It’s about this time of year that a city makes a special guest appearance on Upstate Dispatch to honour my urban roots. There’s a lot that I miss about the city, but the most prominent difference between country and city life is that, in the country, you have to drive everywhere. In the city, you can walk or take readily available public transportation. Small towns and villages in places like my home country England are mostly very, very old and designed for walking or riding (animal or bicycle). British Towns radiate outwards like a rash instead of sprawling along lengthy American roads. You would never have an English address with more than three numbers in the street address, but yesterday I visited someone whose street number was 53939, which is unheard of in England and quite astonishing to foreigners. Even our longest residential roads, straight thousand-year-old roads that were built by the Romans, were split into sections called “high streets” like the A10, which is 90 miles long. It runs from central London to Norfolk at about a sixth of the entire country’s length.
Driving into New York City feels rather like being dragged into a large, fast-moving tidal wave of metal. Everyone drives like their wife is giving birth in the passenger seat. Big questions pop into my head on the approach to the Tappanzee Bridge while a truck is tailgating me with an inch between us at 60 miles per hour. Will I die because this driver woke up late? Why didn’t he just leave earlier? Why didn’t they all leave earlier? It’s frightening to notice that New York’s Angriest are behind the wheel and there’s no room for error at such breakneck speeds. For a split second this morning, I felt like a visiting dignitary when I was surrounded very snugly by five to ten speeding SUVs. (I should have put a little flag on my car!) Suddenly, on the Saw Mill Parkway, I was one of them.
Once in the city, the feeling of anonymity is palpable. Pedestrians are in as much of a rush as drivers. An urge to wave at one of Brooklyn’s UPS drivers was successfully resisted this morning. Sometimes the dog is too friendly and last time we were here got too close to some poor soul’s backside, an act that elicited a severe reprimand. He’s always overwhelmed by the sheer number of people he needs to greet enthusiastically. How will he manage to sniff everyone by the time the light changes?
A lunchtime, post-drive stroll today reminded me of aspect of the city I miss most: walking in the thick of civilization, meandering and people watching. Furthermore, I will drink and walk, but I won’t drink and drive and it’s refreshing to be able to have a glass of wine safe in the knowledge that you can hop on a bus or walk to your next destination.