Dylan Jones: 'Take a moment to contemplate your navel in New York and someone will have stolen your job. Or your wife'

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The Independent Online

It's not easy finding solace in Manhattan. The city is somewhere you come to endlessly shuffle your deck of neuroses, not somewhere to kick back and chillax. Take a moment to contemplate your navel here and someone will have stolen your dinner reservation. Or your job. Or your wife. But these days, if you insist on doing so (and let's face it, most people in New York now seem to take great pride in exposing their navels), you can simply walk up to the High Line, stare across the island, and let the push and pull fade into the distance.

The High Line is an old elevated railway that between 1934 and 1980 was used to transport freight cargo to warehouses along the West Side, particularly the Meatpacking District. Street level trains doing the same job had become so dangerous – 10th Avenue was once called "Death Avenue" because of all the accidents – that the authorities built a commercial "El". The High Line delivered milk, meat, produce and raw goods into the upper-floor loading bays of the factories and warehouses in the area. It has since been turned into a public park – an "aerial greenway" – the first section of which was opened last year.

But it's already one of New York's major tourist attractions, and is a further boost to the area's burgeoning scene. (David Bowie curated the first High Line festival here three years ago, and the whole neighbourhood has become a hotbed of art, music and fashion.) Most of all, it is somewhere to go and think, a respite from all the madness below.

You do need to be prepared for the occasional shock, though, particularly if you take a look up at the Standard hotel where the High Line crosses 13th Street. Each hotel guest gets a letter from the general manager when they check in: "As a reminder, please be aware of the transparency of our guest room windows and that activity in your room, when the curtains are open, may be visible from the outside. We appreciate your consideration of the patrons of the public park and surrounding neighbourhood below." Deary me. Now, what on earth could that mean?

Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'

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