Through nearly six months, I really enjoy working in the city. I enjoy concerts, protests, writer’s groups, and language meet-ups after work. I love catching up with friends during lunch, or going for a long stroll.The feeling of relative loneliness I had working beside a highway in Somerset County has dissipated. If being in Manhattan doesn’t quench that innate desire to be part of the human herd, perhaps nothing will. On the flip side, a critical mass of density provides for a voluntary solitude. An invisibility amongst the masses, if you will. Put on your headphones and sink even deeper into the insignificance, where all but the most cursory eye contact is taboo. In the city I choose between being as alone or as surrounded as I’d like, and it’s rather easy to flip that switch.
But of all the benefits to working in New York, there’s one that stands out. Driving less. Being off the road.
In the five and a half months since July 12 – an epic day I spent at the Brooklyn Hip Hop festival – I’ve driven 1,550 miles. Just enough driving to avoid “dry rott”, whatever that is. Aside from stints without a car through early college and abroad, I’ve never driven so little. And I’ve never read so much.
Instead of road rage, side swipes, car repairs, and traffic jams, it’s books by Auster, Fannon, Engel, Mann, and Lafferière. The train means time to write, or think, or decompress – or to check the Twitterverse, or read blogosphere, or stare out the window. While the less-used car is allowed to stay newer – day after day, on both work days and weekends, traveling by train never gets old.
I value the opportunities for socialization, enrichment, and – yes – solitude in New York, but perhaps the best addition has been through subtraction.