The last of many video marathons Ian and I experienced together was the New York Documentary by Ric Burns. Ian and I watched in horror over the 7 nights, as somewhere between episodes 4 and 6 Robert Moses tore up NY neighborhoods and Corbusier isolated people in projects.
I was a suburban child of Islip, Long Island who grew up living out Robert Moses’ plan. We all would pile in the car and travel west to visit families in Port Chester and Yonkers on the weekends, courtesy of the Throg’s Neck Bridge and the one of three long highways, whichever one had the least traffic that day. I worked at Robert Moses State Park during my college summers, cleaning toilets and picking up garbage off the beautiful public beaches at sunset, I would say it is still one of my favorite jobs I ever had. The documentary with its early 60’s footage of the expansion to LI, white flight and GI bill and red lining mortgages, brought me back to my childhood traveling Moses’ roads. It was the only life I had ever known, but I grew up and longed for city life at times, country life at other times– the peculiar culture of the suburbs had no particular pull on me.
Now I am staying once more on LI, traveling back and forth to Queens every day. The beauty of the Southern State and Bethpage Parkways takes my breath away sometimes in the morning as the light shines through white branches and lampposts. Robert had intended these parkways to be recreational, and when no one else is on the road, they do feel like a treat. My isolated time in the car, despite all the oil I am burning right now, feels very healing as I mourn my relationship with Ian. I can cry in silence or I can sing hymns or chants, or I can learn Italian, because I am going there with my sister and nieces in a few months. I listen to be-bop which is the perfect accompaniment–the roads and the music was born of the same mid-century hopes for the future, the frenetic, randomness of the music is freeing as I stop and start in rush hour traffic. I am going to stay alone at my father’s, although I haven’t yet graduated from my brother and sister-in-law’s futon. I have kept a small carbon footprint for awhile, may God forgive me for using up more gas as I seek to find a new place in the world. For now, I am as close to Home as I can make for myself.