Tuesday, 15 April 2008


I'm in New York. It's really very cool indeed. And it's emphasising for me once again the difference between experience and knowledge. I knew the buildings would be very tall and that I'd recognise places I hadn't been to just because I'd seen them in e.g. Die Hard with a Vengeance. But still, I spent the first day walking around thinking man, the buildings are so tall! And this is just like the movies!

And I knew that the grid system would make it easy to get around, but I didn't appreciate just what an advantage it is. It's not a matter of thinking you know your way around - you really do. Given any location on the grid, you instantly know where it is and how long it takes to get there. Any other city, you need about three months to get that feel - in New York, about half an hour. One result of this, as my friend/generous host pointed out, is that there is no excuse, in New York, for being late:

"Oh, I didn't realise how far it was"
"Why? Can you not subtract?"

One other knowledge/experience gap: I knew, of course, that the popular British stereotype of Americans - fat, stupid, arrogant, war-mongers - was itself stupid. So why I was I quite so surprised, when we took a weekend trip upstate (e.g. into the sticks) to find that the town of Ithaca's Farmers' Market was run by and for a bunch of hippies? Of all the food stalls I expected to find at a small-town American market, none of the following were on the list:
  • Kebabs
  • Samosas
  • Tibetan Cuisine
  • Khmer Food
I wouldn't mind, but I really wanted a burger.

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