American Humans

I write this one from Dallas-Fort Worth airport, where I am stuck after a four-day long business trip. After several delays my flight was cancelled and I was booked on another one leaving four hours later. Leaving me with nothing to do but gorge myself on Häagen-Dazs smoothies (didn’t even know they made those!), plug into the WiFi and catch up with myself. Truly, we live in a fantastic time. I was so not looking forward to killing half my waking day in the confines of a crowded airport, particularly one swarming with cooped-up toddlers, but my anxiety was swiftly quelled by spending a few bucks on a T-Mobile connection, et voila: Pandora saves me from the whiny little Texans surrounding me, I have a magazine stand at my fingertips, and I am not only not bored, I am productive.

Having this kind of mellow time at the end of a trip in a new town does give one a chance to reflect on her impression of the place. I had never been to any part of Texas before and Dallas was a nice intro. But it is fascinating to uncover any town’s personality, and if you come from New York, when you visit other cities you are inevitably reminded anew of how unique the place you live is. As for my time here in Dallas, I had great Mexican, great barbecue, great quail; I survived the heat; I toured the arts district and marveled at the architecture; I bore witness to the only freestanding theater that Frank Lloyd Wright ever designed; I rode a golf cart onto the lawn of the Cotton Bowl and I explored a butterfly house at Discovery Gardens in Fair Park. I Did Dallas. (No, not in a Debbie kind of way—shame on you.)

So I can confidently say that one of the weirdest things about Dallas in August is the utter lack of people. Wherever you go, nary a soul is to be found on the sidewalks. I found this disconcerting, coming from a place that has more people per square inch than most do per square mile. Sure, the heat is oppressive and the locals love their huge air-conditioned cars, but how do I get a flavor for this place without scoping out its inhabitants? What kinds of shoes do the women wear? Where are all the smokers?? I never thought I’d say this, but I miss all the people.

And so I have one of my rare moments of New York sentimentality. As I’ve explained, I am not a die-hard New Yorker. I enjoy getting out of the city with frequency. But if there is anything all New York dwellers can profess with great certainty and pride, it’s that people-watching is one of the best ways to pass time in our city. It’s almost impossible to be bored, and it has nothing to do with plugging into anything. What I am currently getting online in an airport, I can get off my city streets, any day, any month. New York is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to personality.

If you don’t live in New York, or if you do and you’re somewhere else and homesick, get a taste through this blog: Humans of New York, or its Facebook page. These are the kinds of things we get to see every day. This is our normal; our August, January and May. For all its faults, New York is still—for better or worse—downright inspirational. And for all my qualms with it, I will probably live there until I can say that about the next place I choose to live in. So far I haven’t found that place. At least, not on this side of the pond. Not yet.

Sorry, dear Dallas. I had a blast on the visit, and I forgive you for trying to beat me down with your subtropic temperatures. But I’m a New Yorker and therefore pretty tough to beat down, and my gritty, crowded streets with all their inspiring humans are beckoning me back home.

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2 Responses to American Humans

  1. Sometimes it feels like we in NYC live in a bubble. It’s crowded and overwhelming and (let’s admit) a bit smelly. It’s important to escape regularly, to get a balanced perspective. I love going to other places – but have you ever noticed how hard it is to leave NYC. I mean, physically hard? In other cities you get in your car, motor out to the highway and voila – you’re on your way.

    I’m not sure if this is true, but I’ve heard that in other cities people watching is done at the mall.

  2. Rex Berkshire says:

    NYC is a street place because that is where the room is. The density alone forces you there for human contact and of course, supplies for living. Dallas, and most of the southwest, all suffer from just the opposite, too much space and not many people, and even fewer with a heart. But the larger difference is in tolerance of human diversity. Sorry, I feel a rant coming on, and it’s not my blog…

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