A couple of days ago I dropped by the building where Ann and I used to live to say hello to my old friends, the doormen. I had been meaning to do it ever since we arrived here at the beginning of June, but I hadn’t. It’s seven blocks away – three east and four south. In a walking city like Manhattan, that’s nearby. On the other hand, it’s not close at all. New Yorkers, even naturalized ones like me, tend not to stray far from their neighborhoods, and neighborhoods can be as small as just a block or two.
When I told Anthony where we had settled, he said, “It’s so quiet over there, we call that the suburbs.” Rogers and Hart made the same point in Babes in Arms with the song, “Way out west on West End Avenue,” which is the street at the end of my block..
It is quiet over in my neighborhood. The first night in the apartment, I was lulled to sleep by the building’s thrum. It was like the sound and feeling on a ship. I suppose it was air conditioning units in neighbors’ windows, but it was June 7, and not hot enough for many to be running. I prefer to think the building was talking to me, wishing me sweet dreams.
Despite the inclination to stick close to home, living here involves a lot of walking, especially now with Covid-19 making taxis and public transportation risky. Our apartment, like most, is too small to keep many groceries on hand, so there is a trip to the grocery store every day or two. I can’t say exactly how far our preferred store is, but at my pace, it takes about twenty minutes outbound and twenty-five on the return while burdened with bags and growing ever longer arms. I’m too proud to use what is called a “Brooklyn car,” a little cart on wheels, and they take up room in the apartment even though they’re collapsible.
Having groceries delivered doesn’t appeal at all. Typing in one of this and two of that online is in no way comparable to the pleasure of perusing displays physically and looking over possibilities. Anyway, the stuff gets delivered on cargo bikes. They carry as much as four hundred pounds, and so they don’t move fast enough to keep green fruit from going overripe. Until now, stores have been reasonably observant of masks and social distancing, but that’s changing. So, the unnatural act of ordering online may be something we will have to do. The Covid-19 threat is still with us.
Besides grocery hikes, I’ve been making runs to the paint store so that Ann can do what she always does when we move. Some people open boxes and arrange furniture and let it go at that. Ann adds painting. This apartment needed it badly, but if it had not, she would have done it anyway. It seems she was born to paint walls and woodwork when settling into a new nest. And I am the grateful beneficiary. But do you know how much a couple of gallons of Benjamin Moore weighs, and how the weight increases exponentially with every step? Probably not, so just take my word for it; if the apartment had even one more room, I’d have to get a yoke.
Not surprisingly, I’ve been falling asleep not long after supper. I try to read, but I don’t get far. All those hours of walking and schlepping catch up with me. Several evenings ago, I was dead asleep before eight, glasses on and a book on my chest. The next night, I took measures against that. I walked across the street and sat on a park bench and enjoyed the last bit of daylight. It was as quiet as if it were literally way out west. Very sort of small town. Very peaceful. Even fireflies.