Beyond the Bubble: Parker Begins

By Parker Richards, The Dartmouth Staff | 1/22/16 4:00am

That said, there’s a magic to the city, a way of being that is wholly separate and unique from rural life. There’s a certain frenetic energy that is bounded not by nature or by steel skyscrapers, but by people. In the mountains of Vermont, where I grew up, or in the moors and dunes of Nantucket, where I have now lived for five years, humanity never seems to reign supreme. Rather, the storms, the winds, the sun and the land seem to harbor the authority to decide the fate of buildings, streets and sometimes whole towns. But in New York, the limits are what people can do. Never, after a hurricane, would anyone think to simply not rebuild that building since it will just get knocked over by another hurricane. No, instead there exists a billion-dollar scheme to literally armor the southern edge of Manhattan against future storms. It’s like a city of 8.4 million is saying “come at me, bro” to the world.

And there’s a beauty in that. An American beauty not contained by any force but our own passions, both as individuals and as a society. But it's not a safe beauty. It’s kinetic, harsh, always-in-motion. Trains are packed, people are always in a hurry. That wasn’t how I remember life in my childhood. It was like an E.B. White story, the houses known by family’s names —the Bartlett house, the Price house, the old Neal family junkyard up the road. There were logging trails through the forest and little rills that babbled away into the autumn-dark night. I remember lying on my back in dewy fields in the summertime, watching countless stars and waiting for the flash of celestial motion as a shooting star swept by.

That world doesn’t even seem to exist here. Everything is steel, concrete, the noise of man never stops. Thudding trains below ground, harsh taxi horns above, sirens blaring. It’s terrifying for someone like me, someone who was never one to be in a group of 10 at a time, let alone 10 million. But recently I have been trying to step out of my comfort zone more and more. I did that by coming to Dartmouth, by participating in the Greek system and so on.

So I may yet learn to love New York, or I may decide it isn't quite for me. I doubt I'll ever feel fully comfortable here — where I was raised, cats died at the hands of fishers(the wejack, to some) — not by thundering cars. The dogs were roughly shorn and barked as they herded sheep across fields, they were not dolled-up poodles ready for a runway scrambling by on Central Park East. But the city has a romance to it which I didn't understand until now and still don't fully understand. In just passing through, you don’t capture that sense of Americana, that “anything-and-everything-is-possible” energy that throbs here. And I’m still only at the periphery of that feeling.

So I am far from taking after Cato the Elder, ending every remark with “Eboracum Novum delenda est” (New York must be destroyed), but I don't think “I ♥ NY” would be quite accurate either.

Parker Richards, The Dartmouth Staff