If I could pick any year and place to time travel back to, I would chose 1899 in New York City. Preferably, the night in question would be like it is tonight – cold, windy and desolate – so that I would be able to walk around old New York without having to talk to anyone. Actually, now that I think about it, who the hell am I kidding? My walking around alone in New York City in 1899 would probably result in a man with an old-timey mustache and filthy hat beating the shit out of me for wearing pants and then stealing my coat.
I like to romanticize the past when I read about it, though. What’s that, you say? Most of the city used to smell like the Devil’s foot? Whatever! People wore monocles back then, and that is undeniably awesome. It’s really just that it sounds like the New York of the past was a lot more vibrant than the New York of right now – at least downtown, since it’s always been stuffy and pretentious above 14th Street (aside from in Hell’s Kitchen, where Battle Annie’s Gopher Girls, numbering in the hundreds, were known to engage in gang fights in the 1870s. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about). Back then, people enjoyed simple pleasures like sitting and talking with a friend for a few hours, undistracted by smartphones – or any phones. There was nothing else they could do, really – they were fighting to survive and working their asses off to get by. Plus, there was no pressure from the media to be richer, be cooler or have more stuff. If you had extra money, you used it to buy a new coat (unless you were lucky enough to come upon a lady time traveler who didn’t know her place, in which case: bottoms up, good Sir).
This New York appeals to me, perhaps expressly because I can observe it from afar without having to experience it. It’s easier to romanticize the past than the present, that’s for sure, and I like thinking of a time when every other store in this town wasn’t a bank, nail salon or Starbucks. Damn you, global community! Damn you to hell!