The sun is beginning to wash over the East River and onto the horizon. Birds are rustling in hidden nests, and, for a moment, the streets are silent. Not accosted by the obtrusive city sirens and the raucous rumbles of public buses, I savor this moment (For I know it will only last a moment). This is my slice of the suburbs as I stand outside of my Upper East Side apartment at 7:30 AM on a Saturday morning.
Growing up on Long Island, I became accustomed to two realities of life: 1. Indiscriminate traffic patterns; 2. Meager properties that are exorbitantly priced. Yet, at least there is some property and amongst those properties is …
Taking my coffee on the front porch, I light up a cigarette and take a deep breath of smoke intertwined with cleanly brisk air. Leisurely, I make my way onto the grass to retrieve Newsday, Long Island’s preeminent paper (which is monitored almost as closely by Cablevision as the Ministry of Truth monitors its news).
I know that I will have to let the dogs out in the backyard soon. But the morning is as still as an undisturbed lake at midnight. There is a pause that is palpable; all is at peace in that moment before the cars clog the Southern State and rat race begins. But there is that moment. And that is all that matters.
Lying in bed in my modestly priced (for Manhattan) apartment, I listen to the din of the ConEdison truck across the street as it prepares for the aftermath of the end-of-March Nor’easter (surprise – winter’s teeth are still in spring). This din seems as if it has been droning since the night before; then again, this din seems as if it has been going since I moved into the city.
I want to go for a drive to nowhere in particular, hit the streets and not look back, but I know this is not plausible. I have a good spot, one that I will never find if I venture out on a quest. If only I had a driveway again. If only I didn’t get parking tickets for signs that are only visible after the ticket has been secured underneath my windshield wiper.
Out in the suburbs, my father is sitting outside the garage watching the wispy smoke emanate from the end of his thoroughly chewed on cigar. The oldest dog rests on her blanket basking in the sun.
I appreciate the simplicity of a sunset as, in accordance with Whitman, “I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass.” To me, the city has always been a corrupting force to the balanced beauty of the “country.” However, as I look back on my time in the suburbs of Long Island, I respect the city that much more. The city is raw, real, and genuine (relatively speaking). It is not trying to mask what it is.
The suburbs, in particular Long Island, are duplicitous. They are not the city, but they are not the “country” either. Instead, they are an oversaturated, overdeveloped, amalgamation of two ideals that they neither satisfy nor fall short of. It is not a bad place, but it is not necessarily a good place. It will be the city before too long, whether it is in my lifetime, yours, or theirs. And, with that, the … will be replaced by the riotous rumbles of the buses, the honking hysterics of the taxis, and the blaring blusters of late night debauchery.
As I have settled in to the interminable cacophony of city living, I can hear the quiet amongst the commotion. It is there, beneath the façade of busy, a reminder of the humanity that still exists somewhere in the nonstop.
It’s quiet in the City that Never Sleeps; while it will not last, I know that it will return again…
Copyright ã 2014 Andrew Chapin