My last night in Manhattan was spent dining and clubbing — it's been a very long time since I danced in the strobe of a disco ball — in the old meatpacking district of Manhattan. My escort/friend, who grew up in NYC, said it was an area filled with criminals and danger when he was a kid. Now it's gentrified, trendy and expensive, as is so much of the city.
Like so many others in so many places, he's been economically displaced from the place he once called home.
Earlier, I'd walked city streets lined with shops selling designer goods — luggage, crystal, clothes, shoes, jewelry, hats, handbags, chocolate. You name it, they've got it. But few of the stores had any customers, their clerks and doormen standing idle and bored. I'm sure some people must buy, or they wouldn't remain in business. Still, I couldn't help wondering who does support this ultra-abundance of luxury. Is there really that much big money floating around?
I cruised through the Frick Collection, an art gallery set in what was once a private mansion facing Central Park. It now displays works by Rembrandt, Monet, Manet, El Greco and other European masters. Many of their subjects were nobility opulently decked out in pearls, gold, silks and jewels. It's been 400 years since some of these pieces were painted, and still we have not lost our fascination with finery.
Speaking of big money, a friend sent a link to a New York Times article featuring houses that cost more than $1 million — one of which is located in Haena. The 1,524-square-foot house sits on two-thirds of an acre across from “Tunnels.” It's one of the most beautiful coastlines in the Islands, and almost entirely devoted to vacation rentals these days.
I got a giggle from the line, “It consists of one residential level, elevated from the ground for treetop views.” That's got to be the best euphemism yet for flood zone compliance. What caught my eye, though, was the mention of a “yurt next to a seasonal stream.” Hmmm. Guess you're never too rich to turn down the income from an illegal vacation rental.
And so goes Haena, yet another place in Hawaii where the locals are being steadily squeezed out by new big money.
Though I've often heard that New Yorkers are surly and rude, everyone I encountered was friendly and polite — right down to the TSA staff at La Guardia.
After the security officer checked my ID, he looked me in the eye, and said, "Now I want you to promise me you'll do something amazing today."
"Well, I did give the cab driver a big tip," I said, and he laughed. "But I'll try to do better."
"Good," he replied. "Now you have a wonderful day."
I went on my way, warmed and cheered, despite the news that my flight is delayed.
Money is useful, and necessary, and it can do good. Still, it's no substitute for the kindness and humanity that springs from an open, loving heart.
Promise me you'll do something amazing today.