We’re in New York state now to see Ben and Becca and we’ve been looking forward to our time with them for a year now. We took a 2 1/2 hour train to from Beacon to Grand Central Station in Manhattan this weekend.
The irony of our three children living in the biggest cities of the United States is not lost on me. I don’t like big cities. I mean one of them actually graduated at U of M for crying out loud. But I’m not taking it personally. I am not an Angeleno or a New Yorker. I am at peace driving down country roads past farms, forests and cornfields while wearing my Tractor Supply hat.
We have just left weeks of living in the mountains and natural beauty in the West. Driving amidst rivers and waterfalls, forests, ranches and farms and distant towns. Where we processed distance and breadth of open spaces and skies.
Now we arrive at Grand Central Station, in the city where our visual perspective ranges 2-3 blocks between skyscrapers that hide the sky.
As we step out, the train platform is very hot and humid and it’s hard to breathe. I smell trains, grease, steam, garbage, dirty concrete, carbon, piss, body odor, perfumes and colognes. And that’s before we reach the throngs of travelers churning inside the building. I see Cops w automatic weapons. This does not calm me down.
Walking through the flowing rapids of people, I feel I have a sign on my forehead encouraging people to stop and stand directly in my path, crane their necks every which-way while looking like a dope. Oh wait. That was me pissing off the guy behind me.
There is too much going on for me. I feel an obligation to notice everything. I have no filters. I’m the inexperienced photographer using a wide lens for a close up shot. My mind is racing. Outside, there is no grass. No trees. I notice that beautiful woman passing on the sidewalk in a stunning dress with one leg and crutches. The homeless guy sleeping on the sidewalk next to his sign that says “Fuck Ice”. The noise of cars and bus engines, honking, tires screeching, boom boxes, demolition hammer drills and construction of roads, sidewalks and buildings. All the different languages.
In the car I’m looking out the window trying to find the fast lane of frenzy on “going nowhere faster” Avenue. This Uber smells so my window is open. It’s noisy. I turn off my hearing aids. Karen keeps talking to me, her voice drowned out by my shitty ears and the street noise. Her lips are moving, she’s smiling at me and I feel that annoying expectation to answer but I have no idea what I’d be answering to. Telling her for the third time that I can’t hear her. She’s still talking because this is what she does when she’s keyed up. While my response is shutting down and not talking as though I would fall over if I had one more thing to do besides deflecting the incoming barrage.
While quiet I wonder if I can adapt at 64 years old. Younger brains have more elasticity. Can I give up my need for control? Can I find my organic charity, my playfulness to embrace chaos, celebrate spontaneity as I did so easily as a young person and accept unpredictability and uncertainty? Am I too stubborn to accept this world as it is vs the world I want it to be? This is not my domain and I marvel at the faces of the natives who seem calm and accepting.
I came to the realization as a new parent that I would go through hell and back to be with my children. This is that.
I love you Ben and Becca. We’ll be back. But maybe I’ll have an edible first.