As I sit here several hours later, reading "In Praise of Impracticality" by Bill Hayes in the Sunday Review section of the Times, I am struck by his description of what a New Yorker misses when not in town. "By this, I don't mean missing the Rockettes at Radio City, New Year's Eve in Times Square, or some amazing exhibit at the Met. In New York, there is always something amazing happening somewhere that one ends up hearing about only later. What I meant instead was missing the evanescent, the eavesdropped, the unexpected: a snowfall that blankets the city and turns it into a peaceful new world. Or, in summer, the sight of the first fireflies in the park at twilight. The clop-clop of horses' hooves on cobblestones in the West Village, mounted police patrolling late at night, or a lovers' quarrel within earshot of all passers-by. Of course, what is music to my ears may be intolerable to another's. Life here is a John Cage score, dissonance made eloquent."
That's it: in Alfred or Wellsville, the nearby conversation butts into your consciousness and it's difficult to ignore, partly because you're likely to be considered rude or unfriendly or you actually know who it is they're talking about. Probably no one on South Main Street was delighted to hear the "clop-clop" of my suitcase wheels as I came up from the bus stop a bit after one in the morning. The sidewalk was a slushy mess and there were no cars on the street.