Monday, July 18, 2011

Looking both ways

Hailing a taxi on Fifth Avenue and 54th Street. 2:10 PM. Photo: JH.
Monday, July 18, 2011. Another warm, sunny summer weekend in New York. Zabars early Saturday; Café Lux for dinner, and otherwise home with the books, as well as the trips down to the Promenade to watch the river traffic.

New York on the summer weekends is like a resort village during the week: a little bit of paradise.
I was walking down East 84th Street near East End last Thursday afternoon when I passed a young woman and young man taking these big red begonia plants out of their station wagon and planting them around the tree on the sidewalk. I knew they were begonias but I'd never seen that size. They're called spider begonias. I ask the woman the price. $13 a pot. Not bad at all. I asked her how much attention they needed, Water every day, don't need a lot of sun, I pointed to my terrace across the street. "Do you think they could live there?" Definitely, she replied. So I bought three. She told me I'd have them the next day. As it happened I got them that afternoon. She told me she has lots of plants and flowers and she delivers. Laura Catena is her name. Her web site:
You can see the spider begonias replanted.
We see a lot of these trash/rubbish barges. They are certainly not pretty but they are us, so have a good look ...
Down by the river Saturday afternoon. This was one of several big passenger boats and there were a lot of people in red shirts on them. I have a feeling they were all headed up to Yankee Stadium for a game.
Saturday's big clouds over the Triboro (now Robert F. Kennedy Bridge) ...
... and over the northern tip of Roosevelt Island.
A trio of jetskiers on the East River going north yesterday afternoon.
The smokestacks of Con Edison over in Queens on the other side of Roosevelt Island.
East End Avenue at 83rd Street looking north at 3 pm on Sunday afternoon.
The news of the weekend and the world that was on the lips of everyone I talked to was about Rupert Murdoch and children, his editors, his minions and his news media.

We are watching the great fall of man. For many years Mr. Murdoch possessed a fearsome political power through his enterprises, that was greater than any individual including those who run governments. Some might question the veracity of that statement. I have news for them: he obviously never questioned it, even in his advanced age and the experience of life.

His newspapers and his television network have been the proud possessors of The Truth, whether it was true or not; and whether or not you liked it if it were true or not. This is not a new phenomenon. Furthermore people were happy to believe him. And of course the public, not to mention the brilliant politicians, is generally poorly informed, if that, about almost anything. So it’s a two way street in Rupert Murdoch’s constellation, these deceits and conceits.

The man and his editor a couple of days before the sh*t really hit the fan for them.
On her way to something serious.
Powerful press lords are not something new in our civilization. What is new, is the rush of technological developments of the past quarter century, and the speed with which it delivers the worldwide distribution of media fodder. This is how life has changed for all of us, and the change has been so universal that we already take it for granted. We even forget that all of this technology requires energy to operate, just like our cars and our houses.

Getting back to Rupert: why they shut down the News of the World, in a day, putting it out of business forever, is not clear to me. You close a going business with a huge readership. In a minute? Because of some criminal reprobates? It was a going concern for more than a century. Errant editors, reporters, publishers; human resources can always be replaced. I don’t recall something like this ever happening before. You close a business if it’s broke. Not broken; broke. Unless it was illegal, like gambling. Or murder, or something really too horrible to get into. It’s not like the offices of the News of the World were suffering from nuclear contamination. Or are they?

Many women I know believe that Mr. Murdoch was having an affair with his flame-haired Rebekah (who was arrested yesterday). It is added that Mrs. Wendi Murdoch is not crazy about Rebekah with the flaming tresses. The Daily Mail reported that Murdoch’s daughter doesn’t like her either. All hearsay. This could simply be the press stirring the pot, the same pot Rupert Murdoch made his billions from stirring.

Do you realize that we now live in a world where almost every week, if not every day, we are exposed to news about some high-ranking, high-profile men and/or women who have been on the take, or hacking, or spying, or robbing, or murdering, and almost always stealing something from somebody. If they’re not politicians, they’re businessmen or bankers or investment advisers. It’s nothing new but it does seem epidemic.
Mayor Bloomberg, Howard Rubenstein, and Rupert Murdoch.
Related epidemics. Riding home from Zabars with my two big bags, as we drove out of the Park’s transverse, crossing Fifth Avenue onto 79th with the light, there was a young woman standing in the middle of the road with oncoming traffic traveling in both directions passing her by.

Drivers evidently were doing their best to avoid hitting her, although she herself was only looking in one direction and not behind herself (we were coming from behind).

She obviously got into that dangerous position because she was walking against the light, in a hurry to get across a road. She was saving herself, she might have thought, fifteen seconds. Fifteen seconds that could be spent idling on the corner across the street. A life-risking hurry.
I saw this cartoon on Zero Hedge yesterday and although it's about our financial situation as a country (and as a people), it is exactly the same dynamic (or lack of) existing with New York pedestrians these days. And just as mortally dangerous.
This kind of thing goes on all the time in New York. All over town, all the time, everywhere, everyday with all kinds of people. They walk into oncoming traffic often with their backs to it, as if to say: I didn’t see it.

Sometimes when they get a horn from the driver who is worried about hitting them, they snarl and give him the finger or yell “F**k you!” There is no acknowledgement that the driver is actually watching out for the safety of the dumb pedestrian who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. It is as if the message from the pedestrian is: “not responsible for my life; you are.”

Often the pedestrian is on the cell phone, or looking at the cell phone, or texting on the cell phone. Often she is a mother or nanny with the phone in the crook of her neck and pushing a stroller (first) into oncoming traffic. Children are sometimes killed as a result of this casual yet murderous act. Often the pedestrian is a businessman who is distracted by his phone, or checking his messages (and in a rush). Or often it just someone, any age, any type, crossing the street and not Watching Out.

I’ve lived in New York most of my adult life and up until the past few years I’d never seen this overt life-risking attitude on the street. New Yorkers are famously in a hurry and always have been. But these people aren’t in hurry; they just don’t see any need to stop before crossing the street. It’s as if they’ve decided they don’t care what the traffic does (as long as it stops and lets them keep moving).

I asked my cabdriver on the ride back home from Zabars how long he’d been driving. He said, “19 years.” I asked him if he thought this epidemic of walking into traffic always went on, and I hadn’t noticed. He said “no, it didn’t always go on.”

When did you first notice it? I asked him.

“After the economic crisis began in 2008,” he answered.

Some people think it’s young people, kids, people on their cells. But it’s that and much more. This cartoon that I found yesterday on Zero Hedge says it all for the pedestrians although the cartoon is political and is referring to business and politics. So it runs right up the ladder. We are family.

“Why?” some people are asking, did Mr. Murdoch’s people do this hacking and spying and bribing? I think the answer is because he could. This is the great age of deregulation. No rules for the haughty, Let alone the naughty. No different from those pedestrians; it’s in the air. Maybe in the water.

Hugh Grant the actor, not so incidentally, played an important role in breaking this story. He is to be applauded for his courage, his integrity and his creative imagination. This interview of his from the New Statesman reveals another side of the human condition. The side we need to see more of, in ourselves as well as others. See here.

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