Waves, Palaces, Transient Spaces: Some Things I’m Thinking On

I’ve taken to wearing earbuds whenever I come back into the city from an out of town job. Sometimes I listen to music or an audiobook, but the truth is, I can’t actually hear whatever’s playing at that point. That point of re-entry.

After a week spent in a black box talking to myself (the glamorous life of a professional narrator), Penn Station, in Manhattan, on Friday night, at rush hour, takes away my… I want to say “everything.” But that’s gross exaggeration. It takes away my ability to comprehend much of anything but the need for a wall at my back and a good cry.

But earbuds help, and something playing in the background. I don’t like being distracted. I don’t like not hearing what’s around me. But there’s just… too much… around me.

What seems to be working well right now is an “ocean wave” soundtrack. No music or anything, just waves.

Up from the Amtrak tracks: waves. Through station noise and waiting lines and cross-crossing, hellbent, one-track bee-liners: waves. Down the ramp, down the stairs, down that hall where the NJ transit people are rushing en masse toward me and I’m struggling upriver of them, up those cement stairs and to the platform to await the E: waves.

And while, yes, it makes me feel like I am, indeed, underwater, it also takes away the feeling that I’m drowning.

Or reduces it somewhat, anyway. So that’s nice.

There’s a line in Eric Klinenberg‘s Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life that I recently read that I want to remember here.

I remembered just the sense of it while I was on the subway, when my train stopped, and I was caught in that metal worm, caught between two brick walls, stuffed with strangers, down down down, and the announcement overhead was something something gerbils marbles mumble something sorry for the delay, and my agitation began to rise. I remembered just the sense of this passage, and I could breathe a little more easily again. Because I believe in it more than I believe in myself.

Let me find it. And while I’m at it, let me recommend this book.

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