Tuesday, January 07, 2003

I have been trying to put my finger on what it is that makes London and New York so different. I mean, there is not one square inch of either city that you could ever mistake for the other, and that was a big surprise to me.

So in analyzing this question and trying to develop a kind of unified theory to explain the difference, I have decided that that New York is very much about striving, and aspiring, and always imagining that you are on your way up or on your way somewhere else or just moving constantly forwards. And London seemed to be about people being where they imagine they are going to stay. I think that this is in the architecture, with New York crowding together and pushing up into the sky and being on a grid system, while London just sort of sprawls out and sits there. And it's on the streets, because New Yorkers always seem to be hurrying and not paying attention and tossing their trash over their shoulder, while London has lots of really lengthy instructions posted everywhere, and if you stop and take the time to read them and do things right, you can be sure that everything will work smoothly.

I also think that my theory explains why our streets and trains and social services are kind of crap, while theirs are incredibly generous and well-run and cozy...everyone here thinks that they are just about to move on, so it doesn't really matter, while everyone there is in it for the long haul.

Based on all of the above, I would imagine myself to be a London-type person, as I am lacking in all kinds of ambition and really don't much like change and am a socialist and appreciate things working properly. However, I really can't imagine living there. Just spending four days there made me realize that in spite of whatever pretentions I have, I am really really American, and I probably can't ever live anywhere else and be comfortable. I guess it is partly because they speak English, so you know that the cultural differences are real, and you can't just blame them on a language barrier.

Intellectually, I highly approve of London, but there is no way I could ever live there. So I guess I'm stuck on this stupid continent.


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