Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rear Windows

The New York Times ran a surprisingly frank piece yesterday about how much some New Yorkers in large high rises like to sit at their walls of windows watching other New Yorkers live out their lives. There was the story about the woman who watched an old fashioned Italian couple celebrate the husband's 80th birthday in the midst of a large, gregarious family as the strains of Volare wafted through the air. Another far more sobering story featured a painter who worked late into the night and took inspiration from a man across the way who worked late as well on his art and whose unextinguished light pushed her to keep creating. Then one night the light did not go on. For a week his room remained dark, until she finally learned that a week earlier he had committed suicide.

The article suggested that people do not stare into other people's windows for lewd or prurient reasons primarily, but to fight loneliness or to make a connection in a city that can often feel lonely and alienating. Although there is no way to know how many people in such apartments actually acquire binoculars in order to see their neighbors' actions more clearly, doing so is a common occurrence. Not long after we moved in to our apartment, a friend inquired when we planned to get "our binoculars" as if they were standard equipment.

We still don't have those binoculars and we are too far away from other buildings to see much of anything without ocular enhancement, but as we sit out on our terrace and stare at the hundreds of windows arrayed before us, we do sometimes imagine or fantacize or just guess what might be going on. Is that flicker a favorite TV show or the latest DVD? Is the large, unusual hat sitting in the window sill for outdoor use or part of a fashion shoot? Are those uncurtained windows the result of exhibitionist tendencies or just a desire to stay open to the world? The questions and the possibilities are endless. And a great deal of the fun of such speculations is never knowing for sure. It is a little like living in a world where questions trump answers and being in a constant state of wonderment is what counts most.

1 comment:

  1. A little less certainty and a little more wonder...
    I like the sound of that.