A (Green) Space of One’s Own

I was slightly annoyed by the incessant noise in our Manhattan apartment before, but it really got to me during last night’s sleeplessness and today’s endless honking, yelling, and traffic noise.

I’ve been sticking to the apartment and writing through the morning. I thought this was working out fairly well. But today, the yelling Iranian protestor who has been outside my window for two days seemed to take not a single break or breath. And horn honks in Manhattan are not singular events. They are conversations. “Honk, Honk, Hoooonk, Hoooonk” and then Honk, Honk, Hoooonk, Hooonk” gets played back a moment later like a canyon echo. All of the street noises float right in to my apartment. I actually thought it was a little charming at first what with the whole “I’m living in New York City and my apartment even SOUNDS like New York City.” But today, or rather, last night at 3am, the charm wore off. We are living in a business area so it’s all bustle and little charm. My few efforts and leaving the apartment to write and finding cozy a coffee shop nearby have ended with me at stiff plastic tables at chains wondering where that cozy effin’ Central Perk is because I’d really love to stretch out on that velour couch while Gunther refills my coffee and I and write and write.

I haven’t got in my coffee shop groove and I haven’t gotten in to my gym groove. Mr.YemenEm and I are trying out a few New York Sports Clubs and I was in one of them yesterday doing a spinning class with very New York older lady with bleached blond hair down to her waist. She sipped a hot tea during class and hopped off her bike during Blurred Lines to gossip about last night’s episode of The Voice with a few of her regulars. Not a great class. Today I went to a different gym a few blocks away. It was crowded and I just wasn’t in the mood. During my torturous 40th squat, I realized that what I needed some open space. I know others have said it, but for reals, being surrounded by such tall buildings and so, so, so many people can make one very claustrophobic. So I walked out of the gym and headed northwest to the only spot I know of in this city with open space: Central Park. Unfortunately, it took passing through Madison Ave., Park Ave., and 5th Avenue which are so jam packed, crossing onto a new block requires strategically planning a merge spot.

But finally, the smell of burnt toast from street food vendors gave way to the scent of horse poop and then grass. I was in the park. And I was by a pond. And there were only dozens of people around rather than hundreds. And I saw a blue heron. Deep breath. I walked and explored for a bit and the open space definitely did me good. I felt calmer. More mindful. Less like I was living in the future in a time when crowded sidewalks and Bergdorf Goodman pass for the great outdoors. Now I’m back in my echo chamber of an apartment and I realize I need a new plan for tomorrow. I will find this dream coffee shop in a relatively quite and charming neighborhood. Or I will go to a writers’ center I recently joined that is in a beautiful old money-looking building that could be from an Edith Wharton novel.

I remember shortly after I moved to DC, I was having a day where I felt like I took up too much space and everything was hard. That may have been the time I was coming home from a nighttime grocery trip at the end of a long day and I heard the clunk of cans falling out of the bottom of my canvas grocery cart that I was laboriously pulling behind me. I realized the damn thing had a whole in the bottom from scraping along the sidewalk. I looked further up behind me and realized I had left a thin trail of kitty litter for about a half mile like Hansel and Gretel’s bread trail but for feral cats. The Fresh Scoop box in my hobo cart was empty. And that was the whole reason I walked all the way to the nice grocery store in the first place.

As much as I’d like to think I’m more worldly and sophisticated than those early days in DC, I definitely still have days like this.

Tomorrow I need to scout out that perfect little coffee shop; a quiet spot in the park; a neighborhood where I don’t need to be constantly on alert to dodge the broad shoulders of men with earphones and the fast-stepping feet of girls screaming about their days into iPhones. “So I sent my co-worker an email that seemed all polite, but really I was being a total bitch. But, like, subtly being a bitch, you know?” (True thing I heard).

Deep breaths. And another sip of this delicious gin and soda,



  1. Take MetroNorth out to Westchester. For a couple bucks and half an hour of travel time, there are all kinds of sleepy little towns. Bronxville and Pellham are particularly charming.

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