Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I'm just back from a trip to Manhattan with three friends. It was very relaxing – for five days we were out the door of our Times Square hotel by eight in morning, and home by two the next morning, 18 hours later.

Under the welcoming banners of Little Italy

In between: the Metropolitan Museum, the Neue Gallery, the Guggenheim, cheesecake at the Roxy deli, the NY Philharmonic (Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff); Angela Lansbury (!) in Blythe Spirit; afternoon tea at the Ritz on Central Park South; the magnificent NYPL; Little Italy; Bloomies; the Iridium jazz club; and, oh yes, Borders at Columbus Circle where (while I lurked behind a bookcase) my friends suggested that they reorder all my books. We ended the week with a late night show in the Lincoln Center theater: Woody Allen's new "Whatever Works." Not brilliant, we decided, but so much fun to see it in New York, where the audience claps when his name appears!

Art on the roof of the MET

We all bought shoes at Orva on Lex.

At one point as we waited to cross a busy street, one of my friends cupped her ears. It turned out she'd been bothered all week by the noise.

"What noise?" I asked.

She meant the soothing sounds of taxis; buses; industrial motors, generators, and fans; crowds of people; alarms. All music to my ears. As opposed to the quiet suburbs where silence is broken only by the occasional ear-splitting pickup truck stereo system.

What's noise and what's soothing background?

It goes back to childhood, I believe. My bedroom window growing up was about 3 feet from a bar/pizza parlor. I fell asleep to the sounds of the jukebox. Later, I had a nearly 2-hour commute to college in Boston (3 transfers on public transportation vehicles). For 4 years, I did my calculus homework on the famous MTA, often with one arm slung around a pole.

For me, noise provides stimulus to write and a reassuring background to sleep. If it's too quiet, I can't relax, neither to write nor to rest. Where is everyone? I wonder. Maybe I should get up and make sure everything's OK.

How many decibels does it take for you to feel comfortable?


Ellen said...

My reassuring sound is trains in the night. My grandfather was a foreman for the Great Northern, and lived near his work. I occasionally got to stay with him, and was comforted by trains.

Terri Thayer said...

Love the shoes!

I prefer quiet but live with noise. Now that every appliance, phone, and electronic gadget I own talks, beeps or trills at me, noise is inevitable.

Julie said...

I always have the TV on while I'm writing. I can tune it out completely, but if I get stuck, just shifting my attention to the box for 5-10 minutes can break things free. (I know, a radio set to a classical station would be much more classy, but I can't tune that out when I need to.) Too quiet is just that, too quiet.

Anonymous said...

Don't know how to figure decibels, but they better be up there. I LOVE the radio (offering anything from ballgames to classical) over anything else, but do live in a city suburb that offers a nice mix of both quiet and noise. Ellen, I would love to have a train nearby; my father worked on the railroad and maybe that's why, but it certainly is a reassuring sound. I guess I "need" noise! xoxoxo

Camille Minichino said...

I've been trying to find that train quote, "something there is that doesn't love a train." Am I making this up??

Julie, I have a TV right next to my computer monitor and use it for the same purpose.

Juliet Blackwell said...

Camille -- love the photos and wish I could have been there with you, soaking up the sights AND sounds! Love the sounds of people murmuring, cars, etc. Isn't that why so many folks work in coffesshops?

Camille Minichino said...

Would love to visit a museum with you and learn while enjoying, Julie!

Maybe the Norton Simon on our LA trip?

LA/SD readers: Juliet Blackwell, Ann Parker, Sophie Littlefield and I will be cruising around LA/SD in August. For a schedule: http://www.minichino.com

Betty Hechtman said...

Your trip sounds fantastic. Just how I like to roll.

Funny you should mention noise. I'm in Chicago and the noise level is so different than Tarzana. I have the door to the porch open and the sounds of the street travel up three floors - even footsteps and conversations. The train tracks are a couple of blocks away and I can hear whistles and clanging.

Ann Parker said...

I work best surrounded by sound, but not at high decibel, I guess! :-) Classical music while working; rain/wind and the sound of a distant train at night...