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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

There's Nothing Here

Don't ever try to sell a place to an unwilling buyer. On a brief trip once with my parents, we were traveling from Colorado to New Mexico. I had made the mistake of extolling, to no end, the wondrous beauty of New Mexico.

Those who have been to Colorado know that, despite any naysayers, this place is spectacular and dramatic. So traveling to the Southwest, i.e. Arizona or New Mexico, and appreciating these states will require an adjustment. Not a lowering of standards, just an adjustment to a very different type of beauty. For a New Yorker, all the empty space alone is novel and beautiful.

My mother, however, did not see it that way at all. Growing up in northern rural Maine, space was no novelty. It was a place better to shun and leave, as she had, by moving to southern New England. And her perennial cynicism, skepticism and negativism know no bounds and can be infuriating at times. We had only just barely crossed the border seeing the sign "Welcome to New Mexico - Land of Enchantment" when she started in. "I don't see anything here."
That's true. Inches from a border crossing is not a good barometer of an entire state. We were hours from our first destination, and I hoped the serene beauty would overtake her as it does most who visit there. I asked her to wait and see how patience would pay off. It did not.

We had not gone much further when we heard a confident reminder. "I told you, there's nothing here." Variants on this refrain never stopped, and soon I was contemplating suicide or murder. I never should have sold New Mexico at all. In fact, it would have been better that I had not even taken them there. The beauty of big sky country and open land was my thing, perhaps more greatly appreciated because I came from New York City, where empty space itself was a thing to behold.

Emptiness is not abundant in New York City, and we marvel, revel and even tell of the joys of emptiness. How we found an empty bench, empty seats at a concert, empty stretches of highway, an empty street(s), an empty parking spot, an empty area of a park. These finds are bragging rights as well as a soothing balm to the soul of a New Yorker, where quiet moments and places are special indeed. See my stories Small Gestures and Quietude.

In northern Astoria, Queens, there is an enormous Con Ed power plant. Visiting this area on a dreary, drizzly, Sunday is a sure way to experience some peace and quiet. I found entire streets with not a soul in sight. Two empty, front row seats were available, as I suspect they might always be, because truly, there's nothing here :)


René said...

I've got to hand it to you, Brian, not everyone can start with a picture about nothing, then spin it into a family story that wanders through Colorado and New Mexico, then skillfully bring it back to Queens.

Brian Dubé said...

René - Thanks. I love the challenge. It's a noble tradition - Seinfeld built a legacy with a show "about nothing", in reality a show about the minutia of life.

Kenon Thompson said...

Ditto what René said. Buon lavoro!