I live in New York.
That means that for the past several years I have had to listen to everyone gush about the High Line.
What’s the “High Line?”
The “High Line” is an old railroad track on the lower West Side that was recently converted into a park.
It’s a bit strange to hear people gush about a park–especially a long, thin park.
First, some history. This is the High Line in 1936, with a train running through the Bell Technologies building.
The last train traveled on the High Line tracks in 1980. It carried frozen turkeys. After that, nature took over.
Over the years, property owners lobbied to have the High Line torn down. But in 1999, a group of citizens began raising money to restore it. Now the first two sections, from Gansevoort Street to 30th Street, are done.
A couple of decades ago, when I lived in this neighbourhood, there was actually some meat packed in the meatpacking district. Now it's home to an Apple Store, street cafes, and people who look French.
This part still looks like a meatpacking district, but that might be because it's being used as a movie set.
The High Line itself starts at the end of the meatpacking movie set. That's the end of it up there--that green thing, above the van.
You get on the High Line, I learned, through a series of stairs and elevators. The elevators are encased in glass, like Apple Stores. The stairs are industrial-chic.
And it was there that I noticed that the High Line is a very obviously corporate-sponsored park. The southern end, for example, is the Tiffany Foundation Overlook.
They have also carefully positioned old-looking railroad rails among the plants to get you in the mood of the place.
Official-looking dudes on tricycles cruise by occasionally, which explains why the plants are so healthy and the park is so clean.
Barry Diller IAC headquarters views. That building was designed by Frank Gehry, by the way. It's basically impossible to get to. It's also shaped like a meringue.
Underneath the buildings, there is shade. As you hang out in that shade, if you are a nervous type, you may find yourself hoping that this will not be the moment that the building collapses.
Some of the buildings that you walk under on the High Line have massive food halls stashed underneath them.
If you're hungry, you can get a whole assortment of things to eat on the High Line. Pretzels, for example. And note that the pretzels don't come from your usual battered New York pretzel cart. They come from a fancy-schmancy old style one.
After you've walked for a while, you may want to rest. They have benches for that. And chaise longues.
Also, the High Line may be the only park in the world where there is a special place to watch... traffic! Really! It's a special open-air amphitheater that hangs over 10th Avenue. There's no better place in the world to watch traffic.
They have put a lot of big art in places where you can see it from the High Line. Don't get nervous, though. It's not challenging or unsettling art. It's mostly tourist-friendly-urban-hipster-style art with comfortable themes.
Another fun thing to do on the High Line is peer into people's windows as you pass. Imagine how annoyed they must be by you!
There are long stretches of the High Line that are very thin. Almost sidewalk-sized. (But that's OK! New Yorkers are used to sidewalks).
If you want to stop and lean against the High Line fence for a while as you walk, you can do that. There are often helpful directional instructions engraved into it.
By the way, although you may occasionally come to believe that you're standing on firm, solid ground on the High Line, you're actually standing on steel beams like these. And you can actually feel them shaking a bit sometimes.
If you have kids, by the way, you don't have to carry or cajole them. You can just drag them around in a cart.
One of the most startling and authentic landscape features on the High Line is a gigantic smokestack.
There's an interesting section in the northern third of the High Line where you're walking along normally on concrete and then suddenly you're walking on metal and you begin to go up.
Soon, you find yourself on an elevated metal boardwalk that, itself, is floating above the elevated metal High Line.
You don't have to worry about that on the High Line, though. Those aren't prehistoric plants. And if you accidentally squish a butterfly, you won't rewrite history.
Not a LOT of their conversations. (You wouldn't want to catch a LOT of their conversations, because then you'd feel like a creep. Or a spy.)
Because, from that snippet of conversation, you can think about what they might be talking about, what kind of people they might be, where they might be from, what their lives might be like.
And you can appreciate the fact that, out of 7 billion lives in the world, yours have momentarily intersected--and that this will probably be the only time, ever, that they will intersect.
For example, here are some snippets of conversations I heard as I stood in one place and did some people-listening on the High Line (Eyes and camera averted, of course, to protect the innocent)
You start going around this corner (exciting!) and then, suddenly, there's a fence, and the High Line just ends.
That's because they haven't finished building the High Line yet. There's a whole new section that they're working on.
The rest of the High Line won't be done for a while yet, though. So when you reach the fence, there's nothing to do but peer through it for a while...and then turn around and walk back.
So that's the High Line. It's cool. I'm glad I went. I'm a fan. I think I get why everyone's so bonkers about it. And now...
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