Down Town

I was pedaling south through Manhattan on a warm, sunny Sunday, wrapping up the NYC Velo monthly road ride. We went by Times Square and then Union Square, right through a mass of folks engaged in an un-choreographed yet graceful dance with each other, traffic, and…the city. Merging onto 5th Ave. from Broadway, I saw one of those classic municipal green street signs. It had a helpful arrow pointing me to “Downtown”. Just like that—for better or worse—my brain turned on. And so I thought: “What, I’m not already there? Really? I’ve never been more downtown than where I am right now this exact second, but, apparently, I’m not.”

Andrew, my tour guide, told me we were still “Midtown”. The geographical significance of the terminology hit me: the term “Downtown” is quite literal here, and it refers to lower Manhattan, the southern–meaning, down–end of the island. It occurred to me there’s but one true downtown, and it is, of course, right here. Anywhere else it’s just a misnomer. I mean New York doesn’t even consider most of Manhattan to be downtown, so how could anywhere else be, especially if anywhere else is not situated at the bottom? I was already suspicious that my hometown was just that, more of a town than a city. And now it apparently doesn’t really have a downtown either. Thanks a lot, New York: you always do it first, and you do it best. And I don’t blame you. In fact, I really like it. (Here ends today’s geography lesson.)