Monday, 11 January 2010

Let's hear it for New York


Well, it took a trip into Manhattan to prove what several of the commenters on the previous post pointed out: Americans in cities DO go out in the cold.

There could not have been more contrast between the two days of our weekend. On Saturday morning, we went for a walk in woods at a beautiful nature preserve overlooking Long Island Sound. No-one else had been there since the last snowfall, and the only footprints ahead of ours were those of animals and birds. (And, according to Littleboy 1, Yetis, who he says live in igloos). It was icily cold (minus 5 or so in celsius) but bright and sunny; we wrapped up warm and no-one got frostbite. We saw no-one the entire time, and our car was the solitary vehicle in the parking lot.

On Sunday we went into Manhattan. After taking the Littleboys to see a model railway exhibit at Grand Central Station (perfect for train-loving small boys, and worth the trip to see the station and its fantastic vaulted halls) we ventured outside. Despite even colder temperatures, New Yorkers were out in force, ice skating in the sunshine in Bryant Park (pictured). The trendy Celsius bar overlooking the rink was packed, and there were even a couple of people eating their lunch alfresco. Others were admiring the fountain, frozen solid with impressively large icicles. There was a general air of festivity, despite the chill.

Back home, we walked down Main Street from the railway station to our house. Again, we were the only people about; certainly the only ones who had taken their children outside.

So this attitude to the outdoors (which Iota at Not Wrong but Different expanded on in her own excellent post) does appear to be a peculiarly suburban feature; a seamless journey from heated house to heated car to heated shopping mall does seem to be the default winter behaviour out here. It reminds me why, despite enjoying suburban life more than I ever imagined at present, I think I'll be pleased to return to city life in London at the end of our time here. Don't get me wrong; people in the suburbs are really no different from those in the city, and in many ways life is more convenient, cleaner and safer. But there's something about the life-force of the city that gives it vibrancy, an impulse for its inhabitants to come out of the cocoons of their own houses and become part of its ebb and flow. And that has to be a good thing.

15 comments:

Fourdownmumtogo said...

I am with you on things being different outside the city. Not that we live in a particularly urban bit of London, it still has an edge to it that is lacking outside of the big smoke.

We went to see some friends in a provincial city for New Year and although their friends were pleasant enough, they simply weren't as sparky as I have come to expect.

Perhaps it makes for a more comfortable way of life, but I simply don't find it as interesting.

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

I've always said that you should either live in or live out - and by getting stuck in the middle you end up with all the hassle and none of the perks of either. Mind you that mantra was begun in the era before children. Now I can see the point of it. But I don't think I would ever embrace the burbs. I might live there for a bit, but would always move out.

Glad you had such a ball in the city. Grand Central Station is brilliant. Did you quote from Madagascar much as you walked around? We were there in May and I was looking at the pictures there earlier today. NYC is such a great city.

Iota said...

Cities, and the country too, surely? People get out and about in the country, in all seasons.

Mind you, I live in a big city (nearly 400,000) and it's definitely not an out-and-about one. I guess it's one of those generalisations that just isn't going to stick. If your/my comments are anything to go by, it depends very much on the locality.

Glad you are taking advantage of proximity to Manhattan. Bet it's fun!

EmmaK said...

I have lived in USA for ten years and yes it is weird the way no one goes out in snow or rain or even if it is cold - yes I do live a bit in the suburbs but it always amazes me. Of course being British we are used to walking come rain come shine come hail because it is usually poor weather. But I think it is healthy for me and the kids to walk in all weathers although sometimes I will be walking along in the rain and a friend will pull up and maybe thinking my car has broken down will offer me a lift!!

Jenny Rudd said...

reading your post about strolling around the big city makes me homesick for London. I absolutely love being part of a huge, moving throng of people all with their own thoughts and energy and moving amongst each other. Sounds like you have the best of both worlds at the moment

Expat mum said...

I have found that even in the summer, when I drive through the burbs here, there aren't many people around.

nappy valley girl said...

Fourdownmumtogo - I know what you mean and wonder why that is - is city life more stimulating?

Brit in Bosnia - yes, we were definitely thinking about Madagascar!

Iota - true as regards the country, and maybe not all cities are the same. I guess NY and London also have lots of tourists, which would make them seem busier (although when I lived in Clapham, there were no tourists!)

EmmaK - that's so true - my landlady saw my husband walking to work one day and was so concerned she started phoning up and offering to drive him there!

Jenny - we do indeed, and are very lucky.

Expat Mum - where we live was much busier in the summer- lots of people out jogging, walking dogs and barbecuing on their front lawns.

Motherhood The Final Frontier said...

i could WEEP for a big city. Mostly London but really any big city. I live in a *perfect* smallish town of 100,000 people where the weather is also *perfect* all year around so people are always out and about enjoying it but that sparkiness and edge is simply not hear. I long for urban grit and style. Husband doesn't miss it at all but I'm dying to get back for some -sigh - one day...

Mud in the City said...

Sounds wonderful! And I have to say, I am with you on the in-or-out question. Might as well be totally City-fied or in the depths of the country. At the moment I am yearning for open spaces and fresh air, but if I was there, I'd no doubt miss the city!

Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy said...

Tag for you over at mine. x

leo said...

NYC is such a great city! It might not be as popular as other great cities here; it has its own uniqueness that makes everyone wants to visit it!
bed frame

nappy valley girl said...

MTFF - there's definitely something to be said for urban grit. I grew up in a big city (Hong Kong) and can never quite see myself anywhere else long-term.

Mud - ideally time should be split between the two, I think....

Brit in Bosnia - thanks, am on the case

Leo - it is one of the great cities of the world, I think. Definitely unique.

A Confused Take That Fan said...

Well, having lived in the country (Norfolk) in the city (London) and now in the 'burbs of commuter belt, and also looking at all the various comments, I just think it depends on each individual as to how they live their life. I am sure you find dull people in the city as much as you do in the burbs, and I am sure you find people in the city who may get cars/taxis everywhere and never walk and use undergrounds (although they must be very rich). The appeal of the 'burbs is the safety, walking to (good) schools, being close to the countryside but not isolated, being able to walk to supermarkets and parks. But there is no doubt it is lacking the spice of city life, the multi cultural, anything goes, eccentricities of city life. I miss that, but I don't miss fear, big yellow signs of rapes and muggings, standing under sweaty armpits on a packed tube, people not making eye contact or passing the time of day...but you know, every place has its good and bad points. I have enjoyed living in town, 'burbs and country. I think in a perfect world I would have a lovely country retreat near the sea and a fab pad close to the city, once the kids are older. Better keep playing the lottery then.....When are you back in London Mrs Nappy Valley? x

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

I often feel like I've had enough of cities having lived in 2 developing capitals in the last 4 yrs, & at times think I wd love to live in a peaceful village in a rural setting. But actually think I'd get a bit bored q quickly. Bit like living i developing countries tehs elast few yrs. I w dprob find Britain to staid, predictable & unexciting...No power cuts, no water shortages, no mad traffic etc, but then again..........

Paradise Lost In Translation said...

Oohhhh dear, terrible typos, must type more carefully :o(