when time is like a map of new jersey
But I don't think I would have read it all the way through - the depressing cliches involving a (cringe) "Greenwich Village bard" and (groan) "Baghdad-on-the-Hudson" - would have scared me off. Except that I had, in the course of my travels to the dark corners and bustling thoroughfares (and concrete bunkers and soul-less main streets) of New York, Philadelphia and Washington, DC read Luc Sante's "My Lost City" in The Best American Essays volume (2004) that (of course) Louis Menand edited. Which provides a kind of picturesque backdrop for Gopnik's argument. Weirdly nostalgic, but, then, not entirely. Anyway, they make a nice pair.
Of course, if Mr. Sante really loves burned out buildings to huddle in, he can move to North Philly.
But I guess what I liked about both pieces was the emphasis on how incredibly myopic citizens (of anywhere, really) can be, and the dangers of that. And how, it would seem, no one would have predicted New York in the 1970s decades before, and how no one can explain, exactly, the recovery and how, unless one seizes control of the planning and plotting of these things, no one will be able to account for New York 2030, among other things.
On a maybe related note, about that smell, did they all totally forget that they are RIGHT NEXT TO NEW JERSEY? I wish Mike Davis would write a New York book. Or has he?