Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The View From New York City-Obama's Or Palin's America This November

Broadway and 55th-all shops empty

Over the years I have found New Yorkers to be people of a kind, generous, and ultra-polite nature in general (and also opinionated and slightly cocky which aspects are, with New Yorkers, a source of delight-it's the nature of the beast !) This  is the prevailing ethos unless something major happens  and then the overarching mood can become deep, heavy, and introspective to such a degree it is almost palpable.

I saw the energy, hustle and bustle stop for the first time November 22nd 1963 when a mood of deep sombreness enveloped the city for at least a month. The ebullience came back but a part of the soul of the city (and indeed the country) was destroyed and sick, bitter terrible undercurrents which had been deeply buried came to the surface over the ensuing years. These were not fully buried again until the first few months of the Carter administration which provided a (false as it turned out) new dawn of the American spirit.

John Lennon's assassination, the various stock market busts, provided short term downs but the biggest descent of gloom happened of course after 9/11. The city had a real kick in the guts, forlorn looking police and fire stations with their photo's of lost staff added to the funk. Sitting in public transport was a ride through a fog of all pervading gloom as eyes didn't meet, conversations were subdued and life seemed to be day after day of just carrying on. Civility was certainly there, very much as part of a shared experience, but the spirit was gone.

New Yorkers are irrepressible and over time the spirit returned and I doubt if, barring a similar event, we will ever see such a depth of mood there. However, there is a mood now which I have not encountered before. It seems to be one of puzzlement overlaid with a sense of slight despair at the economic situation. New Yorkers are still polite, in fact exceedingly so, it is a safe, charming city but something is missing.

The economic situation is weighing heavily on people-especially the middle class.This is all the more so as this most liberal of cities voted overwhelmingly for "Hope and Change" and the puzzlement of not getting either is weighing heavily.

I discussed previously the effect of the economic situation as I saw it in upstate New York and I saw much of the same in NYC itself.

I have never seen so many retail spaces empty on Broadway-every single shop and the upstairs showroom in the prime retail space  pictured above (Broadway and 55th Street) is for lease-some having been empty for a long time. High end retailers on Madison Avenue were empty of customers as were hairdressers and other service premises. That is of course anecdotal but recent statistics seem to back up my impressions.

The choice is very clear this November-it is one between two America's-Obama's current one and the promise of traditional values and prosperity based on the market which values Sarah Palin embodies.

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