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'Speed' Levitch on the City

[whitespace] By Simone Stein

One of the things that makes The Cruise so poetic is your monologues about Manhattan. What do you think of San Francisco in comparison?

Levitch: San Francisco is outrageous, genius. Somebody showed up here and saw these mountains overlooking this water, complete steepness and treachery, and said, You can build a city here. It's a beautiful sculpture chiseled from solid rock. What both cities have in common--which all cities have in common--is that they are portraits of the humanity that built them. Which is to say self-portraits.

Why do you think so few people have reverence for cities anymore? Both downtown Manhattan and downtown San Francisco are being turned into strip malls.

Levitch: It's basically lethargy. People are just that lazy. They don't have the energy to do hardly anything, let alone pay respect to the city. The city is a great teacher and it's teaching enormous lessons. As a tour guide, I always thought of myself as trying to clarify some of the lessons I was learning from the city. But that takes tremendous energy, and most people live in civilized lethargy. It reminds me of a line I love from Kafka's journals. He said impatience is what got us kicked out of the Garden of Eden in the first place, and lethargy is what keeps us from getting back in. When I read that I said to myself, "He must have been a double-decker-bus tour guide at some point."

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From the November 16-29, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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