In the US, suddenly seeking silence

Midweek last week I arrived here in the US, and now after a week I'm tuned in to the many accents of this great, indivisible country, after some initial struggle first in San Diego, then in Houston, and on the first day here in New York City.

In San Diego I attended a symposium in a resort by the ocean, and while we listened to the speeches made before us, we heard also the sounds of men and women playing beach volleyball behind us, down below on the outside. A child could be heard crying while the boss-customer delivered a grave message regarding the short time schedules for new projects to discuss which, we, the suppliers, had been summoned—no excuses were permissible for slippages. We could tell by now that the child on the beach had clearly failed at something in the sand and was blaming all the world for it. I anticipated correctly that the two-day symposium would wind down ahead of schedule: There was a tempting abundance of sunshine outside, and the proceedings were declared closed two hours ahead of the time published on the agenda. It was Friday, moreover. The declaration of that intent was accepted in pleased silence by all.

For me, they suggested that I try La Jolla, 4 miles away. I thought to walk but they said no, I must go there by car and once there I could walk about the place as much as I could bear. "Go North on Mission Blvd, take La Jolla Blvd at the first fork, get off at Prospect Street." Once there I walked down, drawn by the ocean, walked down to the even lawns of the Coast Boulevard Park, and crossed the grass to the narrow cement promenade, where I leaned on the metal barricade and lost myself watching the restless bobbing waters below, which were peaceful in the distance, and consumed by a haze on the horizon. A pair of birds flew across, their beak the length of their body, flying straight and without apparent purpose, their leisure matching that of folks on ground. The birds were a handsome couple, and flew with the confident airs of good-looking people.

I am remembering La Jolla in my hotel room in NYC, having returned from a long jaunt on 42nd Street. Rain was forecast and it didn't come, and Manhattan was noisy with happy tourists—and locals rushing home. But of course, it is always noisy in midtown and lower Manhattan.

Back there in La Jolla, when darkness fell, the electric lights that came on were subdued, varied lights of various colors, with room also for the plain white light from the moon above. Subdued also was the noise of slow traffic regulating itself in the absence of stoplights. I walked on the streets that led out of and back into Prospect Street, savoring the silence, marveling at how the more affluent a place gets, the quiter it becomes.

Such is how I felt there in La Jolla in San Diego. In New York, I'm searching for the silence and the rarefied air of wealthier people in an even richer city. I've not found them; the tourists are tripping me up on every street.