Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thoughts on Nightlife

The Great Cities are those which, as the saying goes, “never sleep.” 

This is literally untrue, of course. 

Most people who live in New York, Paris, London, Moscow or any of the other world cities, go to bed at the same time as people in Ottawa, Omaha, Bonn or Manchester. 

Man that looks real.

However, the Great City emerges as a community only during the nighttime hours. Towns and smaller cities can remain socially connected during daylight hours, which is why these places are dormant after dark. 

In small towns, life is typically slower, “easier”, because people take the time to acknowledge and speak with one another. 

Rollin' up the streets.

In the metropolis, the frantic pace precludes this sort of intimacy. The Great City is machine-like to the extent that a breakdown in one function leads to breakdown or impairment in all other function: it persists to the extent that people are willing to live at an accelerated pace of life — at least during the daylight hours. In the seven-to-six rush of people and traffic, city-dwellers must relate to another as monads and means to an end. 

When darkness finally comes, after nine o’clock in the evening, Great-City dwellers can relate to one another as human beings. Most residents of the metropolis, perhaps eight-tenths, or even 90%, do not participate in its nightlife much, or at all. 

But when a city is large enough, one person in ten, or one in twenty even, is a population itself large enough to form the population of a small city at least. Then the community of the metropolis is formed. 

Nightlife exists, of course, in all places big and small. But in small towns and backwater cities, nocturnal activities are literally and figuratively relegated to the peripheral, conducted domestically or in covert or half-secretive public locales. 

Nightlife is regarded in the town and small city, even by the participants themselves, as derogative from and opposed to the norms of the community.  This is why, as they say in smaller places, they "roll up the streets after nine."

But the sort of community appropriate to the metropolis, is realized at night. As the Big City goes into slumber, its autonomic processes maintain basic services and amenities. The pulsing lifeblood of the daytime economy has been put to bed, all except for the public (and semi-private) establishments and spaces that cater to the nightlife. 

Geographically, metropolitan nightlife is not coterminous with the entire metro region. Cumulatively, it usually takes up space large enough only to accommodate a town or small city. It is the quality of the society found there, that makes so cosmopolitan. 

The stage, the scene, the audience.

At night, the streets become a stage, illuminated by powerful lamps, with the skyscrapers and billboards serving as a massive background, and the people come out dressed in their finest costumes, attending clubs and shows, eating out, being part of the show, the “scene.” 

This is the society of the nighttime, with its own rules, rituals and formalities. The automobile is, during nighttime hours for urban-dwellers, a means of sociality. During the day, the car is a necessity, an estranging and subdividing vehicle for “getting from A to B.” After dark is when the souped-up or “freaked” cars come out, each one identifiable by its owner, altogether forming a tight community based on a mutual desire both for speed and plumage. 

Though nightlife is referred to as the “fast-lane”, the world of muscle cars and custom compacts, as of the entire of nocturnal metro society, is only possible because of the deceleration of pace of the big city after dark. 

Thus, roads are free and clear to be raced upon, and enough people are free from responsibility to drink, dance and dine through to the early hours. Metro nightlife is so attractive because, with its ambience, spectacle and playfulness (and its discord and danger), it offers relief and respite from the necessities of deliberation, work and stress, so essential to life in the big city.

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