I like travel – I like exploring new places, I like going back to places I know and wandering about; and this time, we were in New York, a city I know better than any other city I haven't lived in, I would – I get to visit New York every couple of years, staying with friends. (This trip will undoubtedly get written about sometime, but experience shows me it might take a year or two... - not least cos I have about seven hundred photographs to process first!)
I went to New York in October 2002 – a year after 11 September 2001 (you're smart, you'll have noticed that...) - then (I think) in 2005 and again in June 2007. In 2002, I avoided “Ground Zero" - it felt too raw: there were shrines all over the city, remembering firefighters who were missing, there were posters all over the place with details of missing workers from the World Trade Center, and tattered flags all over the city, left out in all weathers as a sign of defiance.
In 2007, I did go to the site of the WTC, because I was doing stuff in the surrounding area and it seemed churlish to go out of my way to avoid it; it was a chilling, moving experience.
So I do react to the events of 11 September. So far, so good.
Thing is, this trip I had a guide book with me. Indeed, I had several: new guides to Washington (earlier in the trip) and Philadelphia (later); and two to New York: one, the Time Out guide, dating from 2007, the other, the Lonely Planet, from (I think) 1997.
I like guide books: they are just that – guides. I have used the Lonely Planet guide many times – I have several editions, going back to the 1980s. I like the layout, the way they work, the feel - the very vibe of the book.
It is, though, a guide book. I know it is old, but I am adult, I can cope with that: the world changes, jazz clubs and restaurants close and open; and the guide book is a way to help me navigate the city. Not infallible, obviously, and used with caution – because neither the guide nor me – nor the city – are immortal.
I also took bus and subway maps, kindly provided by Manhattan Transportation Authority - if you're ever in New York, stop by a subway station and pick up a free bus map: the best map of the city you can get, free. The maps I had I think dated back to my 1997 trip, too – I think they were from 1993 and 1995 respectively.
The age of the Lonely Planet guide and subway and bus maps didn't bother me. Some things had changed – the World Trade Center, for instance – restaurants opened and closed, neighbourhoods moved up market or down; perhaps some changes to the subway, maybe different routes on some buses.
frankie_ecap saw it a bit differently, of course. This is partly because she used my subway map to plan a trip on the only bit of the network that had significantly changed: in the midtown area, one of the routes had been renamed, and, had she relied on my map, she'd have ended up somewhere she didn't want to be. Still she had the wherewithal to check her route on a subway map in the station, and she saw that the old map was wrong, and avoided getting lost. Still, it was my fault for lending her my map... She found ALL the changes on the bus map, too, sifting through it route by route, highlighting how it might have got her lost (had she wanted to take every bus in Manhattan...)!
She then extended this argument to the guide book itself.
When we'd arrived in New York, we went for a long walk, and sought food near where we were staying; I looked at my decade-old guide book and suggested a local diner, and steered us right there. So the one time we relied on the guide book, it worked – it came good when it needed to.
However, frankie_ecap felt that simply using a guide book that discussed the World Trade Center as a tourist attraction – since it was a tourist attraction when it was written – was somehow wrong: disrespectful to the dead, to the city, to the past; a sacrilegious act.
This became a major point of contention, as if by using my old, friendly, workable guide book I was doing great wrong.
Thing is, I know the city had changed: like everyone else, I saw the tv footage. I know something historical happened; but that doesn't change the whole city: I know the context. And I can live with that:it is a guide, not an instruction manual1. The world had changed, the time of the guide book is different from now, but the guide still holds, by and large.
For me, knowing there is hole in the book wasn't a problem; knowing there was a hole in the ground, the result of some murdering terrorists was the problem. That the book reminded me of that actually seemed right: an act of rememberance, for how the city – the people and the place – used to be.
1I was going to write “not a map..." but thought this might be counterproductive...