Back to On the Road with John Tarleton

A Brief Letter from the Big Apple

1 November 1998
New York City

Dear Ol' Dad,

Greetings from Manhattan! There's always something going on here in the City. On Friday I walked much of Broadway—from 200th St. to Union Square—checking out the shops and the neighborhoods and the throngs of people on the sidewalks. The number of people in NYC is huge and we are all squeezed together. But because it is so compact, it is in many ways one of the most human of cities. It feels like a community because it is a city of many and diverse neighborhoods. It is nothing like those alienating Sun Belt metropolises where everything is designed for the convenience of cars not their human beings.

Last night was Halloween and I drifted down to Greenwich Village on the Lower West Side. Thousands of people were milling in the streets; going to and from parties, stopping to grab a bite to eat in cubbyhole-sized restaurants or just checking out what everyone else was wearing.

Look around and there was a blue monkey, a purple butterfly, and a black and white-spotted cow with an udder on his belly. A Batman, a Tigger and a child-sized Winnie-the-Pooh who rubbed his sleepy eyes. A priest, a penitant and a buddhist monk. An Arab shiek, a car battery, the Cat in the Hat and a man who was literally carrrying the world on his shoulders. A boisterous crowd had gathered at the corner of Bleeker St. The 9 News van had parked there and a young woman with perfectly coiffed blonde hair wa prancing on the roof with microphone in hand. She would mouth her lines with great zest and then the crowd would go wild when she signaled and the bright light of the camera was pointed at them. She did this over and over until she got just the clip she wanted. The crowd hooted and hollered and the van was cordoned off by police officers. Listening to the instructions she was getting in her earphones, the young actress/reporter continued at her work with a steely determination. She was only a few blocks off Broadway. I drifted on. There was so much to see: a purple grape, a green M&M, Little Red Riding Hood, Monica in her blue dress, Kermit the Frog, the Hunchback of Notre Dame, a space alien in a three-piece suit, Zapata in poncho and sombrero with his long, droopy moustache, a Roman gladiator and many other oddities....People from other countries have often asked me about American Halloween. I think it is catching on. It is a people's holiday. It doesn't have alot of hype behind it like X-mas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, etc. It's whatever people make of it. And it's out in the streets. Viva!

I was down by Columbus Circle this afternoon checking out the end of the NYC Marathon. It's quite impressive to see the runners chugging uphill on what is their 26th and final mile. The race starts on the Verrezano Bridge and leads the 32,000 participants through the city's 5 boroughs finishing in Central Park. The Africans with their long, loping strides dominated the prestige race taking the top 3 spots. There were thousands of others who rightly considered themselves winners just for finishing the course....I wandered on through the Park. Autumn foliage is at its peak here. And I ended up at the Museum of Natural History. A 70 ft. tall bracosaurus greets you when you enter. In the downstairs dining hall, there is a polyurethane and fiberglass replica of a 150-ton blue whale that is suspended overhead by steel wires....What else? I stopped by a book store last night on the way to the Village and caught an appearance by the author Hunter S. Thompson. The original "Gonzo" Journalist, he did some hot writing in the '60s and early '70s. Then he just began repeating himself. Then whiskey and cocaine took their toll. Too Bad....Stopped by Columbia U. on Friday and listened to a lecture by a Journalism professor. Talked alot about the media and image making. He read excerpts from Daniel Boorstin's The Image, which I also drew on when I gave a couple of lectures on Mass Media and American Society at the high school in La Reole, France this April. Interesting.

All the Best. Love,


John Tarleton

Back to On the Road with John Tarleton