“Talking Skyscrapers”


September 25, 2017

By Arthur H. Gunther III

NEW YORK, N.Y. — The area where I live is just north of this famous, at times infamous, metropolis, enough distance in my youth to have enjoyed a life apart —rural countryside, building huts in the woods, traipsing through fruit orchards, riding with companion on a summer night, car windows open, crickets joining the conversation. Yet we were close to Manhattan, too, and its four borough cousins to occasionally visit. It was an adventure every time.
It may seem silly now, having visited enough European and U.S. cities and in the process maturing in perspective and becoming less hayseed, that New York City once seemed so busy, so in a rush, ever so full of construction sounds that I had to flee after a day visit. In my youth, once my father crossed the Hudson River via the George Washington Bridge, we again heard the crickets, and that resumed  the reassuring purring of what was still not the suburbs.
Of course, it all depends on perspective. A Gothamite, returning to Yorkville or Chelsea or Hell’s Kitchen from my old, quiet Spring Valley would be reassured by the vibrance of the city.
(I was told the story of a city fellow, visiting the sticks for a high school graduation, who could not sleep through the night at his sister’s house and had to take a midnight bus back to New York. It was just too quiet.)
In truth, all cities are fascinating, and there is so much great diversity, food choices, history, and, most important, interesting characters within. So many different neighborhoods.
My own heritage includes city dwellers on both sides of the family, and all the sides before that, back to Prussian, Irish and English immigrants. Wish I could have heard their stories.
Ruralness long ago left my hometown, replaced by suburbia. The crickets have been drowned out by traffic noise, incessant lawn machines and leaf-blowers. Gotham is just as close geographically as it ever was, but it can take triple the old time to get there, given overgrowth and underwhelming transit planning. The suburbs are painted more and more with the city mix anyway, so there is not so much a need to visit.
But in my dreams, my parents pile my brother and I in the old green Studebaker, and we jump over the Hudson into Midtown, eat at a Chinese restaurant and walk in Times Square. It is thrilling, as always, yet the return ride, over the bridge and into country darkness and the sound of the crickets, is reassuring. It is my music. In my dreams anyway.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com