Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A plea for a return to horse-and-buggy

The purpose of the University of Chicago's Civilization study abroad programs is that you'll get a better grasp of a place's history if you study it in that place. Civilization in situ, I think was the catchphrase. Depending upon the program, this can mean getting a weaker grasp of a place's history due to a country's drinking age being, say, twelve, but in the case of the program I went on, they meant business, and it worked, got me awfully interested in French history.

So with that principle in mind, I took my sociology readings on the French bourgeoisie--specifically private girls' schools and the French equivalent of that socialite dancing-school some of my Spence classmates did--up to the Upper East Side, not to learn about a culture I know nothing about but to remember full well exactly how that lifestyle looks and feels. (Carnegie Hill and the 16th Arrondissment differ only in that the latter has better cheese, older buildings, and fewer Woody Allen sightings).

Can I just say that I'm dumbfounded by the fact that the subtle yet immensely important differences between how one girl at a girls' school wears her uniform and how another one does form the basis for a field of study, that this is considered worth looking into by sociologists. It's not that I think it's not worth looking into. Hardly. It's just that I spent ages eight through eleven poring over this stuff, overanalyzing what it meant that [insert name of daughter of business scion/well-known politician] wore Adidas Sambas whereas someone from a different clique wore Doc Martens, whereas that girl over there was wearing Airwalks, and came up with all sorts of chartable, quantifiable information on my classmates' choice of accessory and what that had to do with status... and had always looked at this as sort of a lost stage in my life. Yet, had I written it up exactly as I observed it and as I explained it to whomever would listen, it might well have been read by grad students just a few 4-5-6 train stops away. Could have, should have, might of, but didn't, eh?

So yes, I spent part of today back in the illustrious 'hood. But I was downtown before this happened. Still immensely weirded out all the same. During class, a girl mentioned something about a plane crashing into a building, but dismissed the event's importance, saying it was up on 70-something Street. I didn't know the exact coordinates, but this did sound like my neighborhood. Yes, this was scary as all get-out, but my family's fine, and as tragic as the event was, considering it was an airplane flying into a building in the middle of Manhattan, it could certainly have been worse. That said, why exactly can random people fly airplanes above densely populated residential neighborhoods in the first place? I would be happy to see Manhattan free of cars, so it goes without saying I don't see what the hell tiny private airplanes are doing in the air above York Avenue. While it's obviously a relief that this wasn't terrorism, I can't quite understand why, if you're not bent on the destruction of Western Civilization, you'd want to fly your dinky plane around tall buildings in Manhattan.

2 comments:

Petey said...

"I can't quite understand why, if you're not bent on the destruction of Western Civilization, you'd want to fly your dinky plane around tall buildings in Manhattan."

Cuz it seems like it'd be really, really fun...

It's the flying your dinky plane into tall buildings in Manhattan that seems like a bit less fun. Going around the tall buildings really is the trick to the whole enterprise.

Anonymous said...

Phoebe, you are still very much an upper east side private school girl.