views have been influenced by what I've seen on TV. Every street is caught in a perpetual traffic jam, it takes forever to get to the other side of town, and you'd be better off walking everywhere. Granted, in every other trip to NYC in the past, I was in a coach bus that didn't jive well with the busy streets, and likely ended up causing half of the traffic jams. When you really back up and look at the streets of NYC as a total pedestrian, traffic lights and regulations are set up to really make for smooth sailing most of the time. Even in busy Times Square, things run rather smoothly (pending the absence of crazy coach bus drivers who block off streets to let kids out to see a musical).

2. Tourists carry cameras, travelers do not.
Technically speaking, these "tourists" and "travelers" are really the same thing, but there's such a strong negative connotation to being a tourist, especially in a big city like this. I used to be a tourist, in fact, taking pictures of anything and everything. I now see how annoying this is to everyone else who just wants to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Tourists like to stand in inconvenient places to take their pictures, such as right on the corner, where mobile pedestrians are actually trying to cross streets, but instead have to dodge stationary pedestrians that are in the way.

I did not take a single picture during this entire trip, despite having my camera on me at all times. I came to realize that half of the pictures I would take pictures of (or most tourists, for that matter) have already been taken and posted on the Internet. If the tourists themselves didn't take them, someone who works at the particular facility in question posted it on their website. This really belongs in a rant all by itself, but it seems like we don't need to travel or take pictures anymore, we could just surf around Flickr accounts and Google Images and get exactly what we need. I honestly returned home with the intention of, if necessary, just doing a quick search for a photo of someplace I went to in order to describe it. This might be part of where my bitterness for tourists and tourism comes from.

That much said and done, once you get rid of the cameras, it's truly impossible to tell a visiting traveler from a New York City resident. Or at least, this opinion comes from a visiting traveler who really can't tell the difference if there is one. Maybe there are some certain dress codes that travelers and tourists use that residents don't, but beyond that, there's very little way to tell one person from another. New York City is enough of a cultural mixing pot such that you can't pick out any ethnicity as local or not. Everyone has the chance to be a local.

Of course, I had to get a little creative...

3. Subways are pretty much the most awesome thing ever.
Confession: I have a mild obsession with public transportation. I'm quite comfortable sitting and looking out the window for long periods of time in the company of strangers. I loved the El in Chicago, and I love the Subway in NYC. I get a really strange kick out of seeing an underground world fly by me from the comfort of my cozy little cabin. The best way I can describe it is like those chase scenes in action films where more of the rush comes from the speed of movement rather than the pursuit itself. That's really a crappy decision... I just like subways. Shut up. Leave me be.

4. Pizza is pizza.
I'd hate to say it, but of the three or four different pizza establishments I ate at over the course of the weekend, I noticed no difference in taste. I'm sorry. I'm sure each of these independently-owned pizza joints have their own claims to fame, but pizza is pizza. There's really little deviation there.

5. It is completely feasible to live in New York City.
Again, most of my assumptions about NYC were formed by media stereotypes and faulty high school experiences. Now that I've seen more of the island on my own and have seen residential areas as well as the big tourist district, I feel that life in a big city such as NYC is completely possible. The only downside is the cost of living there, between high rent and costs for everyday items. Granted, mid-town Manhattan isn't the best representation of prices everywhere, but even as you get away from the middle of the city, prices still do loom higher. But cost aside though, it seems like anyone could function just as they normally would in their hometown. The only thing that changes is the size of everything. And the presense of tourists.


Ryan Ledebur said...

Question: Isn't tourism more than just looking at the sights? Many "tourists" are on "vacations" (I use quote to indicate that these words have variable definitions).

Is tourism merely observing "the sights" in a place that is not one's own, or is it interacting with the environment of another place? Or, is it something else entirely, perhaps educational or just relaxing?

However you look at it, I believe mere pictures on Flickr are to unfamiliar, "tourist" destinations what a snow globe is to Antarctica.

Stephen Lewis said...

When I wrote the post, I intended the term "tourists" to be the sort of derogatory term for the stereotype of the obnoxious couple in their mid-forties wearing the loud Hawaiian shirts (despite visiting someplace thousands of miles away and plenty of degrees cooler) that you see in the media and usually instantly hate. I'm not saying that all people who visit other places are tourists, I'm just saying that their innate ability to get in the way does.

As for a true definition of tourism, I suppose I'm pretty much in the dark. Perhaps my view of tourism (which I admit is horribly flawed) is kinda skewed by the tourism I've experienced. It's all been strictly scheduled, and not very relaxing. This even includes family vacations to various locations, where we've had a massive checklist of things to do, set up in some order of greatest convenience. This is probably the first semi-relaxing trip I've had in a while, as we had quite a lot of free time to eat or hang out or meander the back alleys of the city.

As for the photos, I dunno. I used to be a huge photography buff, stunned by the sights. I'm sure you remember me when I was absolutely snap-happy back in high school. But I've moved on from that "phase" (for lack of a better word), and I don't take as many pictures as I'd like. I'm a boring old bloke, I guess. Maybe this is a dodge, but I'd refer you back to my posts about poetry and how I really can't get an emotional rise out of them.