Legibility of place
Returning to San Francisco from a trip to New York City, I ruminated on my first experience of staying in midtown in the city in which I was raised. The city is different, of course. Times Square has fulfilled its Blade Runner destiny, and blue Grecian “Greatest Coffee in the World” cups have been supplanted with those from Starbucks. What stayed with me, however, was a brief exchange with another attendee of the same conference for which I was in town. “Everything is so expensive” she lamented. “I see people with yogurts and sandwiches and other things that don’t seem to cost too much, but I don’t know where they get them.” “Oh, there’s plenty of stuff around here” I replied. “You just have to look.”
As a lifelong urbanite, I’ve always felt comfortable learning cities “by Braille.” I put on my walking shoes and wander, making mental maps as I go. I experience serendipity, yet can generally intuit where things are likely to be – the CBD, the government center, nightlife.
This summer our family spent time in Berlin, Venice, Florence, and Paris. Of the four, Paris was the only one I’d been to before. By the time we got there, it was like greeting an old friend.