Harlem is a walk in the Park

Central Park: The apartments overlooking the place are worth millions, despite being in old buildings and having poor windows for viewing anything. Location, location, snobbery.

The park itself is a couple of miles of ... park. It's a bit like a botanic garden, only without the garden and without much landscaping. Its near-xmas contents included 12 squirrels squeaking, 11 rabid raccoons, 10 runners running, 9 squawking strollers, 8 walkers walking, 7 protesters whinging, 6 dogs a-pooping, 5 homeless people, 4 Texan tourists, 3 construction workers, 2 hidden victims, and a partridge in a pear tree - but that last one wasn't on my map so I didn't see it.

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Harlem is interesting. As soon as you pass 110th St at the north end of the park, they start selling fried chicken. I am lead to understand that African Americans eating fried chicken is a stereotype - but it was the first fried chicken I'd seen in NY, and there it was, like a gargoyle at a gate, announcing my entry into Harlem. If its associated with a negative stereotype, I'm surprised someone hasn't complained.

In 3 hours wandering the streets of Harlem, I saw 9 Caucasians, perhaps 1000 African Americans, and a smattering of Asian and Middle Eastern faces. If I was sensitive about it I would have felt like I stood out.

I felt perfectly safe, but i'm told that wouldn't have been the case in years gone by. The old guy at the bodega had some tales to tell. He was in his 70s I reckon, and explained that he'd lived in the area for over 40 years. He had seen NY go 'through boom, and gloom and then get reborn'. Once my Australian ear attuned to his accent, and through his liberally applied biblical quotations, he managed to tell me how I would have been mugged at least once by 115th St in the old days; 'probably twice'. He also said I should feel pretty safe because until I'd opened my jacket and he saw I wasn't 'carrying', he'd thought I might have been and off-duty cop. His impression was that all off-duty NYPD 'carried', so I couldn't be one, but that my appearance alone would keep me safe 'in the daylight, anywhere around here... Nobody goin' to be messin' with no cop around here'. Good to know. I offered to buy him another cup of coffee, then zipped up my jacket again as I left.