Quiet!

I suppose it has been a while since I wrote. I guess it’s because I’ve gotten into a bit of a routine, where nothing terribly new happens that I want to report to you on. That’s my first clue that it’s about time for me to mix things up, and indeed I’ll be starting the biggest mixup of my life so far starting on the 30th, which touches off my long period of being nomadic for as long as I can. On the 30th, for the first part of my long nomadic stretch, I’ll arrive at my friend Willie’s house. Then he’ll take me and Kane and probably some other of our friends to the scenic White or Green Mountains: he hasn’t decided yet. We’ll camp and hike for a week, during which time I’ll have occasion to break the soles of my feet back into toughness after two months of mostly coddling them with shoes or flooring since I’ve been here. I’ll also work on a set of muscles that I’ve been paying a little bit more attention to lately, the ones in my legs. On an especially stationary day for me last week, I decided that I really, really had to go blow off steam. So I jogged to Prospect Park. Which was only, like, three blocks, so I also jogged within Prospect Park. Then I had to go back and get something, so another six blocks. The reason I came back was that I discovered on my first trip that the New York Philharmonic was going to be playing some music there, and a few people were going to watch. One of the more awesome things about New York is that it’s one of very few places in the world where you can just happen upon a professional orchestra giving a free performance of such music as, to take this night’s fare, the “Polonaise” from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story, and selection from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. I was slightly more jaded to this than you might initially expect, unfortunately, because I had just two nights prior gone to Central Park, in a whole other borough, to see them play, and tonight only half the program was different (the first half). Even so, I’m not one to pass up a free trip to the symphony that carries with it an opportunity to jog and an opportunity to watch celebratory fireworks after the show. So that is why I came back and watched them play all of the above-mentioned music beautifully and with feeling, while I reclined on the grass at the front of the crowd of thousands of picnickers and music-enjoyers sprawled all across a cluster of the park’s baseball fields. Then I got a view of the fireworks lifting off from a fenced-off area and exploding in the sky, and still got home in time to take Kane’s cute old incontinent dog out on the deck.

I bet you don’t remember that I was talking about my nomadic schedule. I sure didn’t by the time I got to the end of that paragraph. But it turns out I was, so I’ll keep going with it. After the Mountains of Some Color trip, I’ll head back to Cincinnati for but a few scant days, then turn right back out the driveway so I can go acquaint a fresh generation of new freshmen with the splendor of the Manitowish waters. After that, and a bit of socializing with people I haven’t seen for a long time, I’ll come back to Cincinnati and gather my traveling party and we’ll sit around a big map of the United States on the floor and trace out a route that takes us to as many as possible of the interesting places contained within the imaginary (but powerful) lines that delineate this nation. Via rail, of course; and then we’ll put that plan into action with all due speed. So that’s the rest of the nomadic period, if you’re interested.

In fairness to New York, I suppose it’s more that I’m getting used to it; it hasn’t actually been getting that routine—witness the two free symphonic concerts I watched. And also witness last night, when I went to a gathering of freegans. A minor effect of this is that I can now claim to have been to a majority of the boroughs of New York (I haven’t checked off The Bronx or Staten Island yet, and maybe I never will). A more substantial effect was that I had a night full of fun and delicious food, but mainly fun. I talked with a woman who’s very strongly for animal rights about hunting, and my ideas from my old “Replaceability” post. And about fabric with someone else, and about spelling bees and foreign languages and all sorts of stuff. It made me wish, heartfeltly, that I could get together with these people more, but unfortunately I’ll probably never see most of them again. I guess I’ll just have to find other people like that in someplace where I’ll be for a little longer.

Witness also that I’ve been shuffled back into the East Village, and this time my host is here more often and wants to give me a bit of a tour of the place. I’ve already found out much more about the place than I knew before. For example, he told me that all the adventures in Jack Kerouac’s Subterraneans actually took place right here, across the street from where we were sitting in fact, and Kerouac just translated all the action to California when he wrote the book. I’m sure there are tons of other stories like that buried around here. Regina Spektor came from the East Village, for example, and tons more I don’t know about yet.

But another reason I’m glad I’ll be getting out of the city soon is one that everyone I know was thinking about before I even came. What am I, the hairiest dirtiest nature-boy hippie, doing in the biggest most frenetic city in America?, everyone has wondered at least once. And I thought the same thing too before I came. I’ve made the best of it, but I’m coming to the conclusion that I was quite right about myself, because I’m definitely starting to feel suffocated in this Land of Infinite Boxes. I keep wanting to go outside and do something, but there’s no outside here. It’s all just more and more boxes; the outside is inside because it’s all enclosed within walls. Lately something that’s been plaguing me is the realization that there has been entering my ears since the first minute I came here a hum, a thrum, or a din of some sort generated by the haltlessly pulsing electricity that is the filling of the heart of this city, and by the motors that flock over every paved surface they’ll fit on. I’ve had one or two moments of peace, in the deepest reaches of Central Park. But other than that I’ve been hearing from humans for about fifty straight days. I like humans, but that’s just too damn much.

That’s all I had along that line. But here’s another short thought that’s occurred to me lately. While reading on the subway, I’ve noticed that there are lots of other people who read on the subway. The subway is a space where you have no connection to anything outside of the subway. Cell phones don’t work, your view is usually of concrete wall, there’s no WiFi. Books are the only thing that really works there. And so that’s what people look at. Could this—here’s my thought—result in New Yorkers being pretty smart? I have noticed that there seems to be a disproportionate number of smart people here. Maybe it’s good for a society to have a little while of reflection each day, some time where they don’t have to be plugged into anything or pay attention to traffic, just read, or, if they’re not feeling that on some particular day, think about things. The subway may be smelly, infested with rats, often crowded, and sweltering hot, but its Purgatory nature might just be a good thing for people.

File under: interesting people, civilization · Places: NYC


Anonymous

History

When up in the BWCA, we had no contact to the outside either. None of us had brought books, however…
I think that it is extremely necessary to take time to think about things or read, slow down, disconnect from the thrumming cables and satellites and let yourself concentrate on one thing at a time. Maybe the subway is their nature in New York…That would be a bit depressing.

S

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Anonymous

History

I can't help thinking about how different your summer would have been had you spent it in the Chicago area. The city itself would have held some similar features. Thanks to Daniel Burnham, the Chicago shoreline has attractive parks and museums, and the only noise to the east is the sound of boats in the lake. However,you'd have spent more time in the 'burbs, where you might not have felt quite so boxed in, but you also would have been in a more familiar midwest environment and not found the new challenges you ultimately faced completely on your own.

As I sit here in the 'burbs at 10:30 on a Sunday night, with the windows open for the first time in weeks (it finally cooled down here), I hear the sounds of motorcycles on the highway a few blocks away. Occasionally a train goes by, and sometimes heavy trucks. The cars become white noise. But besides that I can hear an occasional cicada and even an early cricket. In the mornings the birds do their singing nearby. And yes, we hear the neighbors' dogs sometimes.

In Chicagoland you would have met different people, hopefully ones you'd have enjoyed, but you probably wouldn't have had the depth of experience you are having in urban New York.

While we'd have enjoyed having you here, I believe you've gained so much more by doing what you did. I hope you have no regrets.

Aunt E.

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Anonymous

History

I think everyone needs to experience New York at some time in his/her life. You now know exactly what's at the other end of your spectrum of lifestyle choices.

Aunt I.

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Anonymous

History

P.S. All a writer really needs, along with a modest ability to juggle words, is something to write about. The more experiences the better.

I.

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Anonymous

History

You will be glad to know that we experienced nature in all its fullness at Crow Duck. The weather was perfect, the fishing was productive and we saw the wolves in the wild. Not bad. But even in Crow Duck Eden there are the sounds of the lawn mowers and the boat engines and the hum of the water pump and the generator. But above all that, the sounds of the loons are loud and clear. Grandma

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