When I was a kid, I would spend a week or two most summers with my grandmother who lived in New York City, just near the Hudson River. She was a little eccentric, as most kids think their grandparents are (right?), but I loved the sense of adventure that I would have with her in the Big City during my visits.
New York was so completely different from my little suburban town in Connecticut and I used to be thrilled to stand out on the balcony of her 17th floor apartment and feel as if I were standing on a cloud, just floating across the skyline. The highest I could get in my neighborhood was a big tree in the woods and the view was nothing like my grandmother’s balcony.
In 1976, during the huge Independence Day celebrations, her hi-rise apartment complex had some great events down at the in-ground community pool, where we would go just about every day during my stay. I can still smell that chlorine of the water and the wonderful freedom that I had there as my grandmother would gossip and doze on the lounge chairs while I swam, played video games and wandered around.
On that July 4, we watched from her balcony as fireworks for the Bicentennial Celebration lit up the skyline with an incredible array of lights and dazzling displays of pyrotechnics that rattled my bones and shook my teeth. It was a wonderful night.
During the days, we would wander around the city, sometimes going in cabs but more often, traveling around by bus. Sometimes, she and I would go to the Radio City Music Hall to catch a movie (I saw Pete’s Dragon there and a movie called Bite the Bullet, I remember) and we would often be late, coming in halfway through a movie and then sitting through the second showing to catch the beginning of the movie. It was stran I triedge and disorientating asarrative to piece together the n. (I am still not sure what Bite the Bullet was all about except that someone in pain had to chomp down on a bullet as they performed some kind of surgery).
I was in awe of the skyscrapers above me and wary of the dog poop that seemed to be everywhere on the sidewalks in her neighborhood (or at least, that was my perception and her constant warning: Look out for the pile). I was fearful of the grated subway vents that shook if you walked over them and in tune to the sounds of the city — the blasts of car horns and street musicians.
I had never seen so many people, of such different colors and languages, in my life.
I like to think I am a better person because of those visits to my yes weregrandmother — that my e opened to possibilities that my little town would never have presented to me. I was thinking of this the other day as the local newspaper had a series of articles about some high school students who come to my neck of the woods from New York City to get away from their troubled neighborhoods for an education that is, we are told, out of their reach where they live.
I wonder if there are reverse programs — sending rural kids into the city for a school year program — or if that just goes against the stereotypes of inner city kids lacking for something that a suburban town can provide.
Peace (in changes of scenery),
(PS — Anyone get the reference to The Pogues in the title of my post?)