One is a dense, high-energy place where anything can happen; the other a quiet refuge for the soul. Having lived in both New York City and a lovely little town in Northern Westchester for many years, I find a constant comparison occurring inside my head. Especially now that our nest is empty and we have the possibility of relocating to a place that will foster the next stage of our lives, the list of pros and cons of each choice plays perpetual leapfrog.
What’s great about the city can fill reams and tomes. In fact there are 472,668 books on New York City on amazon.com right now. I just checked. NYC 2012 is a safer, cleaner version than the one I grew up in. Each area and neighborhood of the boroughs I spend most of my roaming time in, Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, is like its own world. The personality of Jackson Heights where Spanish is the main language and you can get all things Latin has a completely different feel than, say, the Meat Packing district with its cobblestone streets and underground caves of the Chelsea Market (http://chelseamarket.com/). Prospect Park in Brooklyn, Flushing Meadow Park in Queens (my own personal backyard growing up) and Central Park in Manhattan all offer grass and trees to a grass-and-tree starved populace; and yet each has a personality of its own. Yes, there are museums, restaurants, landmarks, nightclubs, pubs, shows without end; but the best thing New York City has to offer this intrepid observer is people watching. And listening. And, as I have said in a previous post, photographing. Okay, I admit it: I’m an eavesdropper and a stalker. To me, there is little as enjoyable as finding a spot to sit in the middle of it all and watching the guy in the business suit yelling at his boyfriend on his cell phone as he hurries down the street, or the family from a foreign country trying to figure out what to sample first. The latter is especially fun since each member of such a family has an obviously, to the careful observer, different attitude toward the assault on the senses. And since I love languages, one of my favorite games to play is What Are They Speaking, followed closely by What Are They Saying.
On the other hand, there is the lovely little town where we chose to raise our children. We actually started the girls in kindergarten in the city, but when I realized how little had changed in the arcane school system, we were out of there before the end of the school year. Our adopted hometown is hilly and green, surrounded by numerous hiking areas, and small and large bodies of water. There are enough restaurants and pubs to keep us happy; but for the most part grilling in the backyard, photographing birds in the snowy winter, shooting off fireworks with the neighbors, and walking into town to window shop are the keys to happiness in suburbia. Meeting familiar faces wherever I walk, run or shop has a warming feel. Not something this city girl is used to, considering that I didn’t really know even the people who lived on my block. The population density of Queens is over 20,000 people per square mile and our town has around 10,000 residents.
At this very moment, I think we have the best of both worlds. We can spend 45 minutes in the car or train and emerge into the wild daily gala of New York City; and then drained and ready to renew, can wake up to the birds and the smell of warm, moist morning.