Getting high


One of the first things I was told by a New Yorker this summer was that locals don’t really walk the High Line, on account of it being crowded up with tourists.

I’m glad I didn’t listen because it turned out to be one of the things I liked most about Manhattan.

Just knowing it is there is sort of relaxing. A break into nature, but the kind of break into nature that I like: one with urban views, street art, good coffee and the option of buying a fridge magnet (I have a growing appreciation) and a t-shirt you’d actually wear. Overpriced, whatever.

I was expecting Asia sized crowds, like the time I bailed on a Great Wall of China day trip, somewhere on the outskirts of Beijing, understanding no Mandarin or the subway system or where I was staying.

In photos the Great Wall looks kind of spiritual – empty and desolate, winding its way through the clouds. In reality there are only crowds and it’s a weird feeling to be in a crowd that crowded in the middle of nature. It’s unnatural. No buildings, no coffee and no t-shirts (you'd actually wear), just a whole lot of nature and thousands of people. Kind of like being on a battlefield or something.

So after finding no peace on the wall and then the tour leader pulling into the fourth (friend’s) jade factory I pulled out. I thought that some of the other people might have joined me because I’d had some vocal support in the mini van but there was just a lot of blank faces staring at me when the door rolled shut. Later my host explained Confucius society.

Well I think I’m not made for a rules-based culture (Canada!). Obviously innovations like the High Line come about because people are allowed to try things out. A small, elevated park that runs along an old freight rail line for about twenty blocks and spits you out in another cool neighbourhood? All wispy sea grass and beach foliage. Perfect.

Getting to peer into people’s backyards (backyards in Manhattan!) and tiny apartments and say things like: why would you have a massive TV like that in such a tiny apartment? It’s like having a friend over who takes up all of your living room. So big you can smell him and he smells like meat.