We’re starting a series of tips for surviving in exciting places. Dull men are not always able to avoid traveling to exciting places. The trips might be for work, or for family reasons—weddings, birthdays, funerals—or dragged there by the wife.

We’re starting with New York. What officially is New York, New York. Also known as Manhattan, its Indian name.

(We are not dealing with the entire state of New York. There are many places in upstate New York where it would be much easier for a dull man to survive than New York, New York. Albany comes to mind.)

grid manhattan

Dull men are impressed with New York’s orderly streets. The streets are in a grid. Dull men feel comfortable with grids. They know where they are.

Dull men prefer grids over what they find in some other cities. Preferable over Boston’s meandering streets that follow old cow paths. Preferable over streets of Washington DC; streets in Washington are set out  in a grid but  diagonal streets overlay this grid creating a confusing — even dangerous — array of streets.

Not everyone likes New York’s grid system. Some say its boring and monotonous, that streets wrapping around the hills would be better, hills like Murray Hill, Lenox Hill, Carnegie Hill. In fact, “Manhattan” means “Island of Many Hills.”

Twice each year, the sun aligns with the straight streets creating spectacular views of sunrises and sunsets:

Solstice at Manhattanhenge

New York began constructing its grid system of streets in 1811. Grid systems date as far back as 2,600 BC in cites in the Indus Valley (now Pakistan). They were also used in ancient times in Egypt, Babylon, China, and even in the Western Hemisphere—in Teotihuacan (now Mexico City).

Alexandria, Egypt — 1st century BC – 1st century AD


 xian 2

Xi’an, China — 6th century AD


Teotihuacan, Mexico — 2nd – 8th centuries AD

In the westward expansion of the U.S., the grid system has been used by practically every city: Chicago, Des Moines, Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego.

Grid System – even in Central Park

You’ll never get lost in Central Park. The grid system can be found there. It’s on metal plats on the lamp posts.  The first two digits signify the closest street. {We’re trying to find out what the other numbers mean.)

 lamppost screenshot

 Squares — not all are square

 wash rec park

Washington Rectangle Park

The first thing a dull man will spot when looking at the “squares” in New York is that most of them are not square. “Washington Square Park” is actually “Washington Rectangle Park.” “Herald Square is actually Herald Triangle.” “Greely Square Park” is actually “Greely Trapezoid Park.” Madison Square Park is a strange shape. It’s close to being a trapezoid. How about calling it “Madison Almost a Trapezoid Park”?

“Time Square”? There’s no square there, only four very small open areas too small to show up on most maps. These four small areas are formed by Broadway crossing 7th Avenue. When looked at from on high, they resemble a bowtie. So “Times Square” is actually “Times Bowtie.”

times bowtie
Times Bowtie

Be all this as it may, the “Squares” are worth visiting. Nice park benches to sit on. Birds and squirrels — and people — to watch.

Fascinating Facet of NY’s Street Grid

4 and 10

In most of NY’s grid system of streets, “avenues” run north/south and “streets” run east/west. But, as you can see in the upper left corner of the map shown above, 4th Street crosses 10th Street. How can this be?

On the lower west side of new York, below 13th Street and west of 6th Avenue, the streets run perpendicular to the Hudson River instead of east/west. These streets were there prior to 1811 and were left in place instead of changed to fit into the grid.

10th Street, as it’s heading west, turns south when it reaches 6th Avenue. 4th Street, as it’s heading west, turns north when it reaches 6th Avenue. The result is that 4th Street intersects with 10th Street.

Extending NY’s Grid System to Rest of World

10 downing street london on nys grid system
10 Downing Street, London—on NY’s Grid System it’s near

the intersection of 63709th Street and 10894th Avenue

In 2011, when New York was celebrating the 200th anniversary of its grid system, Harold Cooper produced a fascinating interactive map that extends the grid from New York — “Capital of the World” — to the rest of the world. Click here: http://extendny.com/


What’s Lacking in NY’s Grid? — Alleys

broadway alley 2
A rare alley in New York

Alleys are virtually nonexistent in New York. Trash is put out on the streets. Unsightly. And, except for the city’s formidable Sanitation Department, it would be unhealthy.

The picture above is Broadway Alley, one of New York’s rare alleys. It’s nowhere near Broadway . It rut runs from East 26th to East 27th Streets between 3rd and Lexington Avenues. It’s probably New York’s only unpaved street.