The first-ever wireless connection was my soul to the city. I have always been an urban boy. Man. The country is wonderful, not inferior in any way. But my pulse syncopates with cities.
The time I like best in a city is the hour before dawn, and the few after. Watching a city begin another day is a lesson in the prosaic meeting the pompous. This is the time people are closest to their most private moments, sometimes no more than 15 minutes from the deepness of sleep, of dreams, warmth, lovemaking, showers, one-on-one breakfasts with cherished and sleepy children. The adjustment to group civilization, be it gradual or abrupt, can be seen working itself out on their faces, in the weight of their arms, the shape of their gaits. Within gathering noise, funneled by tall buildings and bounced off taxis, each person’s quietness works to catch up, or tries to persist.
Watching activity hasten and broaden is like absorbing the warmth of the sun after too long in shadow. Find an outdoor market, check out where the flowers and the produce come in, how the two-coated, unshaven man in a navy watch cap slaps the bins into their everyday places in the stalls. The very droplets of water on the strawberries seem God-made new, like crystals of some just-discovered gem.
Seek out a subway station and watch the waterfall flow of people down, up the steps, onto and off of trains like tributaries checked only momentarily by the dams of the turnstiles. Cigarettes crushed out, phones on alert, screens blinking information, head upon head cogitating plan upon plan. Who will just get through this day; who else will touch greatness? And tomorrow, will those roles be reversed?
Busses, ferries, trains, planes, all in the same field of vision; sometimes you don’t even have to turn your head. It’s like a big Richard Scarry book for adults. The endless going overlays every cosmic tick of 24 of the fictional things we call hours. If such things made noise, you couldn’t hear yourself think over the enormous clash of our little days chipping away at the enormity of life. But the days never give up, no more than the tree roots under the sidewalk.
By 9ish, the decrescendo begins and drops things to a familiar hum — not 4 a.m. sacred silence, but midday productive buzzing. The world settles in at desks, drafting tables, fabric bolts, welding machines, and puts the shifter on slow burn. Again, and again, and again, as long as you want to count, in these massive, amazing conglomerations of people, all over the world.♦
© 2013 Adam Barr