Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Clock Ticking on Chelsea

I'M STARTING TO TAKE notice of the many features of Chelsea that I will miss when I leave my job in 8 days. Even with a blanket of increasingly filthy snow draped over the area, I realize that each walk I take between the PATH station and my building brings me closer to the final march out the door. The physical office itself I can take or leave. Chelsea, and its proximity to the Village, I'm going to miss.

It amazes me that great areas of this district were, not 20 years ago, still only marginally habitable. Life pulses through these streets, in the shadow of century-old brownstones and brand-new condo towers. True, this trend can go too far, and we don't want to lose all of the deep character that lends the area its charm. I hope to find the same combination of lively commerce and sleepy residences there if I have the opportunity to return for recreation or even future employment. If nothing else, I will be eager to greet a new menagerie of dogs and their humans making their rounds about the neighborhood.

Of course, there's little to rival a three-minute walk that gets you into Greenwich Village. I didn't need a crappy day in the office for an excuse to drift south and wander amid irregular streets, carefully appointed window displays, and bookstores groaning with ancient paperbacks and academic tomes waiting to share their wisdom and reduce my pocket money by a notch.

I also enjoyed my close proximity to the Hudson. I had a rare opportunity in being so near to the water's edge. There were times when I would get frustrated with work, claustrophobic, or starved for sunlight and waterfront wind, and dashing across the West Side Highway to watch the water roll along was precisely what I needed. Sometimes I would steal over in the late afternoon, feeling the sinking sun on my face, believing that being fully awake in the majesty of that river was infinitely better than drowsing off over the half-baked tasks my department director set blindly out for us to interpret.

I don't know where the next job will be. Maybe in the city, maybe New Jersey, quite possibly someday the same place where I live. I hope it affords me the chance to get back into the city as a tourist, sometimes as an admirer, for myself rather than as a forced march through the valley of absurdity. Whether in Midtown or Chelsea, it was sometimes easy to lose perspective, to forget that my desk just happened to be in the greatest city in the world. One of my goals this year was to get outside more and enjoy nature. I believe that can be broadened to appreciating the world without a roof, be it from the edge of the Hudson while watching Hoboken twitter and buzz, or in the shadow of Rockefeller Center, surrounded by tourists, letting my gaze slide up the skyscrapers into the limitless blue toward which they strive.

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