All I know about 1970s New York City is that it's where I grew up, and you always have an umbilical connection to the time and place of your growing up. It was cheap, didn't have too many people in it, you could go to the movies or whatever on the spur of the moment, you could get by without working too much and especially without involving yourself in the corporate world.
New York, which is founded on forward motion and thus loath to acknowledge its dead, merely causes them to walk, endlessly unsatisfied and unburied, to invade the precincts of supposed progress, to lay chill hands on the heedless present, which does not know how to identify the forces that tug at its rationality.
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The ghosts of Manhattan are not the spirits of the propertied classes; these are entombed in their names, their works, their constructions. New York's ghosts are the unresting souls of the poor, the marginal, the dispossessed, the depraved, the defective, the recalcitrant. They are the guardian spirits of the urban wilderness in which they lived and died. Unrecognized by the history that is common knowledge, they push invisibly behind it to erect their memorials in the collective unconscious.
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Night is the permanent revolution, that of the globe. Every sundown the streets change, becoming sinister or libidinous, or, for that matter, longer or narrower or unexpectedly twisted. The familiar rebels against those who presume to know it. The map is altered and time is telescoped. Daylight restores things to their normal condition, or is that really their normal condition? The map of the city wrinkles and unfolds, wrinkles and unfolds.
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Call yourself "Colonel" and declare that your fortune was left to you by Dutch burghers from the seventeenth century. Now you're a solid citizen, the embodiment of hard work and rugged individualism. You're no criminal. The criminal is the guy who comes up short, who gets caught, who fails to adopt a respectable cover.
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Self-reinvention is an essential trope of the American project, closely linked to another such trope: going on the lam. Both are regularly featured in movies and novels and suchlike. Criminals and persons loitering with and without intent hold a crucial place in the culture. For obvious reasons, the culture cannot endorse this behavior, even as it is in thrall to it.
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My ideal city is more like the city (New York and Paris come to mind, but it sort of applies to all) that existed up to and including the 1930s, when different classes lived all together in the same neighborhoods, and most businesses of any sort were mom-and-pop, and people and things had a local identity.