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Killer Views

I got my dad the eight DVD set of Ric Burns’ history of New York for Christmas. I watched the entire series two summers ago shortly after moving in to my apartment in Brooklyn. The first few episodes concentrate on the city’s origins, much of which take place in the areas that are now Brooklyn, the New York Harbor, and lower Manhattan. I got a charge out of pausing the discs on occasion and going up to my roof to take in this exact view as the sun set on the city. I used to think that life peaked at a certain, arbitrary point, and that everything on either side was either climb or descent. But I’ve come to believe it’s a series of potential peaks only attainable by the virtue of sustained movement. Some descent is almost guaranteed. This doesn’t mean that you’ve always got to be packing your bags for somewhere else, but you can’t park your chair on the roof and enjoy the same great view forever, either. But I digress.

If San Francisco is a little like the smart kid in the Gifted Studies program who’s read a lot of books but sucks at sports, then New York is like an intelligent, hot girlfriend who’s a little too loud and is always in your face. Of course neither is remotely like either of these things, but it’s as good a summation as any. What is a city, other than its people, its physicality (including climate and location), and its history? “Vibe” is kind of a hip word, but any perceived vibration is relative to that which is being put out by the individual. My buddy Mark in New York told me a while back that he thought he’d spend a year of his life in Los Angeles before he was done. He’d just come back from a visit there and enjoyed the detached, unspecific sense of freedom he’d experienced. “I think my Los Angeles might be your New York” he told me.

I was in Los Angeles not too long ago, staying with my father in a Torrance Marriott Residence Inn, due to circumstances largely beyond our collective control. I was laying on the couch and he on his bed, both of us having had a few drinks and he with chocolate cookie crumbs adorning his Hanes t-shirt just below his chin. He was reflecting on his life, a tendency for which I cut him ample slack in due respect of his having just turned eighty. Somewhere along the line the conversation switched to the potentially daunting question of why anyone chooses to push on  “I don’t know why I keep going,” he offered. “I guess I just wake up every day and I’m still curious how it’s all going to turn out.”  His response stuck with me more than he likely realized, and over the coming months I’d go back to it with a mixed sense of appreciation and envy.

I like the jogging route that I take most days in Brooklyn. The highlight comes when I turn down Remsen Street and head for the Promenade. There, all is revealed – Manhattan from Wall Street up to the Empire State Building and points beyond, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Liberty in the Harbor. There are always people taking pictures, except on the harshest of winter days. But part of the appeal for me is that I’m in motion, and not attempting to capture any of it. When I look west toward the Statue of Liberty, I typically picture California somewhere in the distance beyond. And then it’s gone and I’m finishing the rest of my run. There could be worse highlights to a day, and it’s as good a reason as any to keep on going.

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One Comment

  1. dick wrote:

    Hey Rick,

    I didn’t read the above piece until just after you left tonight. I would bet that our latest conversation will contribute to one hell of a basis for your next effort….



    Saturday, January 10, 2009 at 2:58 am | Permalink

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