Now that wireless is available in nearly two dozen city parks, laptops have joined the ranks of Frisbees and sunglasses as lounging essentials. Lolling in Sheep Meadow, ever-working Manhattanites are checking their investments, tracking the races in Saratoga or watching for breaking Lindsay-in-Crazytown news. And they’re tuning out the squeals of children to tune in to their iTunes, donning those ubiquitous white earbuds to hear The Byrds instead of the birds.
So, what are they listening to? Thanks to wireless, I was able to snoop into the iTunes libraries of parkgoers across the city and peek at their personal soundtracks. Among the power-suited Bryant Park lunchtime crowd, soft jazz like George Benson and Kenny Burrell pervaded; those with a harder edge preferred Brit rockers Oasis and Radiohead. Somewhat disappointingly, the young liers-out in Union Square (a mere hop from Observer HQ) favored tunes plucked from frat-house sound systems: Dave Matthews and 311 for the rockers, 2Pac and 50 Cent for the rappers. Washington Square Park—surprise!—was an indie kid’s paradise, with the Pet Shop Boys and hipster lounge lizards Pink Martini but a mouse click away.
The great compromiser of the midtown-downtown divide was beach-bum guitarist Jack Johnson, who surfed his way into libraries across the city. Also making a strong bid for universal appeal was the esoteric minimalist composer Steve Reich. Maybe for a rainy day?