I haven't been back here in New York for 27 years. That's a long time.
And things have changed.
27 years ago this place was crap. It was my own personal vision of Hell. Everybody was angry, everybody was out to get you. Everybody had 5 locks on their doors. And needed them. The parks were dangerous: healthy and muscular young men like me feared to enter them in broad daylight. The economy was crap, people were exiting, and every census revealed this and other large American eastern cities to be losing yet another round of people and jobs.
Now, Central Park is covered with young mothers and their children. Every section ssems to have a new condo development being built. The Bowery no longer has its bums. Where did they go? I dunno. And where are those lines of creepy menacing weirdoes who used to sit by the hundreds in Grand Central Station. Likewise gone to parts unknown. Washington Square Park is full of students and yuppies watching professional-quality jazz bands at noon. For free. 27 years ago, one simply didn't go into Washington Square Park. The whole of Manhattan is brimming with people on the streets, people relaxed, people happy, people actually looking you in the eye and smiling. Women walking around at night in dark areas with nary a worry. Jesus! I seem to have landed in an urban version of Disneyland. It's fantastic! It really is. Statistically, it's now safer than any American big city. Safer than London, safer than Paris. And the suburbs contain Knucklehead instead of raging French neo-Jihadis who want to burn your car. Your choice.
What's the downside? Well, prices are higher than a cat's back. I'm spending $400/night at my "cheap" hotel. 27 years ago, that exceeded my budget for the entire summer. I just met Catherine Johnson and family for dinner at a lovely place directly behind the New York Public Library—and at $260 that single meal would have kept us going for ten weeks in Boulder.
Still, New York today seems to be safer and more interesting than any other place in the US today. The streets are akin to a huge ongoing unending party. There are little bits and pieces of street life in other American cities. There is (or was) the French Quarter, the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Pike Place Market in Seattle, a couple of blocks near Uptown in Minneapolis, parts of San Francisco and Chicago, Harvard Square in Cambridge, and of course the Pearl Stree Mall in Boulder, but mein Gott! this is a whole city full of this stuff. It goes on for block after block, mile after mile, better and more exciting than anything I've seen in any of those places listed, and I've visited them all in the last couple of years. Better multiplied by a hundred. It's like Schwabing in Munich, but without the provincialism.
Twenty-First-Century New York has retaken its rightful place as America's cultural capitol, retaken it with a vengeance. Maybe it will become the first successful capitol of the world after all. Save up your pennies and come take a look—while you still can.