The citiest of all

To me, “city” has always seemed like it ought to be an adjective: Tulsa, for instance, is citier than North Platte. And scarcely any place on the continent is citier than New York City:

As a child, I had all kinds of fantasies about what the unmediated, unadulterated natural world might be like, but my experience was mostly confined to yearly hikes at Bear Mountain, which my father, paraphrasing Marx, called a Lumpenwilderness. And anyway, it can seem Herculean at times to leave New York City and go into nature, or anywhere else for that matter. If you don’t have a car, which is many if not most people, you have to rent one. For my set, that meant walking across the George Washington Bridge to the Rent-A-Wreck in Fort Lee, New Jersey. Then you had to actually drive out of the city, which could literally take hours, because, since you’d walked to New Jersey, you had to drive back across the bridge to get your stuff. And then there would be traffic and getting lost, which could not be avoided if your path took you through the Bronx at all. And then, if you weren’t some sort of wilderness expert, what exactly were you supposed to do when you get there? You could luxuriate in the grass while trying to wipe the fear of Lyme ticks from your consciousness, or marvel at the unobstructed views of sky. But if you’re like me, by dark you would be sweating in your bed because of the sonic emptiness, terrorized by the absence of the reassuring all-hours city din. As Woody Allen said, “I am two with nature.”

I first discovered this phenomenon in Basic Combat Training, forty-odd years ago. The absence of noise just screams at you. The farm boys from mid-Missouri, they seemed to be used to it, but those of us who were taught to genuflect at the very mention of Willis Carrier, we never quite adjusted.





1 comment

  1. Roger Green »

    8 August 2013 · 4:24 am

    I would have used “more urban,” except that “urban” has come to mean “with black people.” I’d use “urbane” except it sounds snobby.

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