Saturday morning’s walk extended, to my surprise, across six miles in Manhattan. Mammoth bleachers for the Thanksgiving Day Parade were settled and half-unpacked by imposing tractors, stretched in sequential array upon the western edge of Central Park from West 81st to somewhere in the seventies, more no doubt to follow in the forthcoming days. There were numerous dogs — one unduly burdened by a carriage attached to his hind legs, as if he were a miniature Ben-Hur steed in service to his owner. I had thought that this poor dog had suffered an injured leg, and that the owner had attached the carriage to provide locative succor. But the contraption appeared more in the service of the owner, who didn’t seem to be aware that dogs could perambulate as fast, if not faster, than mere humans. A boy no more than seven years of age observed this rigged dog and thought him special by way of the wheels, but I felt sad for the dog, who was pressed to move faster by his master.
The bleachers were something of a burden, for they impeded steady foot traffic and we were forced to cross the street, contending with oppressive red lights, which we defied by jaywalking, and pedestrians who didn’t shuffle down sidewalks with our celerity. Certainly, they had the right to saunter. But when you get into the groove of walking, it’s hard not to go hard-core and we weaved like cars desperately careening across lanes to make an appointment. But we had no particular destination in mind.
The poor pedicab drivers, mostly African-American, shiver in the cold along 59th Street, waiting for desperate fares. They are the modern rickshaws, but the tourists prefer the horses. The statue of poor General William Tecumseh Sherman — at 59th Street and Park, in considerable disrepair, with a fading gold sheen — is largely ignored by the tourists, who settle for the horse drawn carriages at $37 per half hour, when they can have this needlessly abandoned historical figure for free. Perhaps they disapprove of the general’s march or Trump’s gilded endowment from not long ago. I find myself commiserating with the forgotten historical figures interspersed throughout the five boroughs, sometimes addressing them directly. “Who are you?” I ask a statue with an unfamiliar name. I then begin to apologize to them personally for not knowing the history and start asking these bronzed and iron representations questions, for the plagues which depict their histories are often unsuitable. I never seem to receive answers, nor do I receive strange looks from other New Yorkers. Perhaps inquiries along these lines are a common practice, or perhaps nobody is as interested in the past as I am. I am forced to Google the info later.
Concerning Trump, easily the most wretched buildings along the southern edge of Central Park are the Trump condos, which are as inventive as an accountant taking on architecture as a hobby with their flat rectilinear exteriors and banal facades.
Near the end of this peregrination, I stepped into a Men’s Wearhouse just to time how long it would take for a salesman to approach me. Total interval: nine seconds. And I was besieged with endless questions about my suit size, the smart sartorial items I was presumably pining for, and the suggestion of smart pants. But I left the store, not particularly surprised at the aggressive sales tactic. At least the Men’s Wearhouse staff have the decency to stand away from the door, which is not the case with the Madison Avenue men’s clothing stores, who hound you within two to three seconds with pathological fervor. They stand right by the doors and one considers applying for a restraining order.
Generally speaking, no clothing was purchased, I’m afraid to report. But if you have nothing to purchase or nothing to see as a tourist, it’s often a defiance of other’s expectations when you randomly walk through the streets of New York.
© 2007, Edward Champion. All rights reserved.