Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Sidewalks of New York

Alissa, a friend of my friend Ellen, is spending the summer in New York to write a book about architectural walks here. Ellen herself is active in the commendable Walk to School.

Unlike most cities in the US, New York is a place where one expects to walk. Fast. In high heels. While talking on your cellphone.

Los Angeles, of course, is the opposite; it's a shrine to automotive culture. Which is why I'm amazed that Alissa lives there car-free. For the last three years of my SoCal decade, I was in West Hollywood, precisely because I could walk to the market or the gym. (The latter was four blocks away, yet my neighbors who also worked out there drove!) My delight in hiking Runyon Canyon was mitigated by my dread of getting on the 101.

Alfred Kazin's classic A Walker in the City is a must-read for anyone planning to walk here. It's about immigrant dreams, not architecture. But New York, like LA, is a city of immigrants and itinerants, and here, walking is how we strivers find our dreams, high in the gleaming spires or on the sidewalks in front of us.

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