The Same, but Different

Some things about New York never change.

It’s still hard to know whether those droplets from on high are the start of a shower or air conditioner condensation.

Manhattan still runs on doormen, who are to New York what concierges are to Paris, only much better-tempered and more helpful. And with a mystical ability to find taxis. As for New York buildings that have “concierges”,  they’re basically doormen who don’t go outside and hail taxis. What’s the point?

But some things are different.

Street hot dog stands increasingly seem to be giving way to street fresh fruit stands. The proprietor of same near 96th and Lex is a devout Muslim. I say this only because  he would place a small  none-too-clean prayer rug on the sidewalk behind some building scaffolding and pray several times a day, presumably accessing the divine in the middle of the (literally) pedestrian.

Grand buildings formerly occupied by banks or civic institutions are now giant drugstores, which are drugstores only in the sense that they have a small prescription dispensing area. The rest is full of over-the-counter remedies for ailments you didn’t know you had, like diet aids (one aisle over from the giant bags of candy) and the kind of miscellany you used to find at Woolworth’s.

Just as the population is being divided into the superrich and the financially insecure with no middle ground, so retail is being divided into giant brands and very small independents eking out a precarious survival. The US may have won the Cold War, but our cities are looking more and more like Soviet Russia, with limited consumer choice sold in giant outlets.

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