Early Morning in a Strange City

Let’s go up on the roof beneath the neon
Pretend we’re foreigners and drink the city in
Somewhere between the stairwell and the starlight
I find myself holding your hand

Mark Heard, “Love is Not the Only Thing,” from Second Hand, 1992

Dearest Rachel –

I’d kind of like to start this letter off like a conversation: you know, something like “do you remember walking down La Rambla in Barcelona? All the shops and restaurants, the little kiosks where they were selling tchotchkes and the like. Strolling through Saint Joseph’s market, and the smells of the produce and fish, just as the place was starting to open up.

Yeah, we were there fairly early in the morning, because we really had no idea what time it was, having just landed the night before. So we are up and about as a family, taking in the sights and sounds and smells of the city, as you do when you have a limited time to see the place. And sometimes you find it at its least busy.

There are cities that pride themselves on being “the city that never sleeps.” Sinatra immortalized New York as such, and Starship implied that San Francisco deserved the title as well. I’m not so sure they, or any city, truly are worthy of such a designation – or even if such is worth pursuing.

As far as I’m concerned, for a city to say that ‘it never sleeps’ is almost as silly as an individual saying so. They just mean that they stay up late. Walk around any city as dawn is breaking, and while there’s a handful of people preparing for the day no doubt, they are the exception rather than the rule. There is a point in time when the nightclubs and the ordinary businesses are both closed, and the city can truly be said to be asleep, despite the fact that (especially in summer), they are already burning daylight.

And now, it seems that our little village has decided to emulate some of those world-class cities. You’ve got to admit, there’s a certain piquancy to these outdoor cafés that were originally set up ostensibly to deal with a pandemic (apparently the virus knows when you’re inside and doesn’t trouble you when you’re outside – which is to some extent true, because there’s so much more fresh air to disperse it out here) that give it a certain continental flair. Despite my annoyance with the reason why they’re doing it, I have to admit, especially on a bright sunny day like today, that is a brilliant touch added to what is arguably already a picturesque downtown. I don’t know if it will bring much tourism from outside the area, but it should certainly be enough to aid the downtown businesses as we all attempt to recover from these long eighteen or so months.

The weird thing is that, like in places such as Barcelona, walking through here in the mornings makes the place seem a bit like a ghost town – considerably more so than those larger cities, in fact. A beautiful ghost town, but one nonetheless.

As you can see for yourself, there’s hardly a soul to be seen here, which you couldn’t say on La Rambla. Sure, some places weren’t necessarily operating when we would walk by (although really, given that the footage I shot was throughout the day, it really doesn’t show the relative quiet of the early morning so much. After all, every city eventually opens up and becomes a bustling place, or it isn’t deserving of being called a ‘city,’ now, is it?), but we weren’t the only ones out and about. Here, the streets are quite literally deserted.

All this despite the fact that, from what I understand, a stampede of commuters have been through here within the last couple of hours; office drones on their way to their jobs in the big city. So it’s not like this place wasn’t filled with life, even earlier today. But you’d hardly know it to look at it now.

Granted, the automotive traffic is by design – can you imagine someone driving through all of this setup? That would be an accident just begging to happen – but it’s still eerie for the place to be so quiet.

Now, I won’t say this makes the place look truly foreign, but it is different from the look and feel of the subdivision that we (used to) call home. It’s not quite the mental picture you’d conjure up when you think of the word ‘suburbia.’

And I have to admit, I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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