30 November 2014

"dissonance made eloquent"

I just got back to Alfred after spending most of Thanksgiving week in New York City, cat-sitting for Tigris and Euphrates out in Ridgewood, Queens. Thanks for the job, John. There's a 6:30 pm bus from Port Authority that gets into Alfred at 1:15 am. I like that bus because you can get stuff done in the city and sleep on the bus rather than spending lots of daylight hours on the bus, not that looking at the Catskills and Southern Tier is a problem. So I dozed on the bus and went to bed pretty quickly after the bus got me home in the early morning. Got up in the morning and went off to Wellsville after my morning walk. The convenience store here in Alfred used to carry the Sunday Times but they don't anymore. So it's off to Tops Supermarket in Wellsville and then pancakes and one sunnyside egg at the Texas Hot. I usually sit at the counter and there's plenty of room for me, my paper, and my food. This morning, I was toward the kitchen end of the counter and a bit later than usual. After a bit, I found myself cheek-by-jowl with several of the employees as they ate their breakfast (French toast and sausage) or lunch (salad), but not brunch. Whatever meal was appropriate for their "lifestyle." There were different conversations on either side, mostly about life, but they were more "there" than the conversations in New York City. Not really intrusive but not ignorable either.

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.

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