A Stranger Downtown

Two months ago, the department I work in moved from Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan. It was a change I wasn’t looking forward to for various reasons, not least of them being that I am just as fearful and intolerant of the unknown as all those people I like to complain about.

But almost from the first day here, I realized I was wrong in my preconceptions. Not only do I like this neighborhood, but I’m growing to love it. I like the hidden little chocolate factory that serves up tasty pain au chocolats and steams the milk even when you order just a regular coffee. I like the cream-colored lab with the sad-looking face that sniffs for bombs in cars entering the Stock Exchange security zone . I like looking out at the harbor, where the sight of all that water and sky remind me that even a little life is worth living, if only to be a part of the bigger, beautiful world. Most of all, I like being a stranger and a tourist in NYC again, not knowing where this street leads or what that store offers.

The City may have started here, but it left this place behind long ago in almost every way – the streets wind and cross each other at odd old angles, everyone leaves promptly at 5pm, and there isn’t a hipster-gentrifier-artiste to be found. A unusually urbane pop psychologist might say that all the post 9/11 hand-wringing about how to revitalize Lower Manhattan can be traced back to guilt over how it was allowed to decline in the first place, even before the terrorist attacks. (A pop political pundit might counter that the fault really lies with greedy Downtown property owners, but that’s another non-haiku blog entry.).

Whoever’s right, I’ll guiltlessly enjoy Downtown as long as I’m here.

(Photo: the old US Customs House at Bowling Green on a recent night.)