Friday, August 29, 2008


It's amazing how quiet real quiet sounds to ears trained on noise.

I am way out on Long Island. My non-celebrity boss lent me his house in the Hamptons while he hangs in Greece for three weeks. I am holing up here by myself for a few days to get some serious work done on the very many projects that I have lately been neglecting. They could use some attention, poor things. My projects are like the children of a drunk, absent Mom. "I promise I'll be better," I tell them. And they nod, listen. They want to believe.

Anyway, I arrived at the house at 6:45 or so and almost immediately hopped on my bike to make the twenty-minute ride to the grocery store. Why the urgency?
  1. I hosted a really fun party last night, and I can't seem to bounce back from fun as quickly as I once could. I was in dire need of a cup of coffee and there is no coffee maker at the house. (Sad, right?)
  2. I needed to buy some food for fridge. There is nowhere to eat in the Hamptons. Last week when I was here I wandered around the very swanky village of East Hampton looking for dinner. The place was brimming with upscale boutiques and completely bereft of eating establishments. The one restaurant I found had a $23 salad. I ended up seeing a movie and eating popcorn for dinner.
  3. I missed my bike and wanted to ride it.
By the time I left the store it was dark. I have a bike light now, thankfully. That's a mistake you only make once! (Because my mother reads the blog I will not subject her to the scary image of me riding up a completely unlit country road with my cell phone on my handle bars to light the road ahead of me. Oh! I blew it! Sorry Mom! Um, if it's any comfort, I was wearing a helmet!)

I like to sing when I'm riding my bike through the city. A lot of people do. If you live in a big city and start listening for it, you'll hear a chorus of cyclists singing full voice as they ride. I don't know why I do it. There's an aspect of joyful outburst to it; there's also a desire to make myself louder and bigger due to my vulnerability among the noisy, burly cars.

Here in the country--and it really is the country--on the way back from the grocery store, I found myself once again bursting into song while steering Alberta (my bike). But the source of my need to sing was different than it is in town. It wasn't noise or brawn, but quiet that got me nervous. The quiet was everywhere, stubbornly pungent like tear gas, like the smell of garlic on hands.

I sang the whole way home. Showtunes, specifically:
Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect I'm afraid

Darkness and loneliness and silence everywhere. The house was no better than the road had been. Immediately after closing the front door behind me, I ran around turning on lights, music, calling Gregory.

My apartment in Brooklyn is right on a highway. When we first saw the place we weren't sure we could handle the noise.

Maybe the need for noise is what separates townspeople from country folk.


Sylvie said...

I think the singing on the bike started with you and dad singing fight songs on the Greenbay trail!

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