OPINION: Glad for wide open spaces
Free Press Opinion Columnists
HE SAID: Our recent short visit to New York City reminds me that life is different in some parts of the country. I believe that big cities worldwide are more like each other rather than like small towns. As I sat in our lofty room watching sailboats and barges on the Hudson River and took in the Statue of Liberty at a distance in the calm harbor, I almost forgot the traffic jams and crowds of people below. And I was enraptured by watching the full moon rise over the skyline and reflect off the river. But, then reality hit and my ingrained aversion to bricks and mortar set in.
SHE SAID: Amazingly, you lasted almost three days before going nuts about all the people around you. I thought you were going to run screaming from the wedding reception when the disc jockey jacked the noise level up by 20 decibels. It’s the noise level that gets to me in the big cities: the horns, traffic, sirens, helicopters.
The one or two flights a day overhead to St. Mary’s Hospital seem like nothing now compared to the din of five to 10 flights an hour from Manhattan to our spot on the Jersey shore. The noise was noticeably absent though at the 9/11 Memorial; just the sound of running water and hushed voices. It was heart-rending to read the name of someone killed in the disaster and also read “and unborn child” next to her name. I was sad, too, to see the white roses commemorating a deceased’s birthday on the day we visited.
While riding our hotel elevator to the 40th floor, I can only imagine what it would have been like to be in a tall building and know something was seriously wrong, but not have a clue as to what that might be. The noise would have been incredible on that fateful day. A noise that was comforting at the memorial was the murmur of hundreds of different languages all around us — a reminder that the United States is the amazing place it is because of the diverse mix of people.
HE SAID: Agreed, a highly diverse city is fascinating. However, it is an expensive place to visit, and it would not be a good place to live. Taxes are outrageous, in part because over 50% of Manhattan Island is property tax exempt because of the city’s bizarre rules. I imagine that young people find it a wonderful place to live, but unless an older person has financial resources, you end up living in a very small apartment bounded by a small neighborhood, which would be particularly bad if you didn’t like it.
In the West we have a notion that you can always pick up and move if you don’t like where you are. Back East you can only move to another crowded neighborhood. Much of our perceived freedom out here is related to location. We gladly pay a financial penalty in low wages to live here instead of more lucrative places so we have our space.
SHE SAID: Our location is great as long as we have mobility. Once we lose the ability to drive, life could get very limited. Then, it is conceivable that living in a big city could be enjoyable. I hate to think what you will be like when you can no longer go fishing and hunting. I notice you are cultivating some young friends. Is it in hopes that they will take you with them when you can no longer drive?
HE SAID: To be honest, yes. With age comes an entire set of fears that never previously existed. When your body starts to betray you, you first rage, then try to overcome, then finally have to accept what you have created for yourself by a combination of healthy living and luck. Everything else pales when you lose mobility, regardless of whether it is in a big city or in the country. The thought of having to live in one place staring at the bricks across the alley is truly frightening, and the cities always remind me of that.
SHE SAID: By living in Grand Junction, at least we have not had those choices taken away from us by terrorists or careless drivers or floods. We can be thankful for that.
The Skinners hope you live to enjoy every moment. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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