Mudsock Heights

Mudsock Heights

The View from Mudsock Heights: I’m in a New York State of Mind, But Recovery is Certain

By Dennis E. Powell | Posted at 4:27 AM

Sitting on a back porch in upstate New York, having coffee and enjoying a beautiful morning, it is as if I’m on a different planet.

The drive here was unremarkable, except that the nifty new GPS gadget blew up about eight hours into the excursion. I have another one, but as with a lot of technology, GPS machines — okay, devices — have gotten far more feature-rich while becoming a lot cheaper. This one is (well, was) very nifty, with a screen the size of a postcard and a far better way of giving directions than my old one.

But in Allentown, Pa., it flashed a few times and went stone dead. I’ll exchange it when I get back.

Its failure reminded me once again how easy it is to rely on these things, and how we can come unthinkingly to follow their directions. It took me a few minutes to get out of GPS mode and into the attitude where I did my own navigation. Never mind that I’ve made this trip many times and know the route as well as I know how to drive to town from my house.

As I get older, I discover more and more a resistance to change. The closer I got to my destination, the desire to go back home grew stronger. But when it’s time to leave, I’ll want to stay a few days more. It could be inertia or it could be my contrarian nature.

Growing older is already a big but unexpected part of this trip. Last evening I saw the son and daughter of friends. I hadn’t seen the kids for more than four years. The once-upon-a-time little boy is now a young man of 15 and as tall as I am. The only way to avoid growing old, maybe, is to see everyone you know every day. I base this on the fact that I see myself in the mirror each day and have therefore not gotten any older, to look at me, in decades.

The trip here didn’t take me directly into New York City, but it brought me close enough to remind me how very much I do not like it. Driving on Route 287 from New Jersey around to Westchester County, I relearned that people in the Northeast should not be allowed to own automobiles, because it leads them to believe that they are capable of driving them. Just as I was thinking this, the car in front of me rear-ended the car in front of it, which in turn hit the car in front of it. I hit the brakes and heard the skid of the car behind me. It didn’t crash into me, but it was close.

A major highway on which I used to regularly drive, and did again yesterday, is all dug up, as it has been for all of the current millennium. There is construction equipment but no evidence it has moved even a little in all that time. There’s been more work done on the Route 50-32 project in Athens in the last 10 days than there has been done on this New York highway in the last 10 years, I think.

Today I’ll relax a little, see a few friends. Tomorrow will be the first of two trips to New York City. This is never pleasant, but it will be especially unpleasant now. There’s great concern over a terrorist plot. New York officials have been on television and the radio saying they’ve never been so scared in their lives. Under such circumstances, everything slows down. Mass transit is thought to be the target of this plot, so more people than usual will drive to the city instead of taking the train.

We will have to drive, because the purpose of the exercise is two concerts, the first in Brooklyn and the second in Manhattan. There’s too much equipment to take any other way. The shows will be great, but they’d even better if I weren’t worrying that my car is being trashed or stolen. Yes, there is as Billy Joel said a New York state of mind. But it is paranoid and weird, at least in my case. It was a constant when I lived here, and I think that is so of many people. You just get used to it, but on trips such as this one I realize how debilitating it can be.

There are some good parts, of course. Seeing friends, going to my old barber who will greet me as if I were there a month ago and without instruction give me the haircut I have always gotten from him. Appreciating how much I love the fact that in a few days I get to go back home.

An otherwise rational friend asked me, “So when are you moving back?” Most people in New York, I think, view the entire rest of the world as some kind of exile. I remember one who used to tell me I’d never be a real New Yorker.

Sitting here on the porch this morning, I realize how very right he was.

Dennis E. Powell is crackpot-at-large to Open for Business. Powell was an award-winning reporter in New York and elsewhere before moving to Ohio and becoming a full-time crackpot. You can reach him at