From the vantage point of my 14th floor hotel room I look just across the street and see a high rise apartment building probably 30 stories tall. Sitting here eating a room service breakfast in my view are balconies attached to most of these apartments. Each one seems to tell a unique story.
As I study the contents of the balconies I notice some are empty although through the sliding glass doors the apartments appear occupied. The most common balcony accessories are chairs. More often than not there are two side by side appearing to be for people who like to sit together. Other times two chairs are separated giving rise to the thought they are for two people who don’t enjoy sitting together or else for one person who likes to sit in two different places. Then there are the balconies with 4 or even six chairs causing me to wonder if there is a family living there or if the person(s) who occupy the apartment like to entertain.
Some of the high rise apartment balconies have two bicycles which lead to the assumption that most likely a couple lives there. Then there is the one apartment balcony that appears to have four bikes for a family and another that has one bicycle for a lone occupant.
As I study further the contents of the balconies become more unique. There is one that has flower boxes all over it filled with young plants and a single tomato plant in the middle. Another balcony has a large wooden Indian on it and nothing else. I wonder what the story about that is. Several other balconies are adorned with living houseplants while at least two are decorated with faded and fake assorted greenery. On and on as I look I am struck by the thought that each balcony is as unique as the renters who occupy each apartment. I realize that it is these small individual differences that help give this large city some contrast and keeps everything from looking the same. Only now after looking for a half hour do I finally see a single live human sitting on a balcony. As I watch she is sitting alternating between drags on her cigarette and holding their head. It must have been a long night!
From walking yesterday I remember life here in this huge city is a jumble of people, cars and buildings with none quite having ample space. There is a faster pace than most places in everything from the velocity of cars to the speed of people walking (and there are LOTS of people walking). While I knew somewhere around were packed public buses I don’t recall seeing one. Under my feet was the subway used by thousands every day but something I have never been completely comfortable riding. I guess I have seen too many things in movies to feel safe there.
In city getting a cab is inconsistent. Once in a while a taxi begins to pull over for me before my arm is completely up to hail the taxi. At other times cabbies drive by over and over ignoring my existence. Still others will stop momentarily and ask where I am going to decide if the fare is healthy enough to warrant use of their time and gas. What is consistent about cabs here is the driving.
There are few amusement rides that can compete with a ride in a taxi in this city! Whether speed, rapid acceleration or deceleration, rapid moves or the rush of adrenaline as the vehicle swerves to miss pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles there is never a dull moment. Adding to the experience is that few of the cab drivers seem to have command of the English language yet somehow manage to understand what I am saying even if I can not comprehend much of what is being spoken to me. It’s all part of the experience within a city population created in a stirred melting pot.
My hotel is near, Central Park, the only substantial patch of green in the city besides balcony plants and occasional street planters dotting the landscape. The park is striking in its contrast to the surrounding concrete buildings and streets especially here in late spring. Besides the green of the park and the near monotone shades of the buildings the most dominant color here is the bright color of the dozens of yellow cabs in view at most any moment.
The room service I have been enjoying between typing and looking out my window cost about $40 for bacon, eggs, toast, coffee, juice, tip and delivery charge. Like everything in New York City, living here is expensive.
In my 20’s I lived in the heart of a major city in a high rise. At first it was a major thrill and I thought I had really made the grade to be there. Over time though I began to notice little things like there was no where I could hook up a hose and wash my car. The big grocery stores were all out in the ‘burbs’ and in town were just small markets with large prices. The color of anything in living green began to be noticeably absent replaced by concrete gray and asphalt black unless I wanted to walk many blocks to a park. And even there I was often put off by doggie “do” and homeless residue.
This morning I realize how blessed I am to get to travel as I have. There is much gratitude within to have witnessed many places most will never see. From the wilds of the South and Central America, to the cultural contrast of Eastern Europe to Western Europe, from life on an island to that between London and Zewatinaho I am lucky to have witnessed what I have seen and experienced.
Where it has all brought me is to a hearty appreciation of where I live and of the life I lead daily. I am grateful to live in a medium sized city with 90% of the advantages of a major metropolitan area and only about 10% of the headaches and troubles. Nor am I deafened by the silence and solitude found in a remote area like where I grew up. It is life in the “middle” that suits me best and for it I am so very grateful. However, I am further thankful that anytime I need to lose myself in the quiet of the country or the noise of a city I have the ability to visit there.
I truly do live a magnificent life with so much good fortune I am humbled by it all.
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime. Mark Twain