I have spots in cities. These are more than favorite nightspots or tourist spots or spots in your house or on your porch. They are places I could direct you to if you were going on holiday. These are places you would stand for a bit or sit for a spell and say, “gee. this is a nice spot.” These are spots that have special resonance for me, so I’ve decided to chronicle my spots.
Framingham, MA: High school is where most of us get our first spots. Mine was about two miles from my parent’s house. At the time, it was this short, circular road off one of those windy, wooded and rarely traveled New England roads. It wasn’t near houses and it wasn’t on the way to anyplace, so my cohorts and I could park and spend hours just up to no good, though thinking back it was probably a little bit of good. We sat in cars that were like bubbles and passionately carried on about things that seemed very important at the time. The spot is now surrounded by houses and from the looks of it on google, they’ve built a few new roads, so I’m sure it isn’t as secluded as it once was.
Amsterdam, The Netherlands: My spot is on Staalkade just next to the Waterlooplein. In 1997, the day Princess Dianna died, I landed in Amsterdam for what can easily be described as the best semester of my life. I lived on one of those impossibly picturesque canals and I had classes Wednesday and Friday afternoons. Quite a rigorous European existence. Plenty of free time for — as I like to write on guidebook maps of friends who are Holland-bound — “to sit here and watch the city.” This spot is actually on a river, though it just looks like a bigger canal, but from the benches you really get a sense of the city. It was close to my route from one University of Amsterdam campus to the other, and I used to smoke pack after pack of cigarettes there writing nonsensical poetry and witty postcards.
Wang Thong, Thailand: Anyone who visited me in the Peace Corps knows my spot was on the porch in front of my house, but house spots don’t count for this list. My village had two sweet spots. The first was on a mountain just outside the village where you had a panoramic view of the entire valley and the mountains that begin and lead to Laos are clearly visible. This was the first, dare I say only, stop on the Wang Thong tourist circuit. My other spot was sitting on the sidewalk in front of 7-11 right in the middle of the town. I wrote this at the time:
Found the best hang out spot in Wang Thong. It is called The Sidewalk in Front of 7-11, where Lalo, Jessica (two fellow PC Volunteers) and I parked ourselves between the hours of 11pm and 3 in the morning last Thursday. We drank beer and talked to the various people coming and going at that late hour (about 10 people in 4 hours). I may have made some actual friends who do not teach with me or sell me chicken. Of course, one of my 9th grade students came by and says “Ajan (Mr.) Seth, why you sit in front of 7-11 and drink beer?” This kid never says a word in class, looks at me like I am from Mars when I say “How are you?”, but all of a sudden he is Mr. English!! I told him this was a custom in America to sit in front of convenient stores and as a Peace Corps Volunteer I felt it was my duty to share American culture.
Brooklyn, NY: If there is a better spot in New York City than one of the 3 or 4 sets of benches between the spans on the pedestrian crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge, I’ve not found it in over 15 years of living in New York. Sure, there’s the promenade. Battery Park can be lovely. Someone once told me I should go to the top of the Empire State Building. But the Brooklyn Bridge is the most stunning structure in the city, and the view from it trumps all others.
Washington DC: I have to admit, in a year of living here, I’ve not found my spot. The kickball field where my fellow Chicken Kickers triumphed repeatedly was at the base of the monument and had great views of the Jefferson, the White House and the Lincoln (not to mention planes landing on runway 19 at DCA), but for goodness sakes, I can’t live in Washington DC and tell people my favorite spot is right in the middle of the mall. It reeks of a cop-out and I can do better. Finding my DC spot is my top priority my friends, and I will surely keep you posted.
I have more but this is getting long. There’s the hill in San Francisco’s Dolores Park (the 20th Street side). Bangkok’s ta pra atit in the Bunglumpoo section is the Asian Washington Sq. Park and a welcome part from the circus that is Bangkok(with a great view of that cool Rama bridge).
Feel free to comment, and show me your spots.