When I first started to reflect on his, I was inclined to cite the obvious big forces – the superrich, their military-industrial-financial complex, and a host of similar drains on the common good. I’ll let Bernie Sanders carry that side of the argument for now.
Instead, I’m thinking of some of the themes that play out in my novels Daffodil Uprising and Pit-a-Pat High Jinks.
- Individualism. The do-your-own-thing outlook had its upside, but it also dampened our ability to come together for sustained work toward shared goals. Ultimately, it lessened our common identity. Like Kenzie’s housemates at the farm, finding much common ground could be elusive.
- Fuzzy goals. Knowing what we were against, often fueled by anger, was rarely balanced by knowing what we were for – nobody had a clear idea of how to go to the better world we sensed was possible. Lifting the draft, for instance, was only one step toward making a more peaceful world. And not wanting to have a marriage or a job like those our parents endured wasn’t the same as raising children in a new way or running a small-is-beautiful successful business.
- Disrespect for labor. Yes, I know the “lazy hippie” slur, but I did see a lot of effort put forth, too. An expectation of something for nothing, though, had a divisive impact. Respect for labor also means knowing how to perform a job well and how to earn a livable wage. We were so naïve on so many fronts here.
- Drugs. Admittedly, passing the pipe had a tribal quality, but too much simply removed an individual from action. In that sense, the rumors of CIA involvement in the importation of hard drugs as a way to blunt the peace movement begin to sound deviously rational. And LSD left a lot of wreckage.
- Sexism and racism. It was there, one way or another. By the way, we didn’t see a lot of black hippies, did we? That in itself could be another topic of discussion.
- Free love fallout. For many, it was fun while it lasted. Some even ended up in marriages that have lasted. For many, though, it led instead to betrayals, breakups, and bitterness – not exactly the ideal image when you define hippie as happy.
- Irresponsibility. Think of the vanishing food from your shelf in the refrigerator or the things that got permanently borrowed without anyone asking. The list of examples will be long.
- Aging. It was a youth movement, maybe the first generational tide in history. Geezer is not part of the definition of hippie – never has been, never will be. Besides, can we trust anyone under 30?
- Violence. Few of us have turned out to be as consistently gentle as we’d like. Even if we never crossed over into physical hostility, we’ve likely been verbally wounding. Anyone else remember a few from back then who bought a gun – for self-defense, as they always argued? Especially if they were involved in dealing?
- Global warming. I’m not kidding. This will completely thwart any Revolution of Peace & Love as everyone runs for the hills. Or tries to swim in the riptide.
What would you add to the list?
Brooklyn has long been overshadowed by its more commanding neighbor, but it is undergoing a renaissance among trendsetters.
Here are ten random bits about the borough also known as Kings County.
- If New York City were dissolved and the borough became an independent city, it would be the nation’s third largest, after Chicago and Los Angeles. It was merged into New York City in 1898.
- Forty-five percent of the population speaks a mother language other than English.
- The Brooklyn Museum houses the city’s second-largest public art collection. It is especially renowned for its Asian collection. At least on the days when those galleries are open. There are serious budgetary problems.
- The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, founded in 1899, is the oldest such institution in the nation.
- Coney Island on the Atlantic has undergone a rebirth an amusement park. It’s also famed for Nathan’s hot dogs.
- Prospect Park, 585 acres, was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. It includes a zoo and a 60-acre lake.
- The Pratt Institute, one of the leading fine arts schools, is situated in Clinton Hill.
- Subway stations: 157.
- Public schools: 540.
- Crime: The acting district attorney declared 2017 the safest year in the borough’s history in terms of homicides, shootings, and shooting victims; 101 homicides occurred in the year. (If Dallas, Texas, were the same size, the figure would have been 332.)
It’s not all Manhattan, you should know. Most of the population sleeps in the other four boroughs. And then for even more bodies we have Long Island to the east, Jersey to the west, and Westchester-Rockland to the north.
By the way, Brooklyn – not Manhattan – is the most populous borough.
Now, for ten more bits.
- Ethnic diversity: It’s 44 percent white, 25 percent black, and 12 percent Asian descent. Hispanics claim about 27 percent. The city has the largest number of Italian-Americans in the nation (nearly 700,000), the largest Jewish population outside Israel (1.5 million), and the largest Chinese population of any city outside Asia (573,000). About 800 languages are spoken in the city.
- Open spaces: About one-fifth of the Bronx is given over to parkland, including the New York Botanical Garden. Staten Island has thousands of acres of parkland and about 2,000 wild whitetail deer.
- Largest borough in size: At 108 square miles, the Queens wraps around more populous Brooklyn. Its population of 2.3 million is the second-largest in the city – nearly half of them foreign-born.
- Smallest borough in size: Manhattan. Its 22 square miles are dwarfed by Staten Island’s 58 square miles.
- Restaurants: The city has an estimated 24,000 eateries – including delis, pizzerias, and take-outs. As for sit-down-and-be-served, the number’s closer to 8,000. One enterprising guess says that at one a day, you’d need 22½ years to hit them all. By the way, a fourth of them are in Manhattan. As for home cooking? We’ll have to ask a greengrocer.
- Runways: You think people fly straight in Manhattan? Think again. Most domestic flights work out of Newark Liberty International in New Jersey, serving nearly 44 million passengers a year. JFK, on the Atlantic shore of Queens, gets the bulk of the international flights, nearly 30 million passengers a year. LaGuardia, in a tight corner of Queens, is the most convenient option and serves nearly 30 million passengers annually. MacArthur in Ronkonkoma, Long Island, serves about two million passengers a year plus commercial traffic.
- Housed animals: The Bronx Zoo and Staten Island Zoo, plus Tisch Children’s Zoo in Manhattan’s Central Park, house a world of animals. Brooklyn is also home to the New York Aquarium. Brooklyn Wildlife Center and Queens Wildlife Center also offer displays. That’s in addition to rats, pigeons, and endless humanoid varieties.
- Stage life: The celebrated Great White Way on Broadway has 41 theaters as the heart of live American theater. Manhattan’s off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway stages offer more offbeat fare. Not all actors and actresses are working as restaurant wait staff.
- Professional sports: Both football teams play in New Jersey’s swampy Meadowlands. The Yankees still play baseball in the Bronx, while the Mets remain in the Queens. The Knicks basketball team and the Rangers hockey team both perform in Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden, but the Brooklyn Nets basketball squad and Islanders hockey team both call Barclays Center in Brooklyn their home. So it’s all over the place, not just Manhattan.
- Parking tickets: UPS, FedEx, and other delivery services receive up to 7,000 parking tickets a day, contributing up to $120 million in revenue annually to the city. The tab on unpaid tickets by United Nations diplomats, meanwhile, was put at $16 million, with Egypt as the worst offender, $2 million overdue.
Oh, yes. One out of every 21 New Yorkers is a millionaire. Or so I read. Did they mean just Manhattan? Or the whole shebang? Either way, it’s a lot.
I’ve long looked at subway systems as a measure of a great metropolis. Not its only one, mind you, or even the defining one, but among the criteria to consider.
Here are ten items to put that in perspective.
- About 160 underground public transportation systems operate in 55 countries around the world – more than 40 percent of them new in the 21st century, starting a decade after my novel Subway Hitchhikers was first published.
- The London Underground opened in 1863 and operated its first electrified line in 1890, making it the oldest.
- The longest route is the Shanghai Metro.
- The busiest system is the Beijing Subway.
- New York City has the most stations.
- The Paris Metro opened in 1900. It has some great art deco design and a certain funky romantic air.
- Budapest opened in 1896, beating Paris. As did Boston, 1897.
- China has 32.
- Africa has three: Algiers (2011), Cairo (1987), Mecca (2010).
- The Moscow subway, with some truly impressively beautiful stations, opened in 1935 and claims the world’s highest daily ridership – nearly seven million. Tokyo, opened in 1927, has 8.7 million daily riders – more than Moscow’s – but the footnote is that subways account for only a fraction of the daily passengers. As for Beijing, 10.3 million riders daily? Go figure. Tokyo’s punctually efficient system still hires oshya to push commuters like sardines into the tin. Err, car, at peak hours.
A compact and congested city center sits atop a spaghetti pile of underground pipes and wires and more.
Here are ten things you might find below the pavement in Manhattan:
- Con Edison’s 105 miles of steam pipes heating nearly 2,000 buildings. (Take care – it’s 350 degree heat!)
- Water mains. Many lead to buildings. Others to fire hydrants or drinking fountains.
- Electrical conduits and telecommunications infrastructure.
- Natural gas mains. Beware of the pressure.
- Sewage pipes. These have to run downhill in the end.
- Storm drainage. Ditto.
- Underground storage tanks containing things like Freon or fuel oil or industrial chemicals. Who knows what else.
- History, from cobblestones and Colonial foundations to bottles and bones.
- Passenger and freight train tunnels. Think PATH, Metro North, and the Long Island Rail Road when they roll into Penn and Grand Central stations.
- Subway tubes and stations and the air vents that support them. The city has 275 fully underground stations.
What’s actually down there often remains a mystery, even to public and utility officials. What happens when a corroded pipe bursts?
The Big Apple isn’t the only North American city to have a subway system. Underground rapid transit is a defining quality for a great metropolis, after all. Here are ten related facts.
- A shared dream: Two brothers – Henry Melville Whitney in Boston and William Collins Whitney in Manhattan – vied against each other to create the first public subway system in North America. Boston won in 1897. New York’s opened in 1904. Who says sibling rivalry doesn’t have its place?
- Chicago: While the Windy City is known for its “L,” those elevated tracks running in a loop through downtown, Shy-town also has a portion operating underground. That was a late entry, though, opening in 1951.
- Washington: Opened in 1976, the spick-and-span Metro has 117 miles of route, six lines, and 91 stations. It’s the third busiest rapid transit system in the country. Just don’t get caught snacking en route to work.
- San Francisco: The Bay Area Rapid Transportation system has six lines connecting 112 miles of route and 48 stations. It carries an average of 423,000 riders daily. Opened in stages from 1972, it was hailed for its technological advances. And then for its glitches.
- Philadelphia: SEPTA’s modes include about 25 miles of underground route in the center city, mostly as the Broad Street Subway, opened in 1928, and the Market-Frankford Line. As for safety? It’s far less terrifying than those Jersey drivers across the Delaware.
- Cincinnati: Abandoned tunnels and stations from the city’s efforts to build an underground rail system haunt the city. Construction halted during World War I and was officially cancelled in 1928 but bonds for the project weren’t paid off until 1966. Some fans say the failure to complete the dream caused Cincy to fall from the front ranks of American cities – traffic congestion remained a big headache until Interstate highways brought some relief.
- Montreal: Canada’s busiest system opened in 1966, running on the then innovative rubber tires. Le Metro now has four lines, 68 stations, and 43 miles of routes serving an average of 1.3 million riders daily – third highest in North America.
- Toronto: Opened in 1954, the TTC has an average of 915,000 daily riders on its four lines, 48 miles of route, and 75 stations. Its Yonge-University Line has a U-shaped route. Two others run east-west, while the fourth heads north and then turns east.
- Mexico City: The second-busiest in North America, with an average 4.6 million riders daily, it opened in 1969 and now has 12 lines and 124 miles of route. It’s likely the most colorful system on the continent.
- Los Angeles: Metro Rail, which opened in 1990, has two lines operating fully underground. They run 36 miles and have 22 stations. They carry an average of 153,000 riders daily – a low figure that stymies observers, considering the region’s notoriously jammed freeways. But poor connecting bus service may be part of the problem.
Opened in 1904 and the second-oldest system in the country, the New York subway is the biggest and busiest in North America.
Here are ten facts for perspective:
- Riders: 5.58 million on a weekday. (OK, even if most of them are probably using it at least twice, coming and going, that’s still over two million people. The busiest time is between 7 and 8 a.m.)
- Top speed: 55 mph.
- Average speed: 17 mph.
- Average voltage in the third rail: 625 DC.
- Route length: 245 miles.
- Total track length: 850 miles. (Remember, a route requires two tracks, one in each direction. And where local and express routes overlap, you can double that. Stretched out, the track would run well past Chicago.)
- Daylight: 40 percent of the track runs above ground, mostly in three boroughs outside Manhattan. (It doesn’t run on Staten Island.)
- Two sizes of cars in operation: The IRT tunnels, curves, and stations are too small for the cars running on the IND and BMT lines.
- Directions: The current official map by Michael Hertz Associates dates from 1979. It is not geographically accurate but makes Manhattan larger to accommodate for the borough’s having the most services. The earlier 1979 subway map by Massimo Vignelli is considered a modern classic but is flawed by its placement of geographical elements.
- Men working: Because the system does not shut down overnight, all track maintenance occurs while trains are running. It can account for delays and rerouting, as needed. (Well, some of them did inspire my novel now running as Subway Visions.)