Swear to God, this is true. I had just finished writing a column about New York, how the locals no longer have that stern stride on the sidewalk. Everyone’s looking at their phone. If you can believe it, they actually amble. Jaywalking seems down, because everyone likes the opportunity to stop and look at their phone some more. The idea that someone would slap a car hood and shout I’M WALKIN’ HERE like Ratso Rizzo seems like another era.

After I filed the column I went outside for a celebratory small cigar. I was standing outside the hotel, and a woman walks up and asks if I have a lighter. Well, probably yes, all signs would indicate so. I said I did, and produced it - whereupon she said “No, there’s a lady about a half a block down, heading this way, and she asked us for a lighter, and we didn’t have one. But she’ll be along soon.”

I wasn’t sure what to do with this information, except to say “You’re not from here, are you?” They were not. “Midwest?” Originally, yes. Well, the woman did not appear. I decided to walk around the block to take the night air, something I did not need to do for exercise because I’d walked about four hours already. As I looped around the block I fell behind a family that was heading in the direction of the hotel, and the mother said:

“And what do we say?”

“I’m walking here,” the kids said in joyous unison.

“What do we say?”


They turned into the hotel where I was staying, and entered the elevator. So they weren't from here. Well, it's often the newcomers who refresh the old traditions.

That was my day as well. Here, walking. I got up at 4:30, got to the airport at 5:15 to see the longest security line I’ve ever seen at Terminal 2. But I was Zone 1, so I didn’t have to endure it. Odd. Zone 1 isn’t first class, just people who put down a tenner to get a better seat. There was a sniffer dog, so no one had to remove shoes, or belts, or break out their electronics. Everything on the belt. I made it through the scanner without having to remove my watch or wallet. What? I thought a grain of aspirin in your pocket triggered the thing.

Hardly any sleep. Landed at Newark, thrice voted America’s most okay airport.


Did the SkyTrain. They’re small cars in an elevated tram, and you usually have the car to yourself for the last leg.

Fast shot to Penn Station, and here it all began. I got my first look at the new Moynahan Train station, constructed in the Beaux-Art shell of the Post Office, an attempt to bring back the glories of Penn Station. See above. It’s nice. It’s clean.

  Well, time to start hoofing. From Penn to Pearl street. Looked to be about an hour and a half jaunt. If that sounds insane, especially dragging a bag, well, I love to walk in New York. What I forgot is that there are parts that are just lackluster, and the stretch between Penn and Houston has its boring patches, punctuated by big parks and grand buildings.

This isn’t one of them.

“Fashion Institute.”

I felt sorry for the people who’d waited all their lives to come here, and the Flatiron was shrouded for repairs.

Later, down the street, high up in the sky: Gorgas?

It was one of many names carved in stone, including "Lister." Old Joe, no doubt. Doctors. What of Gorgas?

William Crawford Gorgas KCMG (October 3, 1854 – July 3, 1920) was a United States Army physician and 22nd Surgeon General of the U.S. Army (1914–1918). He is best known for his work in Florida, Havana and at the Panama Canal in abating the transmission of yellow fever and malaria by controlling the mosquitoes that carry these diseases. At the time, his strategy was greeted with considerable skepticism and opposition to such hygiene measures. However, the measures he put into practice as the head of the Panama Canal Zone Sanitation Commission saved thousands of lives and contributed to the success of the Canal's construction.

That's impressive. Then there's this:

He was a Georgist and argued that adopting Henry George's popular 'Single Tax' would be a way to bring about sanitary living conditions, especially for the poor.

What's Georgism?

Georgism, also called in modern times geoism and known historically as the single tax movement, is an economic ideology holding that, although people should own the value they produce themselves, the economic rent derived from land—including from all natural resources, the commons, and urban locations—should belong equally to all members of society

I had no idea there was such a thing as Georgism. The things you learn sitting on a bench, googling. Or rather, the cats you see.


You will learn all, here.




When I got close to the hotel I decided I had to eat something, since I hadn’t, you know, eaten anything. It had been a smattering of this and that all day, and the entire southward push had been fueled by a peanut-butter Clif bar. I hit a coffee shop for an Americano and a boutique-artisanal version of the Egg McMuffin which was not, of course, anywhere near as good. Took it to the park to eat, since there was no place inside to sit. This was fine.

Do you know how many floors Woolworth occupied when the building opened?

One and a half.

We’re going to learn things this week, together, whether you like it or not. A lot of building history, which is New York history, which is American history. The Woolworth, as you might know, was the tallest building at the time, for a long time. It’s been converted into residential, although not all of it. (The office-to-residential trend is big here, and I have emotions about that I’ll discuss later.) The wikipedia entry says that sales have not been robust.

The door has a sign that says NO TOURISTS, which is off-putting. I’d love to go inside, but I guess that’s not for the average Joe anymore.

The final walk. The amusing part: after an hour and a half of staggering, I overshot the hotel. By a block.

Having google-street-viewed it all, I knew where I would have supper:

It’s battered, and slathered with construction material. But it’s a Diner and it’s still there.

LATER: When I went to have dinner, it was closed. I ate at a place around the corner, then headed over to the World Trade Center.

I have mixed feelings about this place. I am ambivalent, maybe 49 - 51, on the main tower.

As I’ve probably said elsewhere: on one hand the building points up, but the twisting design necessitates that it also points down. It’s dynamic, I suppose, but ambivalent. Want your proud and soaring? Chose one. I also have my ornery moods where I wonder why there isn't any statuary, the way they used to do it. One enormous depiction of sorrow, another of grief. Too literal, of course.

The pools that commemorate the event are effective, shall we say. They're bleak and unnerving and provide not a hint of consolation. It's just death emptying into the abyss.

The Oculus: I hadn’t visited the last time. It’s a remarkable space.

It’s a shopping center. Good luck trying to find a store directory. I spent half an hour looking for the Haagen-Daas. (Gave up.) It is remarkably bright and spacious, though. As befits a facility atop a massive transit node, the shops are all high-end, because people who hustle through a space to catch a train or head home are often in the mood to pause and see what Kate Spade has to offer.

It has absolutely no historical antecedents; it’s divorced, or unmoored, or uninfected, by references to the culture from which it came. Of course, you could say the same thing about the original WTC.

It’s a bit . . . Gigeresque, isn’t it? Anyone else see a spine and a ribcage?


TOMORROW: We’re just getting started. Hold on to your hats, because we're going in the Barcley-Vesey building.

What? I'm the only one who cares? FINE.





No really seriously Barclay Vesey



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