Thursday, December 15, 2011

Land of 573 Hills

I do take heed of Albert Einstein's words:"Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Anyone who reads too much and uses their own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking." However, I am at the point in my life when I've decided to finally just tackle the must-try-reading list of books I've had rotting idle on my shelf (and at the library), so that I may keep only a few favorites for reference and loan-outs, while finding new homes for the remaining bulk. All part of the becoming-less-materialistically-anchored life path.

This particular one was thick like an encyclopedia, but juicy enough to finish in a few days. Its gist is that Manhattan has always been an extremely unique island. Before 1609 it was to nature what it is to humanity today: the anomalous zenith of diversity. Just as its multiethnic mosaic dwarfs that of any other city on Earth, it was at one point home to a more juxtaposed variety of ecosystems than all its surrounding regions combined. An archipelago in an estuary and that's just the beginning. An entire chapter is dedicated to the Lenape, the oldest of Algonquin tribal cultures. Stewards of New York before Europeans and urbanization came along.

I learned of our complex indebtedness to soil, our planet's living skin. That our climate requires 40 years to form 1 cm of it. Inky Schist, Granitic Pegmatite, Granodiorite, and anthropogenic (garbage) being my favorite names for some of the 87 different kinds that exist in the modern city, out of 17 originally. I discovered the words Onomastics, Toponymy, and Bathymetry.... all right up my geo-linguistic alley. The book inspired me to go check out Cold Spring at Inwood Hill, the most preserved stretch of wild nature left on the island, and the supposedly still bubbling, original Tanner’s Spring in what is now Central Park near W82. Ilearned that in 1640 there was a merchants ordinance against reckless sledding, inspiring me to borrow garbage lids next time snow accumulates and get a bit reckless at Forest Park, the hilly wilderness behind my Queens neighborhood.

Favorite quote from the book: "One of the main wonders of NY is her people. Opinionated, quick with a word, insistent on getting ahead, generous in a pinch, New Yorkers are, nearly to the last individual, a tremendously alive bunch. It seems impossible to live in NY and be boring, or be bored- there is always someone to irritate, titillate, or stimulate you into action. Love it or hate it (arguments can be fairly made on either side), NY culture is a mind-altering experience. It can be a bit much, but when it works, it works like nothing else to please the human animal. That NY culture is so vibrant today sometimes obliterates the fact that there are other ways to please the human animal. Before the whole party got started in 1609, there was another way, equally distinctive, for people to live on Manhattan."

"If the entire world lived the way Americans do today, it would take 4 planet Earths to supply the global population’s resource requirements.

Regurgitational Fragments:

"The U.S. Gov’t. estimates that the off-shore wind-power capacity of the US is in itself sufficient to supply electricity for the entire nation. In an average year NYC has 232 sunny days (nationwide average is 212). Solar shingles collect energy as plants do. New Yorkers use 2/3 the energy per person as Americans. Over 1/3 of mass transit trips made daily in the US are in NYC. The population of Seattle can be found in our transit system on a busy evening rush. Average New Yorker produces 3/10 the carbon dioxide annually as an average American. 100 year experiment concludes cars don’t work that well in cities.

How much pain can we suffer before we apply ourselves to tasks?

Plan of Action:

Reintroduce the street car (trolley), use subways to haul nonhuman cargo,implement pedicabs (cargo trikes) to deliver it locally. Unstructured outdoor play is exactly what helps kids learn to love nature in the deepest recesses of their hearts. It is the biota that we love the most.

New Jersey, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley must return to Agrarian ways. Suburban sprawl must be replaced with complex, dense cities and agro-belts that extend into the city. Organize farms cooperatively, not corporately. We will of course produce a few more apples and potatoes than needed and trade them, along with our art, science, business, and savvy, for sustainable coffee shipped into a revitalized harbor. We must have our coffee. We will still live on an archipelago in an estuary after all, on islands narrowed by rising tide. A businesswoman will be able to fly-fish in Minetta Water, downstreet from office fall evenings before heading out to opera or the baseball game. New Yorkers in 2409 will still be loud, direct, and pushy, but warm, generous, and involved in world happenings."

Last (undigested) Morsels: Adjudicating on the fly. Avenues 100 ft wide interlaced with 155 streets (60 ft across).Lenape: “the real people” (the ancient ones). Lenapehoking (Land of the Lenape).Mesingholikan (deity for negotiating a justified hunt). Sachem (tribal chief). Intimately familiar with all surroundings. Spirit guardianship. Parochial but profound sense of community. Extrapolations (of conditions for people). Historiographies. A WILLINGNESS TO BE SURPRISED. Don’t take yourself too seriously (nor too unseriously). Play the game, but don’t forget it’s only that. Maximum Entropy Algorithm. Carry respect and conscience as true wealth. Global ecological economy. Connected by a thousand invisible cords.


  1. Anonymous12/17/2011

    Most fascinating Gilga..

  2. Anonymous12/17/2011

    BTW...Awesome header picture...

  3. You are the most inspirating taxi driver in the world!!!
    Keep on writing and building your own world maps.
    Love you very much.


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