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.
When cabin fever sets in, sometimes there’s nothing to do but jump in the car and drive to New York City. Book an evening or two with friends, feed sushi to your dog, drink with a million old friends in your favourite bar and exaggerate like a true New Yorker. Driving in the city sharpens the mind as much as a good 25-mile assault course and, once you’ve survived the hair-raising journey, you’ll only be in the city for a few hours when the opportunity for a robust debate will present itself. Quirky customs and foibles are brought vividly into focus when you don’t live here. Strangers receive smiles with downright fascination and will swerve graciously out of the way for your gorgeous dog, but not for you. In fact, NYC dog lovers will converse with your dog like an old, dear friend and completely ignore the human on the end of the leash. Stern police officers on the RFK Bridge will take your toll without returning your gaze and then, out of the blue, light up like a five-year-old and yell: “HEY PUPPY!” after spotting your dog in the back seat.
There’s such a lot to miss about city life: furniture on the street (covered in snow); street vendors selling old, pristine issues of Life Magazine for five dollars; Wholefoods; opening up a coffee shop 7am, for a large tea, croissant and dog biscuit; Strand Bookstore; exciting visits to Manhattan offices bringing back old memories; sushi; La Duree macarons; the sprawling Brooklyn Navy Yards; cyclists; roof farms; the dulcet, reassuring tones of NPR on the radio.