Now that I am living 300 days out of 365 on the Gingham Coast of central Connecticut and now that I am running my own business from my own house, my life is dramatically different than it was a little more than a year ago.
While I live within spitting distance of the sea, while the sun shines brightly through our plate-glass, and while Whiskey is loving LOL (Life off Leash), I wander lonely as a cloud far from the city's sharp-elbows and barbed remarks.
The city has made me who I am. It's made me ever-watchful and aggressive. It tuned my ears to its urban chaos and jostle.
I remember having the radio on when I was in my dorm room in college. I was reading Thomas Wolfe--not the white-suited Tom Wolfe, the cerebral-hemorrhage-dead-at-37 Thomas, the man who would have written the great American novel had his head not exploded from the inside out.
Wolfe wrote of New York's spine--Broadway--and its electricity and volume. No one's written of New York like the Wolfe of Asheville.
I was reading Wolfe--I read five books a week in those days. I was hoping to be an English professor and set myself the task of reading everything that had ever been written from Dante to Didion. At five books a week, I would be through reading everything just around the time Donald Trump gains a sense of morality.
I was reading Wolfe and Bach was on the radio. The clockwork timing and order of Bach. I remembered a professor telling me that Shakespeare was all about order. And the moment order was upset in Shakespeare's universe, the moment fair was foul and foul was fair, the moment before the hurly burly's done, that when the thunder and lightning begin and hell is empty and all the devils are here.
Bach is no good for New York, I said to myself. New York is laid out on a grid. Everything is meant to be geometric like a Mondrian, but New York is a tablecloth ripped from the table and we're all just dishes and silverware and gefilte fish flying through the air. They call New York--the tourists do--the Big Apple. More accurately, it is the Big Entropy.
I turned the dial from New York's classical station, WQXR to WKCR, Columbia's station--with Phil Schaap playing Bird for hours every morning.
Bird was New York.
The heroin haze.
The offbeat, the strange, the assaulting, the coming from nowhere, the make it stop and the they-made-it-beautiful. Bird was New York. New York while Bird lived and maybe even moreso New York in the off-the-rails 1970s, with bankruptcy, murders, looting, riots and headless bodies in topless bars.
But here we are, almost 50 years later. My wife, Whiskey and I take long walks along the sea. The South Cove on an 11-degree weekend is nearly frozen over. The swans float like clusters of ice, their beaks tucked under their large wings for warmth.
A flock of geese stick their necks out aerodynamically, avian Raymond Loewys and vee their way toward the open water looking for someplace wet to land. Way above a hawk, just like Rodgers and Hammerstein said it would, is making lazy circles in the sky.
We see the birds here, but have no Bird. We see people and eat plasticine bagels and processed cheese-food corned beef from the Big Y market, but no Zabar's, no Katz's, no H&H.
It's home up here in Connecticut now.
Home of sorts.
But that brings me back to Wolfe.
And not being able to go home again.