Thursday, September 14, 2006

Een Kloppende Hart

I realize that for some people, this may sound a bit twisted or masochistic -- especially for a boy from the heartland of rural America, brought up in the wholesome environment of sleepy little towns like Lancaster, Wisconsin and Shelby, Ohio... But I might as well say it:

I enjoy rush hour in the city.

Of course, I realize that rush hour in Amsterdam is a great deal different than rush hour in many other cities of the world. With a higher proportion of people riding bicycle or public transportation, rush hour in Amsterdam (at least in the city center, where I live) is considerably healthier, more ecological, and less gridlocked than the horror stories that I've heard about two-hours of creeping along the freeway with hundreds of thousands of other automobiles. But even when Amsterdam's intersections are jammed with impatient commuters honking their horns, even when I'm forced to slow my cycling pace because of the high volume on the bicycle paths, even when I get frustrated by the elements of rush hour that are niet-zo-leuk -- there's still a part of me that enjoys rush hour in the city.

There's something breathtaking, something beautiful, something fresh and living about the way that the city moves and breathes during its hours of greatest circulation. Have you ever seen some of the time-lapse video footage of places like New York's 34th Street at the beginning of the day, Chicago's Michigan Avenue at lunch-time, or the freeways of Los Angeles at sunset? It looks like the arteries and blood vessels of a living heart -- pumping its lifeblood throughout the body with every change of the traffic light. I wish I could find some similar time-lapse footage of Amsterdam's Frederiksplein at 8:55 in the morning, or of the Vrije Universiteit at 11:00 (the photos that I tried to take this morning, including the one above, fall short of capturing the true feeling of the urban circulatory system)... But even when I see these events in real-time, I am struck by the sheer volume of humanity. It inspires awe to observe the flow of people during rush hour.

When I am in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I admire the absolute stillness of a sunrise over the Appalachian Trail... When I am in Shelby, Ohio, I admire the easygoing banter of small-town acquaintances on a "bustling" Monday morning on Main Street... And when I am in Amsterdam, I admire the pulsing of the city's heart each morning and evening, as observed from the seat of my bicycle.

Should it be any other way?


At 4:38 PM, Blogger chanchanchepon said...

I love it too. Amsterdam is a city filled with life. There is a definite difference between thousands of people isolated and immobilized in a Los Angeles rush hour and the steady flow of bicycles and pedestrians moving along the streets of amsterdam.

Somehow those people seem more connected.


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