The Ecology of an Intersection

We at the Thoreau You Don't Know never tire of watching this, which reminds us of watching herds of animals on the Great Plains, or fish in a stream and so on:

Scramble from Sam Javanrouh on Vimeo.

Seeing the Wind

As readers of The Thoreau You Don't Know know, the staff of the The Thoreau You Don't Know is very interested in wind and windstorms, especially in the city--which is why we were elated to receive the following e-mail from an alert reader, in particular alert novelist Matthew Sharpe (Stories from the Tube, Nothing Is Terrible, The Sleeping Father, Jamestown), who came across this wind description from Charles Dickens, in Our Mutual Friend:
The grating wind sawed rather than blew; and as it sawed, the sawdust whirled about the sawpit. Every street was a sawpit, and there were no top-sawyers; every passenger was an under-sawyer, with the sawdust blinding him and choking him.

That mysterious paper currency which circulates in London when the wind blows gyrated here and there and everywhere. Whence can it come, whither can it go? It hangs on every bush, flutters in every tree, is caught flying by the electric wires, haunts every enclosure, drinks at every pump, cowers at every grating, shudders upon every plot of grass, seeks rest in vain behind the legions of iron rails.

Nice wind quote. (We put it in italics, because italics look windblown.) When the BBC did "Our Mutual Friend," they also ran a scholarly article archive, which can be found here. As far as Dickens and Thoreau goes: we are reminded of Dickens tour of The Five Points, the notorious so-called slum of New York City. (Photo NY Public Library Digital Collection.)

We am reminded that he liked to go slumming. We are reminded that the Five Points was exploding due to the sudden influx of immigrants, running from famine. We are reminded that Dickens did not have a lot of nice things to say about the Five Points residents, comparing them to the pigs.
Debauchery has made the very houses prematurely old. See how the rotten beams are tumbling down, and how the patched and broken windows seem to scowl dimly, like eyes that have been hurt in drunken frays. Many of those pigs live here. Do they ever wonder why their masters walk upright in lieu of going on all-fours? and why they talk instead of grunting?

We recall that Thoreau came to New York City the following year, living in Staten Island, and had some not nice things to say about the very same immigrants. Then he returned to Concord, MA, where there were also a lot of immigrants all of the sudden. In fact, Thoreau lived with some of the immigrants at Walden Pond, using party of a Irishman's shanty to build his house. Sometime after living at Walden, Thoreau's attitude changed. He began to have nice things to say about the immigrants--about their work habits, their fence building skills, their kids. In other words, Thoreau stayed loose; he was flexible. Kind of like Matthew Sharpe, seen here on the Today Show:

In closing, note that one of the BBC's scholarly articles--Choi, Tina Young. "Completing the Circle: The Victorian Sanitary Movement, Our Mutual Friend, and Narrative Closure." A paper originally delivered at the Dickens Project Winter Conference, UC Davis, February 19-21, 1999--refers to the great English sanitarian Edwin Chadwick and says this:
Dickens's massive novels about urban life, such as Great Expectations and Bleak House, elaborate upon a similar conception of nationhood, where both narrative and nation, in spite of seeming novelistic excess with respect to characters and pages, actually exemplify remarkable economy. But his last complete novel, Our Mutual Friend, might provide the most fitting example of this emergent sense of nationhood, if only because here, Dickens overlays an almost Chadwickean vision of narrative and national closure with a pervading narrative thematic of sanitation, waste, and recovery.