Shifting Gears

I’m taking a dating hiatus.  I can explain why later when the mystery is solved but in the meantime I’m just going to rant and rave a little for a sanity sake. Sanity being a relative term.  So here goes: 

First off, I want to apologize to the people from Kansas. I don’t actually know anyone from Kansas, nor have I ever been to Kansas. I’m not even sure exactly where it is except left of NJ and right of California.  I’m one of those people whose brains are like the old New Yorker cover where there’s a map of the world and you can see New York as far as 12th Avenue and then there the Hudson and New Jersey, then some gray and there’s Chicago, a little more green and there’s LA over there somewhere .  remaining is Texas in the south and Florida is where your parents live but in general the rest is kind of green prairies and maybe some mountains where people ski and the Mississippi otherwise …. There’s Europe and Asia. So While  know Kansas is in the middle there it represents for me a place from which people come, but not many people go to and it therefore represents the idle of America, perhaps even middle America but it may not be at all like that. In fact, I think I once read they have good barb-b-cue but that might have been another state in the middle that you wouldn’t suspect as having good bar-b-cue but there you go. Surprises all around. So in short, any derogatory references I make about Kansas aren’t really about Kansas it’s about average people who come from somewhere other than the 3 states you find on the New Yorker cover and average minds and average thoughts so, again, my apologies to Kansas. I’m sure despite being in the middle you’re not average at all.  Just in the middle. It’s like in school you have to learn the difference between the average and the mean and 30 years later you’re still not sure what it is. Middle America – same thing.

I live near Central Park. Central Park is a great place, a haven really in the madcap bedlam of New York. Someone told me recently it was the most visited park in the world, or maybe it was the United States, I don’t remember because either statistic seemed improbable. More than the Grand Canyon? More than the park with the Presidents heads? Of course, these parks are largely closed in the winter and Central Park seems to have an endless stream of visitors but I wanted to know who was counting. There’s no admission fee or turnstile to get in or out and did that count the people who lived here because I walk my dog 4 times a day in the park and if that counts as a unique visit, or a visit at all really, then the numbers can’t possibly be right. So was that aliens, as in tourists, visiting or was that just foot traffic in general because I think if you count foot traffic then you have to count the herds which move through the great western parks because they’re like residents who create daily foot traffic too and if you’re going to measure apples you can’t throw also in oranges on one end and not the other.

In any event the herds on the northern plains are probably at least as intelligent as some of the foot traffic in Central Park and there’s a reason I say this. Apart from having my dog fertilize the park on a regular basis, I use it for pleasure. I run or ride my bike except the latter isn’t always so pleasurable. The park, see above, is a pretty busy place on a nice day no matter how you count the foot traffic in it and while most New Yorkers are used to having people around you can therefore count on them to be relatively aware of people around them and the human herds as they move. If New Yorkers aren’t moving aside for you or seem to be aware of you it’s not because they’re not aware it’s because they are ignoring you because they don’t feel like it, or are having a bad day, or had a screaming 2 year old on the subway for the 40 minute ride from Brooklyn to Central Park and they just don’t feel like accommodating you or anyone else any more, they’ve just had it.  However, there’s a look of someone studiously ignoring you, it’s a cross between daze and slightly squinched eyes and if you say EXCUSE ME loud enough or enough times they will get it and step aside or move or growl but move anyway. Most times. Visitors however just haven’t seem to have left the ‘ I’m the only person on the planet’ mindset at home and the amount of oblivion they bring with them is staggering.  Imagine, it’s a sunny day, you’re on your bicycle and someone starts to step off the curb directly into your path coming downhill and they haven’t looked. They have just stepped off the curb and decided to cross despite the fact that bicycles are whishing by them with the sound of a flock of bees, yet they just continue to cross despite the fact that you’re yelling, Heads Up, or Coming Through or whatever it is you normally say to normal people who would normally at least pick up their heads to see what the commotion is about. But these people are in a ‘park’ so the thought of it doesn’t cross their minds. However, I think to myself, they must have curbs and streets IN KANSAS so don’t they know to look before they cross streets there? I mean they HAVE cars in Kansas, you can tell they do because most people who come from communities where there are cars are somewhat over weight from going from car to restaurant to car to fridge to car to mall to Applebees to bed, as opposed to New Yorkers who run for subways, jog for  buses and do the 2-step to catch a revolving door before the next rotation (which you don’t have to think too long about to realise is completely insane) and are therefore usually in pretty good shape.  So when you see these tourists not look to cross a street, albeit a park street, it just makes you wonder. 

So I don’t bike on weekends. I run. Now I have broken bones all over my body so I was told – rather threatened – by a physical therapist that if I ever ran on pavement again they would hunt me down and re-break everything they had fixed so in New York the challenge is to find dirt. Of course, around the reservoir there’s a lovely little narrow dirt path and back in the days when the city was a scary place and no one went in Central Park north of 72nd Street, the reservoir was a great empty path to run around in daylight. Now that the city is wonderful and safe it has become a tourist haven for people to stroll around and take pictures of ducks (because ducks in water is something you really can’t see elsewhere) and generally meander. It’s a nice place. So long as you’re not trying to get any real exercise. The problem with running around the reservoir is that other visiting people walk 3 abreast around it, or if you’re from Kansas 2 abreast is usually all that can fit, but still it takes up the width of the lane because it IS a very narrow lane. Granted. You have flown from Kansas or Ohio or South Dakota to come to the city and god knows your tourist dollars help keep down my property taxes (which keep rising so one has to assume less so) so we do want you to have a good time here and after all, coming from the middle of the country to a large city what you really need to see is grass and water because that’s the best of what we have to offer here in the big apple and lord knows you can’t see that where you come from. But when someone yells from behind you “on your left” I’m pretty sure that means “I am on your left, you should step to the right”, not “go to your left because I didn’t say ‘go’ I said ‘on’. Even in Kansas they know the difference in prepositions and even in Kansas people play sports and on your left means a man on your left, throw the ball here. Or I am coming down the ski slope on your left or a car honking from the left means I am on your left, you should stay where you are. So it always befuddles me that when running around the park and passing people who are leisurely strolling around looking at ducks in the water that when you say “on your left” they consistently step directly into your path, onto their left creating the inevitable crash. And might I add when you weigh 107 pounds and crash into someone who’s got the heft of a light truck, well, I don’t think I need to elucidate who ends up on their ass.

The conclusion I have come to is this: I think since New York is so safe these days the closest thing they can come to being mugged is being crashed into by a person in jogging clothes, since muggers are always described as being “last seen in a dark jogging outfit” (makes sense, easier to run away in) and no one wants to go home without a being mugged in New York story so they create one for themselves to tell their friends at home. In Kansas.



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