Thursday, June 01, 2006

Notes from the road ...

April 12, 2006


7:52AM

On the road to Boston, soon to board the train from Pennsylvania station in Manhattan and then the long four-hour ride to Back Bay station where I will disembark and settle in for the project that has brought me to America. I’ve been back for almost three weeks now but I have yet to feel truly home. I expected something dramatic – a “eureka” moment when the emotions would all flood through me and I would realize how much I missed the country of my birth. I expected this but it never happened, even when I saw the profile of the great metropolis of Gotham in the distance as I drove in from the airport, nothing, not a stirring or a flutter of feeling. It was like I had never left or perhaps a bit more disturbing, as if I had never lived here at all. However, a few days later I was walking in lower Manhattan with an old friend and he told me to watch out for the cars in the intersection, or something of that nature, something you might say to your cousin or your mother when they visited you in the city for the first time and you were eager to point out to them how dangerous life among the millions could be and how well you had mastered the urban survival arts. I reacted by telling my friend that I wasn’t a tourist and reminded him that I had lived on this island for nearly three decades and had only been gone for six months. I refused to become a tourist, in my own eyes and mind or in the eyes and minds of others. Then I became conscious of my stride, of whether or not I was looking around more than I used to or if I should jay-walk at this corner or another. Jay-walking is one of the first and most significant attitude adjustments I had to make upon arriving in Germany. Jay-walking is part of the street culture of Manhattan, drivers expect it and behave accordingly, pedestrians feel it is their right and ignore traffic lights, stopping only when the oncoming vehicle is traveling fast enough that it would be physically impossible to stop before the pedestrian made it to the other side of the crosswalk. New Yorkers have an innate capacity to compute the speed of these approaching vehicles and adjust their pace accordingly, much like the pigeons who graze on discarded bagel bits in the middle of the street and somehow miraculously fly up and away just as a car speeds by them. They seem to wait until the last possible moment before taking wing, and then as soon as the car has passed, they float back to the blacktop and resume their meal. I had just completed training His Holiness in the finer points of jay-walking when we decided to make the move to Germany. Now he reminds me to stop at intersections when the red light is on. Oh how life changes and changes and changes …

More anon…

1 Comments:

Blogger piu piu said...

u can j walk to your hearts content in the UK....

great post

1:47 PM  

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